LEED credit for growing food: Part 1

The first LEED credit for food production currently in the pilot phase.

The US Green Building Council’s LEED Certification recently developed a credit that will provide LEED points for buildings that grow food on-site and support local food production. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a long-established certification system for green building and provides points for design features that save energy and water, reduce waste and provide for a healthier lifestyle and environment.

Up until this year, green space for a building was an important aspect in capturing rainwater and providing native, natural habitat for local flora and fauna. The new credit will allow building designers and users to transition a portion of green space into productive food landscapes. The credit can also be applied to buildings where occupants support off-site production as well. The remainder of this article will focus on the onsite options. A forthcoming Part Two article will give an in-depth look at off-site support.

The credit has set minimum requirements to determine if a specific building qualifies for the credit and has also set different requirements for LEED Building Design and Construction (BD+C), Interior Design and Construction (ID+C), Existing Buildings and Ongoing Maintenance (EBOM) (excluding Schools) and LEED homes and mid-rise projects. The requirements are listed below:

LEED BD+C, ID+C or EBOM projects (except Schools)

  • At least 10 percent of the site’s vegetated area (green space)
  • At least 1,500 square feet of hydroponic area
  • At least 50 percent of usable roof top space (excluding mechanical equipment, etc.)
  • At least 3,000 cubic feet of vertical farming or vertically stacked agriculture (length x width x height)
  • At least one square foot per Full Time Equivalent (excluding visitors)

LEED for Homes and Mid-rise projects

  • 200 square feet per single family home
  • 100 square feet per unit for multifamily
  • 500 square feet in facility of less than 500 students
  • 1,000 square feet in facility of 500 – 1,000 students
  • 1,500 square feet in facility of over 1,000 students

Schools Projects:

  • 500 square feet in facility of less than 500 students
  • 1,000 square feet in facility of 500 – 1,000 students
  • 1,500 square feet in facility of over 1,000 students

These requirements also come with several stipulations for how the on-site production will be operated and managed. All projects, excluding homes, must follow Integrated Pest Management (IPM) growing practices. Sites must also provide permanent infrastructure for food production including solar access, fencing, watering systems, garden bed enhancements (such as raised beds), secure storage space for tools and pedestrian access when applicable. Multi-family housing units must also follow similar stipulations. This investment in infrastructure will ensure that the building sites carry on with food production long after they receive the LEED credit points.

Michigan institutions (hospitals, schools, colleges/universities), corporations, small and large businesses, and residents have already begun growing food on-site for use in their cafeteria facilities and to provide healthy local food to their employees and customers. The introduction of this pilot credit will provide additional incentive for new and existing building projects to invest more time and money into producing their own food. Michigan State University Extension has several educators working across the state to assist businesses and institutions that are ready to take the next step in supporting local food by producing their own.

Look for Part Two of this article next Month which will go into greater detail on the CSA and farm support aspects of the local food production credit.

Other articles in this series:

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