LEED Certification

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COLUMBIA -Buildings and schools around Columbia are becoming increasingly more energy efficient by achieving LEED certification.

LEED is a rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council as a metric for evaluating how "green" a building is.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy Efficient Environmental Design and is based on five categories: sustainable sites, materials and resources, energy and atmosphere, water efficiency and indoor environmental quality.

Each category has a certain number of credits and the more credits accumulated results in a higher level of certification.

LEED currently offers platinum, gold and silver certifications. A building may also become LEED certified without the medal status.

Adrienne Stolwyk is a LEED accredited professional at SOA Architecture in Columbia. According to Stolwyk, the main trend in obtaining LEED certification is mostly among government buildings and schools.

"Citizens are increasingly concerned that their tax money go toward efficient buildings and long lasting high quality buildings than buildings that are going to be energy hogs," she said. "LEED is one way of demonstrating that good things are being done with your tax dollars."

The Eco- Schoolhouse at Grant Elementary School was given a Gold LEED certification in 2010 by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The schoolhouse replaced a classroom trailer that was burned down in 2009.

Fifth grade teacher John Nies is currently in his third year of teaching in the schoolhouse.

He said he tries to incorporate features of the schoolhouse into the curriculum as much as he can.

"When this kind of environment is what kids see day in and day out, it becomes a part of not only the curriculum but hopefully a way of life as they get older," he said.

The schoolhouse has several main features that help solidify its gold rating.

The ceiling beams are made out of recycled wood and contain a material that eliminates echo within the room.

The schoolhouse also has solar panels attached to the south side of the roof, rain barrels at downspouts around the building and landscaping that doesn't require a lot of watering.

While the schoolhouse was built from the ground up, Stolwyk says most builders renovate buildings to meet LEED standards.

"You are encouraged to use existing buildings and renovate them rather than building something on the outside of town that requires people to drive out there for example," she said. "You're penalized for putting projects farther away from mass transit or walk able areas."

The Eco-Schoolhouse is one of the few school buildings in the area to adopt Gold LEED standards.

Stolwyk said it's important for kids to become more familiar with a "green" environment.

"Just seeing those things on a building and for a child to grow up with those being in the background, I think when they get older it doesn't seem weird," she said.
"It becomes part of the landscape they're used to."

Stolwyk also said LEED certification hasn't quite made its way into residential homes.

Private companies are also less likely to be LEED certified.

"Private companies and individuals are less inclined to become LEED certified because it is expensive and I think there is more of a budget in larger government projects to be able to do that," she said. "However, there are plenty of private companies that are becoming LEED certified because they want their customers or potential customers to see them with a green mind."

Stronger building codes will make residential homes more energy savvy, according to Stolwyk.

"As codes become more stringent, people's homes will become more efficient," she said.

Although the popularity of LEED is increasing, Stolwyk believes more will need to be done.

"It's a good start in the right direction, but I don't think it's a cure all for all of our environmental problems," she said.