By: Joe Zazzera, LEED AP, GRP |  May 1, 2009 | topics: LEED Advocacy, Supporter from GPGB

In May of 2009 the LEED Advocacy Committee of Green Plants For Green Buildings was formed. The single mission of this committee is to get live indoor plants into the LEED rating system either through an addition in the Indoor Environmental (IEQ) category, Innovation in Design (ID) category or both. Since live indoor plants are in other rating systems, we believe the lack of indoor plants in LEED was simply an oversight.

On our committee are 9 people, all from the interior plantscape industry including 3 GPGB board members. 5 of our committee members are LEED Accredited Professionals.

One of the first orders of business of our Committee was to research and review the possibility of an Interior Plantscape Certification program. The USGBC does not create their own certification programs; they only adopt existing certifications such as Green Seal, Green Label etc, into the LEED rating system. The Committee, after review, made the decision not to have GPGB create a certification program. The Board and the Committee believe it is important that any program be a 3rd party program and not created by us. Instead, it was determined that the best course of action was to support but not formally endorse the Green Earth, Green Plants certification program. By doing this, we could never come under scrutiny or threaten our non-profit status.

In July, the USGBC released a “Call for Ideas” to members and the public at large. The purpose of a call for ideas is for the USGBC to hear what is important and relevant from the public and from industry. The USGBC uses such information to steer changes and improvements to the rating system. GPGB immediately put out a call for action industry wide. Requests showed up not only to GPGB members but also in and around the entire plant world including PLANET, PIA and FNGLA. There is no way that we know of to get a reporting as to the number of submittals were entered but we believe based on those we have talked to that it was substantial. We know we are being heard. The USGBC is consensus based and loves grass roots measures. The Technical Advisory Groups (TAG’s) are responsible for the review of the scientific and supporting data for submissions. Since we know we have lots of supporting scientific information, we believe we will be heard.

Earlier this year, the USGBC announced its desire to work on some standards with the UK’s BREAM system and Australia’s Green Star system (equivalent LEED rating systems). What this says, we believe, is that there is respect by the USGBC for those rating systems. Since the Green Star system already has adopted live indoor plants into their system, our hope is that LEED will follow suit. Additionally, a few months back, New Zealand began a pilot program using live indoor plants in their rating system.

Our new website will have a link for known LEED certified buildings that are using live indoor plants in their buildings. Even the USGBC’s offices in Washington, DC, uses live plants.

We are putting out a call for projects to the industry. What we would like to see is a building owner who has not yet submitted their LEED paperwork, to make a commitment to submit under the ID, Innovation In Design, category. Innovation in Design is just that, a specialty credit for creative ways of effecting change using technology, education or some other form. Since this can only be utilized on a building that has not done their submittals, we are asking our membership to talk to their architects and owners about upcoming projects. The LEED AP’s on our committee have offered their services or consultations to help that process. In the absence of an actual credit category for indoor plants, the ID category might be the next best path and possibly a quicker one.

We are working on some LEED for home discussions but nothing has come out of pursuing that yet. We have been told that unlike commercial projects, which have to be completed prior to full LEED submittal, with LEED for homes a concept can be submitted for approval prior to the project. We are trying to verify this now as there are many changes with LEED for homes at the moment.

Green Plants for Green Buildings will have a booth at Greenbuild this year in Phoenix. Our booth will be on the second level of the pavilion near the food area. Several members of our committee are coming into Phoenix at their own expense to attend and man the GPGB booth. Please let us know if any of you are attending, we could always use the help at the booth.

Finally, we know what we need is a “white paper” for submission to the USGBC. We have asked our members to become members of their local USGBC chapters and to spread the indoor plant message but we also need to submit our request to the USGBC to be heard on an official basis. Our plan is to develop this white paper and to have it vetted out by some of our industry leaders as well as other industry leaders. By doing this we will be submitting the best possible document and request.

I will continue to make updates when needed.

Thank you for supporting GPGB and our mission.