These days, the term ”LEED certified” serves as the tagline for newly constructed, “green” commercial buildings. But what many don’t realize is that the LEED certification of a commercial building is a lengthy process, involving numerous professionals and stacks of paperwork. And the smaller the building, the less chance it will receive LEED certification, due to unique building specifications that vary by job site. Firmly established in the green building industry, Earth Advantage Institute has introduced a green certification program that is an industry-accepted benchmark for the small commercial building market.
Earth Advantage Institute is a nonprofit organization with headquarters in Portland, working with building professionals to certify new homes, remodels, communities and commercial buildings as “green.” They’ve certified buildings as large as the Nike World Headquarters – but revamped their commercial standard to target the small business sector due to smaller commercial buildings accounting for a whopping 95% of newly constructed commercial structures in the United States (Energy Information Administration, 2003). The process is made up of five components: energy, health, water, materials and land. Similar to LEED certification, each serves to conserve, eliminate waste, protect and reduce impact on the building site and surrounding area. But rather than incorporate a time-consuming verification process with a lengthy paper trail, Earth Advantage continuously tracks and records the certification process throughout construction.
To qualify for Earth Advantage certification, a commercial building must be between 10,000 and 70,000 square feet and be a new project or major renovation. Rivermark Community Credit Union on Southeast Hawthorne in Portland was the first to receive certification under the Earth Advantage Commercial pilot program in early 2011, with green features like vegetated roof areas and a walk-up/bike-up teller window. The pilot program is expected to wrap up in late 2011 to make way for the full program.
In the past, smaller structures would normally fall through the cracks of LEED certification, leaving owners and developers without an option. Earth Advantage Commercial fills that niche, combining a solid foundation of experience with a stream-lined approach to the certification process. And with affordable green products and energy efficient solutions in high demand, the building industry will be looking for more ways to meet their client’s demands for sustainable choices.