THE MAGAZINE

The Greening of Security

By Laura Spadanuta

A standard joke among baby boomers is that 60 is the new 40. Environmentally speaking, it could also be said that green is the new gold, given how highly everyone values “going green” these days. And the gold standard when it comes to building green is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). But what happens when security issues and LEED collide?

That was the question security consultant Charlie Howell faced when he worked on a new city hall building for the City of Rancho Cordova, California. Howell, CEO and owner of Camino, California, security and design firm Security Concepts and Planning LLC, told the general contractor he’d have to remove some trees along the outside of the building because they were blocking the surveillance camera view. However, the general contractor objected, because the trees were needed to earn the building LEED points. The year was 2003, and it was Howell’s first experience with LEED. Thus he was initiated into the world of green buildings. 

Only a few years later, LEED is being adopted by city zoning boards and architects across the United States. That makes it even more likely that security professionals will encounter projects where they have to accommodate green design and sustainable building components, which seek to minimize the impact on the environment. In most cases, some type of acceptable workaround can be found in which the sustainability and security elements work together. In some situations, green features can even enhance a building’s security.

LEEDing the Way

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) first established LEED certification in 1998 as a way to provide guidelines for environmentally sustainable construction. LEED’s independent, third-party certification hinges on accumulating enough “points” or credits to become certified.

Some cities mandate that certain buildings achieve LEED certification. Other localities provide tax credits to developers who build to the LEED standard, offering them an incentive in lieu of making certification mandatory.

In new building construction, LEED covers the following areas: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation and design process. By implementing various features builders can earn points toward certification. For example, light pollution reduction and innovative wastewater technologies are both worth one point on the LEED scale. There are four LEED certification levels, based on the number of points earned. Platinum is the highest and requires 52 to 69 points on new construction projects.

There are currently 1,422 LEED-certified projects and 10,762 registered projects, according to USGBC spokesperson Ashley Katz. Registered projects are somewhere “in the pipeline” from conceptualization to construction.

Even project planners who are not able to, or choose not to, seek formal LEED certification often attempt to incorporate some green features. The Pentagon has taken that approach with the Pentagon Memorial, says Walter Nielsen, of PENREN, the long-term Pentagon Renovation Program at the Department of Defense. The memorial could not be LEED certified, says Nielsen, because the LEED rating system applies only to enclosed buildings. But “the project team is following the LEED rating criteria where feasible.”

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