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Banks, retailers getting with LEED certification

June 27, 2008
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SEATTLE -- The green building seal of approval known as LEED certification is spreading to retailers, beginning with companies who deal in green of another sort - banks.

Last week, Charlotte, N.C.-based Wachovia became the third bank to earn approval for a prototype to build hundreds of LEED-certified locations with less red tape than a traditional LEED certification. The Seattle architecture firm Callison led development of the prototype.

LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the standard for environmentally friendly construction encompassing energy efficiency, using recycled materials and water conservation.

Only four companies have won approval for prototypes that can be used for multiple locations.

The others are PNC Bank of Pittsburgh in 2006, Citigroup and Office Depot both this year.

"PNC really set the standard and showed that it is possible, and raised expectations in the industry," said Marc Heisterkamp, manager of corporate and investment real estate at the U.S. Green Building Council, which administers LEED certification.

Other companies working on prototypes include Starbucks, McDonald's, Kohl's, Bank of America and Best Buy, he said.

Starbucks' headquarters building and one store in Hillsboro, Ore., are LEED certified. The company expects to finish an application for a prototype this year that would incorporate elements Starbucks already uses in new stores, from energy-efficient lighting to flooring made mostly from recycled material.

Ben Packard, Starbucks' vice president of corporate social responsibility, has chaired a U.S. Green Building Council committee since 2002 that works on special LEED requirements for retailers that build many similar stores each year.

Traditionally, LEED certification has been for office buildings, and retailers such as PCC Natural Markets in Seattle have had to work around those requirements to gain certification.

"Whether it's Starbucks or a supermarket or a bank, retailers have different challenges than an office building, from refrigeration to the transient in-and-out population of those buildings," Heisterkamp said.

Chris Hamilton, the Callison principal in charge of the Wachovia account, said the firm began working on the bank's prototype about two years ago. "Callison intends to own this retail LEED certification arena," he said.

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