LEED-CI: Making Green or Just Spending It?

LEED-CI: Making Green or Just Spending It?

September 14, 2011 Off By Chris

Productivity – It’s our buzz word these days. Everyone is doing more with less. Green thinking is popular, but does it fit into business reality? Read on to learn how you can make environmental decisions with your physical space that actually improve your company’s performance … your brand, your people and your facilities.

Established by the US Green Building Council, LEED for Commercial Interiors (LEED-CI) is the green benchmark for the tenant improvement market. It is the recognized system for certifying high-performance green interiors that are healthy, productive places to work, are less costly to operate and maintain and have a reduced environmental footprint. LEED for Commercial Interiors gives the power to make sustainable choices to tenants and designers, who do not always have control over whole building operations.

Striving to achieve the LEED-CI designation for your next space can have many benefits. Rod Vickroy and Rob Moylan, architects with SmithGroup, point to a 2009 Michigan State study entitled Life Cycle Cost Analysis of Occupant Well-being and Productivity in LEED Offices. The study concluded the following:

  • Groups moving to LEED office buildings missed less work
  • They put in almost 39 hours more per person annually
  • Total bottom-line benefits from gains related to fewer allergic reactions and reduced stress
  • The productivity boost ranged from $69,601 to more than $250,000 per year

In their article, The ROI of LEED-CI, Vickroy and Moylan determine six general areas where a company will see the highest return on investment (ROI) for implementing LEED-CI certification in its space.

        1. Corporate Brand Performance. Environmental stewardship is increasingly a core value of business branding. One way to make a statement to your customers and clients about the core values of your brand is to showcase them in your physical space. Environmentally friendly characteristics such as operable windows or sun-drenched workstations and sustainable materials tell your clients the real story of your brand values when they meet with you.
        2. Human Performance. Studies continue to show that people are happier in green spaces and subsequently perform at a higher level in their work. This translates into better production and even longer work hours by a more contented crew.
        3. Organizational Performance. Reconfiguration of the overall workplace often leads to anecdotal and measurable improvements in an organization. This may play out in increased interaction among employees, reduced e-mail volume and shorter product development cycles.
        4. Cultural Performance. Differentiating your company from its competitors by going green in your space can demonstrate a positive cultural shift to those doing business with you. These moves tie in with brand identity while supporting your company personality and cultural uniqueness.
        5. Energy Performance. A significant and highly tangible  performance gain for LEED-CI projects is reduced utility costs. Energy savings can be obtained from simple ideas such as passive solar daylighting. One such method utilizes materials which absorb heat in floors and walls near sun-facing windows lowering overall energy costs. Other possibilities for energy savings are found by using a T5 flourescent light system on occupancy sensors or daylight-regulated dimming as part of an energy-efficient design.
        6. Facility Performance. All of these elements together benefit overall facility performance through increased brand power, individual and collective work and operational cost savings. As a platform for serving business needs on a daily basis, the LEED-CI workplace is a stronger and more agile infrastructure.

At Cassidy Turley, we are integrating our core values into our workspaces as well. In 2008, we became the first and only commercial brokerage firm to achieve LEED-CI certification with our San Francisco office. This year we took a step further and constructed our San Jose office with LEED-CI certification at 300 Santana Row, a LEED Gold Rated Building, named “Project of the Decade” in 2010 by the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal.


  • Tenant improvements using LEED-CI cost more. Not necessarily, say experienced facility professionals. If tenant improvement dollars are optimized to include LEED, there need not be any price difference.
  • There’s no evidence of a connection between LEED and company performance. End-user studies and industry research by groups like Carnegie-Mellon University and the Heschong-Mahone Group have shown evidence of direct improvements in productivity among workers resulting from improved lighting, view, ventiliation and air temperature conditions, which are central tenets of green building.
  • Green materials cost more. That may have been true in 2003. Today, with more options than ever, materials and products for LEED jobs need be now more expensive than any others. Still, a typical TI fit-out can incur a premium of 2 to4 percent in construction costs for LEED integration due to added planning and administrative time. This cost is typically recouped within three years – on a 10-year lease, that still leaves seven years of operational savings.
  • LEED adds to the project scope and schedule. Neither is correct – unless LEED-CI certification is treated as an afterthought. When a project team starts from day one with a LEED-CI strategy, experience shows it will not require more design and construction time.
*Please read The ROI of LEED-CI article for entirety of the information provided by Rod Vickroy and Rob Moylan on this topic.