Green Is No Longer a Dream

John Eagle, a well-known Dallas and Houston car dealer, told me he was building a new dealership that would be Gold LEED Certified. Showing my ignorance, I asked what that means. While John was more detailed in his answer, the short answer is that a LEED certification is given for a qualifying building, as in environmentally friendly. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a third-party

John Eagle, a well-known Dallas and Houston car dealer, told me he was building a new dealership that would be Gold LEED Certified.

Showing my ignorance, I asked what that means. While John was more detailed in his answer, the short answer is that a LEED certification is given for a qualifying “green” building, as in environmentally friendly.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a third-party certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. Mom always taught me to be creative so I would have used the acronym GREEN (maybe for “God's Resources Efficiently Exercised Now”). But I digress.

Both new construction and buildings with major renovations may be certified under the LEED system. There are five points-earning environmental categories:

1) Sustainable sites. 2) Water efficiency. 3) Energy and atmosphere. 4) Materials and resources. 5) Indoor environmental quality along with an additional category, Innovation in Design.

Depending on the number of points accumulated, a project may obtain a LEED certification at four levels: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

The green council says it focuses on fulfilling the building and construction industry's vision for its own transformation to high-performance green building.

Today, it includes more than 16,300 member companies and organizations. In a testament to its leadership, in the past five years alone, membership has quadrupled. More than 3.6 billion square feet of building space are involved with the LEED program.

The council's Web site says the annual U.S. market in green building products and services was over $7 billion in 2005 and is now over $12 billion.

What are the benefits of a LEED certified building? The council says, “LEED certified projects blend environmental, economic and occupant-oriented performance.

“They cost less to operate and maintain; are energy and water efficient; have higher lease rates than conventional buildings in their markets; are healthier and safer for occupants; and are a physical demonstration of the organizations that own and occupy them.”

It seems that these buildings are cheaper to operate, allow higher personnel production and hold their value. That all sounds (and feels) good. To top it off, the council says that, with proper planning, a LEED-certified building can be built at about the same cost as a conventional building. LEED recertification is required at least once every five years.

Others in the car business are interested in LEED certification as evidenced by the following companies in the auto industry who are council members. These include:

JM Family Enterprises Inc., Sewell Automotive Cos., Chrysler, Toyota and Ford. It's an impressive list. I fully expect more automotive companies to get on board in the near term.

What does all this mean to car dealers? With proper education, the public, when it has a real choice, will choose to do business with a dealership that nurtures the environment and its people.

Additionally, these building are cheaper to operate and should hold their value better than conventional buildings as we move into an era of “green” awareness that is being proclaimed by both media and government outlets.

J. Cullen Howe, an attorney specializing in environmental law cites that “from 2003 to 2007, the number of U.S. cities with green building programs rose dramatically, from 22 to 92, an increase of more than 400%.

“This includes more than 25 cities that have established some type of goals for new public buildings to meet some level of LEED standards.”

So get ready, it may be coming to your town. And it's just the right thing to do. If you don't believe me, ask your mother.

For more information about the LEED Certification process and its benefits, go to www.usgbc.org or talk with one of the member companies.

Don Ray is a CPA and senior vice president at AutoStar, a provider of long-term capital for auto dealers. He is at 901-907-0134 and [email protected].

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