Focus on: LEED for Retail 

New rating system designed specifically for retail

Starbucks’ store in New York City’s SoHo area features locally sourced materials alongside reused and recycled elements — from the artwork to the countertops to the wood flooring.

In November 2010 the U.S. Green Building Council announced the long-awaited launch of its newest green building rating system, LEED for Retail. The new system has two distinct certification tracks, LEED for Retail: New Construction and LEED for Retail: Commercial Interiors. 

Developed to recognize the unique design and construction needs of the retail market sector, the new Retail rating system will be required for retailers seeking LEED certification if more than 60% of the square footage of the project is devoted to retail uses. It will not be available for projects with less than 40% of the square footage devoted to retail uses. For projects in which 40% to 60% of the square footage is devoted to retail uses, the Retail rating system may be used but is not required.

In addition, the USGBC is expected to launch a related rating system, the LEED Volume Program, designed to streamline the LEED certification process for high-volume developers of uniform projects, sometime this year. 

Impact: As retailers cope with today’s difficult retail climate, a commitment to green facilities and green services may improve more than the environment. It just may increase the bottom line by enhancing the customer experience and earning the loyalty of their customers. With consumers focused on all things green, both retailers and retail space developers are taking environmental responsibility seriously. They recognize that a company’s retail space can tell consumers a lot about the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability. 

Starbucks is one example. The company has made a commitment to seek LEED certification for its company-owned stores — and to do so within standard store construction budgets. It intends to significantly reduce its environmental footprint by 2015, and using green design elements in its stores is part of its strategy to achieve that goal. 

Some of the design elements used by Starbucks and other companies pursuing LEED for Retail certification include the use of LED and CFL light bulbs to provide more light while reducing energy usage (on external signage and in parking lots, as well as inside the stores). More light is important because research has shown a direct correlation between increased levels of natural light in retail spaces and time and money spent by customers. More and larger windows and skylights can make a big difference. 

Other design elements include the use of low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets to significantly reduce water usage and the use of hand dryers to minimize paper towel usage. 

Consumers are more likely than ever before to recognize and appreciate a retailer’s efforts to achieve LEED certification for its retail stores and what that certification says about the company’s commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainable business practices. 

Katherine Oberle is an attorney with Morgan Miller Blair, Walnut Creek, Calif., representing national and local companies in commercial real estate transactions. She is a member of the Northern California Chapter of the USGBC.

Monica Sloboda is vice chair of Morgan Miller Blair’s Real Estate Practice Group, and an active member of the International Council of Shopping Centers and the Northern California Chapter of the USGBC.

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