Transportation Options Lead to Energy Efficiency and Profits

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Paul is communications director for Mobility Lab. He specializes in storytelling and editing, as well as environmental and pop-culture issues related to transportation.
December 3, 2012

Transportation is a crucial element in developers’ quests to reach lucrative environmental standards with construction and renovation of their buildings.

This was the theme of Thursday’s LEED/Transportation Symposium at Founders Hall on the campus of George Mason University’s Arlington campus.

Quickly moving past the acronyms of LEED – which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – and TDM (Transportation Demand Management), speaker Justin Schor said “TDM is not pronounced ‘tedium.’

Justin Schor

“If 75 percent of your employees or tenants are not driving alone to work, that alone could give you 15 LEED points. Getting three of four people to not drive to work is not so unrealistic in some parts of the Washington D.C. region,” added Schor, senior TDM specialist at Wells + Associates. “If you can get your points for certification with such relative ease and efficiency, why wouldn’t you?”

Another speaker, Kevin Shooshan of Shooshan Company, said that LEED certification does indeed help builders and real-estate developers use environmental resources more responsibly. But he emphasized the fiscal perspective.

“Tenants are hooked on LEED. They want to live and work in these buildings. And that’s why developers and landlords want to do it. We know that buildings with LEED certification have the best employer retention of all companies,” Shooshan added.

“We’re seeing that LEED is a real part of whether people will or won’t take a job in your building,” said Wendy Duren, who spoke about how her organization, Arlington Transportation Partners, works to help developers make sure they meet the county’s transportation-related codes and requirements.

Arlington County’s site plans for new or renovating buildings include a transportation information display and information packets for residents and tenants. ATP helps building managers with those materials and also provides assistance with items such as bicycle infrastructure, transit benefits, vanpooling, and car sharing.

Of the 40 points it takes to become LEED-certified (or 80 points for the top status of “platinum”), some of the points from transportation-related amenities include:

  • 6 points for being located ½ mile from rail or ¼ mile from bus access.
  • 3 points for providing preferential parking spaces to low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles.
  • 2 points for parking that isn’t new and provides carpool and vanpool spaces and discounts.
  • 1 point for bicycle accommodations such as providing showers, storage, and changing rooms.

Chris Marshall, manager of LEED Technical Development at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), discussed the more detailed new version of LEED. He said location and transportation credits are so important and unique that they have been pulled out as their own category in the new version, with measurements on items such as:

  • How the building performs compared to other nearby buildings
  • Proximity to existing bicycle infrastructure
  • Reduced parking that is below – not just equal to – local code, and
  • Plug-in stations for electric vehicles.

Marshall highlighted how projects used innovative thinking to guide them towards joining the LEED family.

For example, at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois, the LEED project team knew that two-thirds of students didn’t drive alone to school, but to document this, it needed to improve upon the low response rate of the initial transportation survey. So the team partnered with the student Green Team to reorganize and redistribute the survey over lunch hours and with candy incentives. The response rate ended up being strong enough to get LEED points for completion of a survey that met the USGBC’s requirements.

Photos by Michael Schade

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