Kurt Broadhag, MS, CSCS, LEED AP, is a fitness professional with more than 15 years of experience in personal training and club design. He is president of both K Allan Consulting, a firm specializing in health club design and management, and 23D Gym Design, which develops both two- and three-dimensional fitness center layouts. Broadhag can be reached at (310) 601-7768 or by e-mail at [email protected].
Each year, more club owners are recognizing the importance of being environmentally conscious and realizing how easy it is to adopt eco-friendly practices in their day-to-day operations. Several factors, though, still prevent many of these business owners from fully committing to being environmentally friendly. However, a number of recent changes—including increases in government initiatives/incentives, improvements in sustainable materials with decreased costs and a greater acceptance of social responsibility—have led to a resurgence in commercial buildings going green. At the forefront of this movement is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the benchmark in green building certification.
LEED is an internationally recognized certification developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to allow buildings and communities to identify and implement green building concepts in design, construction, operations and maintenance. Business owners can pursue a number of LEED certifications based on their current building situation (i.e. new construction, commercial interiors, existing building, operations and maintenance).
Businesses interested in certification must follow a number of steps that include registering their project, integrating LEED requirements and submitting all documentation along with the fees. Depending on the number of points the building earns, it can be awarded one of four certification levels: certified, certified silver, certified gold and certified platinum. Points are awarded in a number of categories, the largest of which include:
• Sustainable sites: Buildings affect the environment by their impact on land consumption, natural resources, energy use and the ecosystem as a whole. This category takes these factors into consideration and rewards projects that minimize the building’s impact on the ecosystem. Points are awarded over a broad range of categories, including building location (discouraging development on undeveloped land, encouraging development around spots with public transportation access, etc.), stormwater run-off, outdoor lighting and landscaping.
• Water efficiency: Approximately one-quarter of the nation’s supply of renewable freshwater is used daily. From this, 65 percent is then discharged into rivers, streams and treatment plants. This use places a burden on building fixtures as well as water treatment facilities. The water efficiency category addresses these issues by awarding points based upon either a 20 percent or 30 percent reduction in the use of potable water (water safe for drinking) achieved through selection of more efficient appliances and fixtures.
• Energy and atmosphere: Buildings use a large amount of energy derived from sources that negatively affect the environment. The energy and atmosphere category addresses this issue by encouraging the adoption of strategies to both decrease energy required by the building as well as incorporating renewable energy. Categories include use of efficient appliances, lighting fixtures and control, and HVAC optimization.
• Materials and resources: The extraction, processing and transportation of resources for building materials can have a negative impact on the environment. This category promotes the use of sustainably grown and regional products in the design and construction of buildings while also addressing the concern over building waste in the process.
• Indoor environmental quality: The EPA estimates pollutants inside buildings run three to five times higher than outside. Because people spend an average of 90 percent of their time indoors, it makes sense that LEED addresses indoor air quality and tenant comfort. In the indoor environmental quality, category points are awarded for the use of low or non-VOC products as well as natural elements, such as daylighting, to enhance the health and well-being of those in the building.
The benefits of LEED buildings are numerous: lower operational costs, reduction of greenhouse gases, conservation of energy and water, reduction of natural resource usage and waste, a safer environment for occupants, qualification for tax rebates/incentives, etc. This certification is not industry specific and easily can be implemented into new club design. Within the fitness industry, we have the ability to convert to LEED-certified facilities while also doing business with others who take on the social responsibility of LEED certification.