Question: Marc asks: I own a restaurant and am considering going for LEED certification. What should I know before getting into this process? Is LEED CI the best approach or should I wait for LEED Retail? Is there a difference? Thanks a lot!


Marc, it’s hard to give you a definite answer without more information. Is your restaurant in a strip-mall type location, a multi-use building, or a stand-alone structure? As the US Green Building Council (USGBC) says, there are sometimes various rating systems that would be appropriate so if you’re unsure it would be prudent to find an experienced LEED Accredited Professional (AP) to help you gauge your options and guide you through the certification and documentation processes.

First off,  you need to decide if a LEED Certified Restaurant is something you want to pursue now, or if you want to wait for LEED for Retail and then make your decision. At this point, you won’t lose anything by waiting… especially since all new projects will now be certified under v3 (the registration cutoff for earlier versions was this past summer) but USGBC hasn’t set a release date for Retail yet, although the Pilot version has been released.

Oregon-DOT-LEED-certification150If you do decide you want to wait for LEED for Retail to evaluate your options, you might want to look into pursuing the Energy Star label for buildings in the meantime. More information on Energy Star can be found here.

If your restaurant were in a strip-mall or multi-use building, I’d recommend LEED for Commercial Interiors and if you’re in a stand-alone building you’ll want to pursue LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance. The main difference between these traditional rating systems and the new Retail is that these are typically more designed towards office building type environments.

LEED for Retail (which will actually have two rating systems, New Construction and Commercial Interiors) will cater more towards retail, but based on my research, it seems that many of the credits are similar in scope to the current Commercial Interiors (CI) rating system.

In my personal opinion, it’d be worthwhile to try for a CI certification now as opposed to waiting for the release of the new rating system. Find yourself a qualified AP or LEED Restaurant Consultant, sit down and do a preliminary review of the CI v3 checklist to see where you stand currently and that will allow you to determine if you’re on-track for your certification goals.

Good luck!

Sarah Gudeman, LEED AP


imageSarah Gudeman

Sarah Gudeman is a mechanical design engineer and licensed EIT in the state of Nebraska. Ms. Gudeman also is a LEED Accredited Professional (BD+C) and an active member of the USGBC Nebraska Flatwater Chapter’s board of directors.
She specializes in building energy modeling and audits, sustainable design and environmentally-friendly practices.


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