Making the Most of LEED-EBOM

Making the Most of LEED-EBOM

The United States Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards have transformed the building marketplace, setting the bar for high performance buildings, both new and existing.

The fastest growing of the LEED Rating Systems is LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance, which, as the name implies, caters to greening the operations and maintenance practices of existing buildings.

In California, the number of LEED-EBOM registered projects has jumped over 300 percent in the past two years.  This number is expected to keep trending upwards as the USGBC Green Jobs Study projects an additional $12.5 billion dollars in GDP and 230,000 new jobs from LEED-related spending during 2009-2013.

Economic Drivers for LEED Certification

In addition to reduced energy usage and operating costs, one of the primary motivators for building owners to pursue LEED-EBOM is for greater marketability.  The prevalence of companies embracing environmentally responsible business practices supports the belief by building owners that tenants are seeking out and are willing to pay extra for green space to support their organizations' values.

National studies by CoStar Group indicate that occupancy rates in LEED-certified buildings are 4.1 percent higher than occupancy rates in non-LEED buildings.  The study also shows that LEED-certified buildings average a higher direct rental rate of $11.33 per square foot than their non-LEED counterparts.

In addition to paying more for LEED-certified spaces, tenants are going the extra mile to achieve LEED for Commercial Interiors certification, the second-fastest growing LEED Rating System. LEED-CI allows tenants to pursue LEED Certification for their rentable space within the building, whether it is a small office suite or the entire building.

Mythbuster: LEED-EBOM Does Not Guarantee LEED-CI Certification

A common misconception among tenants and building owners is that LEED-EBOM certification automatically supports the LEED-CI application process. One might imagine that there would be some crossover between the LEED-EBOM and LEED-CI rating systems. In other words, green strategies implemented for the base building should help a tenant earn points for LEED-CI and vice versa. Unfortunately, this is not always true as there is little intersection between the two rating systems since they are structured quite differently.

For instance, an existing building that scores in the 98th percentile in terms of energy performance can achieve up to 18 points for energy efficiency under LEED-EBOM. Yet, a tenant seeking LEED-CI certification in the building will receive no credit for the building's outstanding energy performance. On the flip side, a base building that invests heavily in water efficiency upgrades would only receive a maximum of 5 points under the Indoor Water Efficiency Credit under LEED-EBOM. However, a tenant that moves into the building may receive up to 11 points for Indoor Water Efficiency under LEED-CI without making any upgrades to these restrooms.

To provide another example, a building owner may achieve up to 15 points toward LEED-EBOM certification under the Alternative Transportation credit if a majority of the tenants carpool to work. Yet, if the structure is not located near public transportation, a tenant seeking LEED-CI certification will receive no credit for Alternative Transportation, even if all of the tenants' employees carpool.

While it is impossible to relocate an existing building to place it closer to a transit hub, there are instances when decisions that consider both LEED-EBOM and LEED-CI can pay off for the tenant and the building owner.

Case in point: A client of BCCI, the firm I work for, chose to move into a LEED-EBOM certified building, expecting that its exemplary rating would assist the tenant with pursuing LEED-CI Certification. Instead, the new tenant was surprised to learn that the lavatory fixtures selected by the building owner to achieve LEED-EBOM certification actually prohibited the tenant space from being eligible for LEED-CI. LEED-CI uses a substantially more stringent baseline than LEED-EBOM when calculating potential Indoor Water Savings. Thus, these indoor water fixtures were efficient enough to achieve a 33 percent reduction in water usage under LEED-EBOM, but they attributed to only a 16 percent reduction in Indoor Water Efficiency under LEED-CI.

Since a minimum of 20 percent indoor water savings is a mandatory prerequisite under LEED-CI, the tenant was ineligible to pursue LEED without upgrading the restroom fixtures. In this case, on top of approximately $30,000 in additional costs to pursue LEED, the single-floor tenant had to spend another $30,000 to replace the base building restroom fixtures in order to meet the prerequisites for LEED-CI, essentially doubling the cost to meet the basic level of certification.

Had the building owner considered LEED-CI requirements during the previous restroom upgrades, he or she could have selected bathroom fixtures with greater water efficiency at little extra cost up front while saving future tenants a substantial expense.

To Maximize Marketability, Know and Adhere to LEED-EBOM and LEED-CI

From the standpoint of the building owner, when it comes to effectively marketing your LEED-certified building, educating potential tenants on the LEED-CI points that the base building is able to offer may be more important than simply marketing the building's LEED-EBOM-certification.

An example of a building taking this approach is the LEED-EB Gold Post Montgomery Center in San Francisco, which displays an enlarged LEED-CI scorecard showing all of the LEED-CI points the base building may offer to potential tenants (53 points in total).

In closing, if your building is EBOM Certified or currently pursuing LEED-EBOM certification, consider analyzing how your building's green strategies may translate into points for potential tenants who will be pursuing LEED for Commercial Interiors and market your building accordingly. This may prove to be your most competitive advantage.

Alex Spilger, LEED AP, is the sustainability manager for
BCCI Construction, a leading full-service commercial contractor serving the greater San Francisco Bay Area. You can reach Alex through BCCI at

Image of the Post Montgomery Center courtesy of
Montgomery Capital Partners.