April 16, 2014

Raising the Green Bar

Getting LEED certified in Florida is relatively new, but the concept is spreading.

John M. Dunn | 9/1/2008

FortLauderdale-based Stiles Corporation is part of the new building trend.

Recently, the company completed its 130,000 square-foot, multi-tenant Lake Shore Plaza II in Sunrise — the first such structure in Broward County to be certified by a third-party rating system that uses Leadership in Energy and Environmental Designs (LEED) standards, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council as national benchmarks for green design, construction and operation.

Lake Shore Plaza II
Lake Shore Plaza II in Sunrise
Getting LEED certified is a relatively new idea in Florida, but the concept is spreading. Last year, New College in Sarasota opened five new student residence halls built to LEED specifics. The City of Orlando also has undertaken green efforts. Recently, the city built a new LEED-certified fire station, and to demonstrate that eco-friendly homes can be affordable, officials obtained community help in constructing a $120,000 bungalow for a local resident, which earned a platinum rating — LEED’s highest honor. So far, only eight new homes in Florida are LEED certified, but those numbers are expected to rise.

Another industry group, the non-profit Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC), has its own green building certification standards. So far, it has certified almost 1,000 green homes in Florida. The coalition also bestows a Local Government Standard upon qualifying cities and counties for their environmental stewardship. St. Petersburg was FGBC’s first green city recipient, and Pinellas County the first green county.

Florida builders have yet a third green certification process — one created by the National Association of Homebuilders.

Why bother to get certified at all?

“Most builders who build green do so as part of their ethics,” says Eric Martin, senior research engineer with the Florida Solar Energy Center, a research facility at the University of Central Florida, which provides verification for LEED certification projects.

But there are other motivations, Martin adds: “A lot of builders are going green to get a market advantage over the competition.” They also understand that a growing number of consumers now seek construction that offers future savings accrued from reduced use of electricity, water, maintenance and disaster mitigation. The rigorous certification process, Martin points out, also provides high “quality control management” that reduces call-backs and complaints.

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