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Virginia first in the nation in LEED certification

Businesses and organizations throughout the U.S. have embraced green initiatives as a common economic practice and Virginia is leading the way in LEED-certified sustainability.

In their annual rankings, released Jan. 23, the U.S. Green Building Council announced that Virginia has improved to the top state for LEED-certified buildings.

In 2011, Virginia ranked behind Colorado and Illinois, but improved to the top spot for 2012, with 170 projects certified, and almost 30 million square feet of certified LEED space.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and it is a voluntary, consensus-based, market-driven program that provides third-party verification of green buildings.

Gov. Bob McDonnell released a statement Jan. 23 attributing the high ranking to many of the state's architects and builders.

“Today’s ranking is a validation of the tremendous effort of Virginia’s architects and builders to design and renovate building spaces to be more energy-efficient,” McDonnell said in his statement. “Last year, I signed into law the High Performance Building Act, which ensures that state public building design, construction and renovation now meets the LEED green building standard as well. It is good for the environment, good for our bottom line and good for business.”

Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech said that as the top state, Virginia has 3.71 square feet of LEED certified space per resident in 2012.

Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tony Howard has noticed LEED certified businesses are on the upswing.

“Loudoun County is starting to see these green initiatives on all levels including business, education and government. The school system out here has, I believe, the highest number of Energy Star certified schools in the state,” Howard said. “Folks are understanding that you can not only be environmentally conscious, but you can do so in a way to add value to your bottom line by not saving money and becoming more efficient, but also by making yourself more appealing to customers and employees.

“Customers are seeking suppliers that are environmentally conscious as part of their core values and employees want to be associated with an employer or organization that shares their values,” Howard said.

Many Loudoun County businesses are or are currently developing green initiatives.

Neustar's corporate headquarters in Sterling is LEED certified. The LEED certification recognizes the facility for its energy and water efficiency, material use during construction and occupant health and financial return. Additionally, all the company's data centers use innovative cooling and heating systems to conserve energy and maximize efficiency and environmental efforts.

In early 2012, Neustar invested in a monitoring tool that reads data center power usage on a real-time basis.

“Our environmental commitment can be seen throughout our numerous locations with efforts that reduce energy consumption and encourage recycling,” Neustar Spokesperson Kim Hart said. “Neustar is committed to responsible environmental practices to reduce our carbon footprint and our dependence on foreign energy sources.”

According to Hart, some of the other green initiatives they have implemented include using automated meeting room sensors and timers to control lighting and time-controlled temperature gauges. Employees are encouraged to telecommute, use electronic records, host web conferencing and engage videoconferencing to reduce travel.

Howard notes there are some challenges that come with purchasing one of these buildings.

“One challenge is the cost. Building something to LEED standards drives up construction costs and thus the rental rates of tenants,” Howard said. “Sometimes people are reluctant to pay more, especially in a down economy, but I think we are starting to see some traction for building owners and developers to market their businesses because there is a concern for these issues and they can also save money in the long run.”

Lansdowne Resort is constantly trying to decrease its carbon footprint.

According to Gregg Stuessi, director of Purchasing for Lansdowne and head of the “Green Team,” it's a gradual process due to the age of the building.

“We are working on and researching a piece of machinery that would take all of our old fryer oil from the kitchen and convert that to diesel fuel. That hasn't been approved by our ownership yet,” Stuessi said. “With the building being 20 years old, our water faucets and other bathroom appliances all use low flow technology. We are replacing the toilets with low flush toilets as they go out of service."

Lansdowne has already accomplished some of the smaller initiatives that are cost effective.

The resort has single strain recycling, gotten rid of Styrofoam, implemented linen and towel reuse programs, upgraded its energy management system and more.

“We are hoping to resurrect our composting. We started working on that in the fall and obviously put it on hold for the winter,” Stuessi said. “We are organizing ourselves to compost everything on the property that we can and that will be taken from the kitchens to the far part of the golf course. Ultimately, we will use that throughout the course.

“Also on the golf course we use as few chemicals as possible and we use water from the Potomac River to water the course,” Stuessi said.


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