More veterinarians than ever are interested in incorporating environment-friendly building materials, health-friendly design, and sustainable energy into their new—or existing—practices. And one of the biggest names in green building certification standards is LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
But most veterinary clients back off from seeking LEED certification after they learn the costs, says architect Dan Chapel, AIA, with Chapel and Associates in Little Rock, Ark. "We build a lot of hospitals that could be LEED-certified, but they're not, because there's a lengthy and expensive certification process." To earn certification, a third-party engineer or architect trained in LEED requirements must audit a building, costing upwards of $15,000 for buildings as small as 5,000 square feet.
And while LEED certification hasn't gotten any easier, the LEED standards have started to blossom elsewhere. Many of LEED's standards have also been incorporated into other building standards since LEED came about, says architect Mark Hafen, AIA, with Animal Arts in Boulder, Colo. "The International Building Code, which virtually all building departments now require, has adopted aspects of LEED," Hafen says, "including interior lighting and HVAC systems. It's become a new de facto standard."
The certification process remains too expensive, says Wayne Usiak, AIA, founder of BDA Architecture in Albuquerque, N.M., and LEED doesn't draw enough press to support the cost. "They want solutions that pay back in dollars and clean conscience," Usiak says. "Veterinarians want patients to be healthier, they want team members to be healthier and more productive, and they want to save money on energy."
Chapel says veterinarians can get most of the LEED benefits with green building techniques, which are enormously popular these days. "They'll attract good customers and press when they show how a building was built and finished, and keep the momentum with recycling drives and other community work," Chapel says. "Our veterinary clients are down-to-earth and friendly with the environment. They'll be tuned into it."