As USGBC and the global community continues to raise standards for sustainability, net zero is becoming the new goal for many leaders in green building. LEED Zero was announced at Greenbuild Chicago in 2018 as a complement to LEED certification that would recognize net zero achievements in carbon, energy, water and waste.
First in line for LEED Zero
The first building to certify using LEED Zero was the Curitiba headquarters of Brazilian engineering and green building consulting firm Petinelli, a member company with USGBC since 2008. The 440-square-meter office building in Curitiba is housed in a converted warehouse and was certified under LEED v4 for Operations and Maintenance in September 2018. Before the end of December, it was also certified LEED Zero.
All energy is produced on-site, with an energy use intensity for the site of only 25 kilowatt hours per square meter per year. A 15 kilowatt photovoltaic array provides around 125% of the energy needed to run the 25-person office.
Leading clients by example
Want to help push the industry? You can start by setting an example. All three of the Petinelli office locations in Brazil are LEED Platinum—and the firm has made a commitment to achieve LEED Platinum on all future projects for clients.
For Managing Director Guido Petinelli, a LEED AP who was also named a LEED Fellow in 2018, net zero energy and water had been a goal for some time. He calls the Curitiba office a "living laboratory and showroom" of the very performance objectives that the firm encourages for its clients.
"One of our clients challenged us to achieve LEED Platinum on all our projects," explains Petinelli. "We knew instinctively that if we were going to 'talk the talk' with our clients, we'd better 'walk the walk" ourselves...Such an audacious goal attracted the type of clients that were ready."
Leveraging data and maximizing site strengths
Green Building Council Brasil has its own zero energy program, under which the Petinelli office building had also certified. GBC Brasil uses site energy as a metric, while LEED Zero uses source energy, so the only challenge was determining the source-to-site-energy ratio for Brazil.
As an engineering firm, though, Petinelli had that information available. Plus, the project had been energy positive for over a year and was able to easily assemble the data required to achieve LEED Zero Energy certification.
"Performance is easy to measure, and even easier to certify," says Petinelli.
Petinelli's next goal is to pursue certification for net zero water, since the office has been off the grid on water use for almost two years. Brazil offers plenty of sun for Petinelli's solar array, but it also rains 200 days out of the year in Curitiba, and the firm used lessons learned from designing a Coca-Cola plant to create a system for harvesting and treating rainwater for potable water at its own headquarters.
Driving a greener future with a bolder goal
In Petinelli's experience, clients get excited about concepts like net zero because it is a simpler way of thinking about performance that also provides a bold, ambitious goal.
"LEED is most effective when it is aspirational," says Petinelli. "It is human nature to want to do better, and recognition is a powerful motivator. I find it easier to convince clients to go for Platinum, and now LEED Zero, than just to certify."