By Pamela Eaton, LEED AP
Senior Associate
Washington, DC Office

How often have you heard that in relation to a foodservice item only to find out that it’s not quite that easy?  Unfortunately, there is no “bike rack” option for food & bev.  Can your kitchen be more “green”?  Absolutely!  Can your equipment be more “sustainable”?  Definitely!  Will you see a return on investment and significant reduction in utility usage?  Unquestionably!  But a LEED point?  Probably not.  Although that is really a question of how hard do the engineers on the project want to work for it…

I was asked when LEED first came on the scene what effect I thought it would have on kitchen design and how much I thought kitchens would contribute to points.  I responded back then, and feel the answer is still valid today, that food & beverage people don’t need the carrot of a LEED point to understand the value of energy efficient equipment – they see the $$$ on their bottom line every month.  A 30% reduction in gas, water or electricity usage is a no-brainer for operators.  Commercial equipment companies have seen efficiency as a way of differentiating their products, so when they update a piece of equipment, they tend to make them more efficient. 

Because of that, I felt that the USGBC had gone after other low hanging fruit that was easier to quantify – things like office lighting energy usage, toxic chemicals in products, water usage in public restrooms, etc.  Items that are not quite so, or quickly obvious, to the bottom line.

Currently the only way in the NC or CI Tracks for kitchen equipment/design or a food and beverage operational item to get a LEED credit by itself is through the use of one of the Innovation & Design Process points.  My experience is that these are snapped up pretty quickly by the architect with items they know they will get credits for.  If there is one available, reduction of energy use through substantial use of Energy Star rated equipment, reduction of energy for refrigeration, or reduction of waste through composting programs and recycling programs have all been successful in the past in getting ID points.

There are two categories where kitchen equipment can potentially contribute to the team’s reduction in process energy usage; Energy and Atmosphere (EA) and Water Efficiency (WE).  The caveat is that it also depends on the Track the building is taking. 

For projects pursuing the Commercial Interiors track there are requirements for foodservice equipment within the performance criteria for tenant space systems.  EA Prerequisite 2 and EA Credit 1.4 set minimums and optimized goals for Energy Star Equipment usage by rated power and include commercial foodservice equipment.  WE Prerequisite 1 sets flow rates for pre-rinse faucets, but considers the remaining equipment outside of the scope of water use reductions.

For projects pursuing the New Construction track the points are more difficult.  EA Credit 1 considers kitchen cooking and refrigeration process energy, so it can be assumed to be 25% of the total energy cost and process loads must be identical for both baseline building performance and proposed building performance rating.  If they want to consider reductions in process load (and potentially get additional points), the team has to follow the exceptional calculations method.  Kitchen hood exhaust is not considered process load, and so does have minimum requirements to be met within EA Prerequisite 2.  As with CI, WE Prerequisite 1 sets flow rates for pre-rinse faucets, but considers the remaining equipment outside of the scope of water use reductions.  In some cases, WE pr1 has been interpreted to include flow reduction for hand sinks within the kitchen facilities as required. 

For projects pursuing LEED for Schools, there are points that foodservice can get on their own!  (if there are no disposers or water chilling units that utilize potable water anywhere else on the project).  WE Credit 4 sets maximum water usage for dishwashers, ice machines, food steamers and pre-rinse spray valves.  LEED for Schools follows NC for the other EA and WE credits (described above).

All that said, the argument for energy efficient designs in kitchens is a strong one and one that can be addressed successfully in a myriad of ways.  Equipment in categories that do not have an Energy Star review yet can be selected based on their scoring by the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) and the California Energy Commission (CEC).  Hoods can be designed with cfm reducing panels and specified with demand control to reduce run time during low equipment usage times.  Rack refrigeration units and large dishwashing machines can incorporate heat recovery methods for pre-heating of domestic hot water.  Low flow faucets can be utilized on sinks where water is used for rinsing (not for filling sinks like pot sinks).  Pulpers will reduce the volume of waste to be disposed of and operational programs incorporating composting and recycling reduce waste overall. 

I would also encourage you to expand beyond the LEED point discussion and look to other programs designed to enhance your project and reduce its environmental footprint.  One program worth a look is GreenSeal, based on ANSI Standard 46 and offering certifications which reduce a foodservice operation’s environmental footprint by 75% or more.

LEED is the pioneer of bringing sustainability and energy efficient buildings to the forefront of the design world. Foodservice, at this time continues to be the energy consuming monster that the USGBC has not yet faced. The foodservice equipment industry is making improvements very quickly that can provide significant contributions to an energy efficient and sustainable facility. Incorporating these features into your project may not get you a certificate but it will give something to deposit into the bank.  What more can you ask for as you strive to do well by doing good?