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Expert Viewpoint: The Green Push

May 12, 2009 12:00 PM, By Jon Melchin

How AV can improve sustainable design

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Sourcing systems made in the United States, such as this BMS-1032 background music system from FSR, can help reduce transportation costs, which can improve LEED scores.

Sourcing systems made in the United States, such as this BMS-1032 background music system from FSR, can help reduce transportation costs, which can improve LEED scores.
Photo: FSR

How AV can affect LEED

The LEED rating system awards points in the following categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Innovation in Design. Depending on the number of points accumulated, LEED awards four levels of certification: LEED Certified, LEED Certified Silver, LEED Certified Gold, and LEED Certified Platinum. There is no specific requirement for AV in the rating system, and a project could potentially achieve LEED Platinum without incorporating any energy-efficient AV components.

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That said, there are still areas in which AV could affect a project’s score. Indeed, there are a number of areas where AV technologies can affect LEED credits. LEED offers up to five Innovation in Design points for projects with cutting-edge solutions that offer green benefits. Under the Sustainable Sites category, points are awarded for alternative transportation. Something simple, such as installing a bicycle rack to encourage building occupants to bike to work, can qualify. Demonstrating how videoconferencing and distance learning can reduce an organization’s carbon emissions would be important for a savvy designer. Energy management with AV control systems and other uses of innovative technologies could also offer opportunities for improved scores.

For example, AV systems that are designed to power down automatically may be beneficial. Use of Energy Star-compliant products could also address energy-efficiency requirements. Using certified wood encourages environmentally responsible timber management by specifying wood products from certain sites. AV furniture such as media lecterns and smart desks and tables could also apply. Low-emitting materials that reduce the presence of VOCs, such as urea-formaldehyde, can also be used. Composite wood that eliminates VOCs from adhesives and finishes could qualify for improving indoor air quality. Projects incorporating such materials seek to reduce the use of finite raw materials with rapidly renewable ones. Green AV products that use recycled metal, plastic, and organic-texture wood can fit into this category.

In the Materials and Resources category, points are offered for percentages of the combined value of construction materials and products that are extracted or manufactured within 500 miles of the project, supporting the local economy and reducing the environmental impact resulting from material and equipment transportation. In other words, AV manufacturers can be green just by being in the right place at the right time.

Points are also awarded to a project that appoints a LEED Associated Professional (AP) to the green team to oversee the certification process and help identify areas of qualification. Many AV professionals, including this author, are finding value in being accredited with LEED AP status and have made strides in taking the test required for certification.

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