Joseph Crea

USGBC recently spoke with Veer Singh, Founder of Vana Retreats and the Retreat Director at Vana Malsi Estate, about using LEED in his projects. 

Why have you chosen to use LEED?

Since the retreat’s very conceptualization, sensitivity to ecology has played an intrinsic role in our thinking. Spread across 21 acres, Vana Malsi Estate’s design upholds high standards in sustainability and energy optimization, with special effort to manage water and waste as effectively as possible.

Our motivation to achieve this certification stems from our genuine desire to be sensitive to the environment, both in the retreat’s creation and in all its operations. We have strived to go beyond our obligation to LEED and are grateful for this small yet meaningful milestone in our journey. 

How does LEED fit into your overall sustainability objectives?

Mindfulness toward ecology and sustainability are of great significance to us and form a core part of our values. LEED has pushed us to achieve this certification, and we are committed to keeping up the standards.

Is disclosure of material ingredients part of your organization's overall sustainability metrics? If so, why is this important to you?

We do disclose some of our initiatives in certain communications. For instance, we use FSC wood. We also mention 100 percent post-consumer recycled waste on our stationery wherever applicable. We convey some of our efforts on our website and social media, and also try to speak of our sustainability metrics within our team and outside.

We seek to create a new culture and way of thinking, and feel that sustainability is integral to wellbeing. We consider ecological wellbeing as one of the seven aspects of wellbeing (others include physical, mental, emotional and social wellbeing, for instance).

What measures have you put in place to ensure your LEED project continues to perform highly and improve over time?

We have allocated responsibility to our Learning and Development Manager to keep training ongoing. He is also in charge of several initiatives related to waste management and paper reduction. Key heads of departments of Housekeeping and Engineering are given SOPs and guidelines about resources that are used on a daily basis, such as energy, water and fuel consumption.

Sustainability has become a key point of discussion for us as a team, and is quite deeply ingrained in our culture and ethos.

Can you name a specific challenge with the LEED rating system you faced when you were implementing LEED? What was your solution?

Calculating our energy consumption and monitoring lighting (outdoor and indoor) were slight challenges. We ended up using higher-specification glass (clear glass, not tinted) to minimize energy loss. We lost a few points for lighting, but we are trying to see how we can improve this.

We are very interested in learning more about the occupant experience of your LEED buildings. Can you share a few specific anecdotes of how people feel living and working in your LEED-certified buildings?

Our design is very conducive to well-being and how guests feel. The notion that guests are in a design/space where ecology and the environment have been kept in mind makes them feel even better, and enhances their sense of well-being.

For instance, we have consistently received excellent feedback on the quality of sleep that guests achieve here. People (including the team) do feel a real sense of calm and peace at the Retreat.

Do you plan to use LEED in future projects?

Yes. We will attempt, for each of our retreats in the coming decades, to at least achieve LEED Platinum.