Should a warehouse project use LEED v4 WDC or CS?

Green Building Team on March 11, 2024

Rating System/Standard
LEED v4.1
Certification essentials

Industrial real estate continues to be a strong area of growth and interest for clients. Almost two dozen industrial warehouse projects were certified under LEED v4 BD+C in 2023 and well over a 100 are registered to pursue certification.

However, it can be challenging for project owners to determine which LEED rating system suits their warehouse project best. USGBC‘s Rating System Selection Guidance offers a special rating system under LEED v4/4.1 BD+C designed for Warehouse and Distribution Centers (WDC), for buildings “used to store goods, manufactured products, merchandise, raw materials or personal belongings, such as self-storage.” LEED v4 BD+C: WDC offers unique options for select credits that address the challenges these project types face, especially within the Location and Transportation category. For example, LEED v4/4.1 B+C: WDC offers alternative solutions for LTc Surrounding Density and Diverse Uses to reuse previously developed industrial /commercial sites or be close to transportation resources.

However, this LEED v4 BD+C: WDC rating system is only appropriate to utilize if at least 60 percent or more of the warehouse is complete. What does “complete” mean? As USGBC has defined, “complete” means that no further work is needed and the project is ready for occupancy. The building is “incomplete” if it does not have its basic floor, wall, or ceiling finishes installed, or essential mechanical, electrical, plumbing systems or fixtures necessary to occupy the space for its intended use.

This is particularly difficult to understand in the context of warehouses though, as warehouses are often seen as “shell” spaces even when fully fit out for their intended use. This can also be challenging for a warehouse as it is usually not known if a future tenant will leave the entire space for storage or build an office area within a portion of the space, thereby changing the intended use of part of the space. Additionally, the type of storage may be unknown, and so it is unclear if additional mechanical, electrical, or plumbing systems will be needed when the tenant is selected, which can be sometime after certification.

When they submit for certification, project teams can do their best to estimate what percentage of the storage areas of their building would likely be ready to function without further changes. That is, what percentage of the total gross floor area of the building is able to serve a tenant with whatever operational systems have been installed as part of the LEED project scope of work. If the project team cannot show that at least 60 percent of the building is likely to be used without further adjustments to meet a tenant’s needs, then project teams should use LEED BD+C: Core and Shell (CS) instead.

Are there any options for LEED BD+C: CS projects to utilize strategies specific to WDC?

Usually, as per USGBC’s Rating System Selection Guidance, the “entire gross floor area of a LEED project must be certified under a single rating system and is subject to all prerequisites and attempted credits in that rating system, regardless of mixed construction or space usage type.” However, if a project team feels that a WDC compliance path would be an equivalent alternative for their LEED BD+C:CS warehouse project, reach out to LEED Coach Canada, to consider an exception.

Project teams may also wish to review USGBC’s Market Sector FAQ on Warehouses and if tenant space is being considered, review CAGBC’s Resource for Treatment of Incomplete Space in BD+C.

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