By: Alex Argento, Vice President at PuraTerra
Since 1994, the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED) certification program has informed guests when office buildings, hospitals, schools and more meet the highest levels of sustainability and resource efficiency with a rating of Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum. Criteria include building materials, water efficiency and energy use, to name a few.
While you often hear about office buildings, hospitals and the like being LEED-certified, many people don’t realize that LEED certification touches structures beyond our everyday use. We’ve pulled together a list of interesting projects most people might overlook when it comes to achieving LEED certification.
Fast food restaurants
As some fast food restaurants look for new ways to make their menu items healthier for customers, they’re also taking steps toward contributing to the health of the environment. By putting in the effort to become LEED-certified, fast food restaurants can demonstrate a commitment to sustainability and more responsible choices overall.
Although the LEED certification process can be long and arduous for any type of building, LEED certification carries with it respect that will help customers rest assured they’re patronizing a restaurant committed to sustainability. Not only does LEED certification help fast food restaurants attract environmentally conscious customers, it can encourage current customers to keep coming back for more.
A handful of fast food restaurants have already put in the effort to become LEED certified. For example, in 2009, Chipotle earned the first LEED Platinum certification for a restaurant. The chain’s location in Gurnee, Illinois was awarded the certification for having its own wind turbine and a 2,500-gallon underground water cistern to harvest rainwater. The restaurant also has LED lighting, water-saving faucets and toilets, and Energy Star-rated kitchen equipment.
Starbucks is another brand that has drawn attention for its environmental efforts at locations around the world. Since beginning its work with the USGBC in 2005, the company has opened more than 1,000 LEED-certified locations in 20 countries, including two flagship LEED-certified stores in China. Starbucks has utilized several environmentally friendly materials to maintain the brand’s unique aesthetic, while keeping sustainability its top priority. For example, one location in Seattle used Kebony, a sustainable, technologically enhanced wood, to build the railings around the outdoor patio. Other locations have used recycled coffee grounds in table tops, reducing the store’s waste.
While these are a few examples of fast food and fast casual restaurants that have achieved LEED certification, doing so is not without its challenges. Restaurant buildings are among the biggest energy consumers, due to extreme climate control equipment loads and long operating hours.
Due to the challenges, fast food restaurants are coming up with creative ways to become more sustainable. Two Dunkin Donuts locations in St. Petersburg, Florida have earned Silver and Gold LEED ratings by monitoring energy usage, installing concrete foam walls and employing high-performance HVAC and refrigeration equipment.
Doghouses and animal shelters
When it opened in 2004, the Society for the Protection of Cruelty in Animals (SPCA) in Tompkins County, New York became the first LEED certified animal shelter in the U.S. The building’s green features benefit both the animals in the shelter and the local environment. Some of the features include a 15,000-gallon cistern to capture runoff water (which can then be used for cleaning), a permeable parking lot to prevent runoff into nearby wetlands, sensors to control the heating and ventilation systems, toxin-free paint and dual-paned windows for insulation.
Soon after the SPCA’s LEED certification, architects began exploring other animal-related structures that could achieve the same level of sustainability, such as doghouses. In fact, inspired by the SPCA in Tompkins County, the Cornell Cooperative Extension held a Green Doghouse Challenge. Community members in Tompkins county were invited to design and build doghouses using green building principles. Several of the participants opted to use wood