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The Earth Needs a Purple People Leader

January 18, 2011

When I was asked to put a requirement in our FedEx Express building specifications for our newly built facilities to obtain LEED® Certification, I didn’t think I heard correctly.  Surely we just want to specify that our buildings might go for LEED, not that we really intend to certify all our future projects, right?  Wrong!  Yes, we wanted to save energy, help the environment, and create better places for our customers and employees, but we also wanted to be sure that FedEx was doing it the right way.

So what is LEED?  First off, it is LEED – not Leeds.  Here is a tidbit for your next cocktail party where sustainability is discussed: Leeds is a city in Alabama and also a city in England where The Who recorded a great live album.  LEED, however, is an acronym for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design and, with our first LEED Certified building, FedEx is indeed “leading” (pun intended) our industry to demonstrate how our facilities can benefit the oft-mentioned “triple bottom line”:  people, planet, and profit.

LEED, a program of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), of which FedEx is an active member, is the most well-known system worldwide for rating high-performing buildings.  Credits are awarded in 5 major categories:  Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality.  Certification is dependent on achieving point thresholds for one of 4 levels:  Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. 

In Las Vegas, our project team was recently able to earn LEED-Gold, a significant accomplishment for a facility that includes a package-sorting warehouse, vehicle maintenance bay, and office building.  This Certification is a third-party stamp of approval that FedEx is being a good steward of the planet and its resources, saving energy, and improving the workplace environment for our customers and employees.

But talk is cheap.  What did we actually DO at Las Vegas to be that good environmental citizen?  Low flow plumbing fixtures were selected to save 49% of indoor water use versus merely “code-compliant” fixtures.  Energy savings, due to design elements such as skylights and evaporative cooling, were calculated to be 42% higher than a similar building without LEED-required features. During construction, 86% of all construction waste was diverted through recycling and reclamation of materials.  Over 75% of regularly occupied spaces were daylit to reduce the need for electric lights and provide better workspaces.

LEED Certification harmonizes with the FedEx commitment to innovate in our industry and to lead the way to a more sustainable future.  FedEx has made tremendous investments in alternative energy, hybrid and electric vehicles, and more fuel-efficient aircraft.  These investments are not only the right thing to do; they demonstrate that FedEx, as it has since its inception, is never afraid “to go where no transportation company has gone before”.  And the Purple Promise extends to our planet!  Here’s to the first of what will be many LEED certified facilities in the future of FedEx!

Steve Mangin is a Project Architect with FedEx Express.  He is a Registered Architect in Tennessee and a LEED Accredited Professional.  Prior to joining FedEx in 2007, Steve worked for architecture and engineering firms in Memphis since 1993.  He received his Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Columbia University in New York.  Steve also holds a Master’s degree in Architecture from the University of Oregon, rated as the Best Architecture School for Sustainable Design from DesignIntelligence journal.

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