Timberline Blog

LEED Certification and Commercial HVAC Systems: Important Insights

June 26, 2023 by Timberline

If you’re a commercial building owner, manager, or other stakeholder, you’ve probably heard of LEED certification. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used system for assessing how energy-efficient or “green” a building is. It’s also the most widely respected program for helping develop and maintain facilities that contribute to a more sustainable future.

Rooftop HVAC with chillers and VRV refrigeration units.

Consequently, obtaining and maintaining LEED certification benefits building owners and, more broadly, the communities where their facilities are located, in many ways. And as you might expect, a building’s HVAC system plays an essential role in its energy consumption.

This article explains what LEED certification is and how proper design, installation, and servicing of HVAC systems in commercial buildings is vital to obtaining and keeping that coveted accreditation.

Understanding LEED Certification for Commercial Buildings

The LEED certification program was developed in the early 1990s by a nonprofit organization called the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Over the next 20 years, the program expanded from one standard for new construction to a complete set of criteria covering many aspects of building design, construction and operations.

The organization behind the standard also expanded to oversee its use. The six-person committee of volunteers has grown to around 120,000 staff, volunteers and professionals.

Today, the LEED certification program has several rating systems covering the building design, construction, operation and maintenance of green commercial buildings, homes and neighborhoods. The organization’s goal is to encourage building owners to use energy and other resources efficiently.

According to 2021 data from USGBC, the program has some impressive commercial building stats, including:

  • More than one billion square feet of recertified LEED space
  • Nearly 24 billion square feet LEED-registered and certified
  • 110,000 projects participating in LEED
  • More than 610 million square feet of LEED-certified residential space

Governments in some locations reward building owners with tax credits, zoning allowances, faster permitting, etc., for having their properties achieve LEED certification. They may also require them to attain that goal.

Benefits of LEED Certification

Outside of rewards and regulations, why do building owners pursue LEED certification? There are several reasons, including:

  • It helps the environment. LEED-certified buildings (often simply called LEED buildings) utilize renewable energy and consume less energy overall. They also use less water and other resources, produce less waste, and help preserve land and habitats.
  • It’s good for business. LEED buildings have lower operating costs and higher occupancy rates, rents and resale values than those not bearing the certification. In addition, many organizations and individuals consider a company’s environmental consciousness when deciding whether to do business with them.
  • It’s good for occupants and visitors. LEED certification is also focused on the well-being of people who work in and visit buildings. LEED buildings reduce exposure to toxins and improve air quality. As a result, employers in LEED buildings tend to have better recruitment and retention and increased productivity.

How HVAC Systems Factor Into LEED Certification

Not surprisingly, keeping commercial buildings at a comfortable temperature and helping maintain good air quality takes a significant amount of energy. So, LEED standards address HVAC systems in a couple of ways.

For example, two areas that are highly influenced by HVAC systems are “Indoor Environmental Quality” and “Energy and Atmosphere.” The points toward certification that can be earned in these categories are more than those in water- and electricity-related categories combined.

How does this affect commercial building owners? It means having a well-designed and properly installed HVAC system can get you a long way toward LEED certification. It also means you need to use the services of a commercial HVAC company like Timberline Mechanical that does high-quality work, from design and implementation to repairs and maintenance.

This includes things like:

  • Developing an effective zoning plan
  • Ensuring equipment operates at maximum efficiency
  • Confirming controls work properly
  • Striving to have equipment exceed ASHRAE/IESNA performance standards

Working with a company less focused on providing outstanding HVAC solutions means you not only miss out on day-to-day operational benefits but also make it more expensive and time-consuming to achieve LEED certification should you ever decide to pursue it.

Commercial Buildings, HVAC, and LEED: Ongoing Effort Is Essential

Some aspects of LEED certification cover the design and construction of buildings. As long as the structure isn’t modified or renovated, those certifications don’t expire. However, other certifications, like LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance, do expire in 3 to 5 years.

That’s another reason to partner with a commercial HVAC company for ongoing system maintenance and repairs. Ensuring your HVAC system components are functioning properly makes the recertification process much easier—on top of keeping building occupants comfortable.

Learn More About LEED and Commercial HVAC Systems

Whether you are considering LEED certification currently or aren’t yet pursuing it, it’s a good idea to connect with us to learn about our commercial HVAC, industrial HVAC and plumbing services. Utilizing them helps ensure these critical aspects of your building’s infrastructure are functioning correctly and performing optimally.

Regular HVAC system maintenance can also expose minor issues before they become major problems. That saves you money in the short term and can also extend the life of system components.

Achieving LEED certification or being positioned to do so is also important, given the possibility of future changes to the laws and regulations around energy efficiency. There is every reason to believe that municipalities will increasingly require that buildings meet higher standards.

Contact Timberline Mechanical Today

While our team doesn’t play a role in granting LEED certification, we can help you implement and maintain an HVAC system in your commercial or industrial building that maximizes occupant comfort while minimizing energy consumption.

From chiller and boiler repairs to air conditioning service, plumbing and more, we’re trusted by building owners and operators throughout the region to provide exceptional service.

Contact Timberline Mechanical at your convenience. We’re always happy to discuss your current needs or upcoming projects and answer any questions you have about our services.

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