Not everyone is arriving at Destiny’s doors in a Tesla, and the vehicles filling the massive parking lot emit a lot of exhaust into the atmosphere.
Moreover, the fashion industry – Destiny is two thirds clothing-related stores – ranks as the second highest polluting industry in the world. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a staggering 84 percent of unwanted clothing in the United States ended up in a landfill or the incinerator in 2012. And Newsweek has reported that the average American throws away an estimated 80 pounds of clothing each year.
Photo courtesy of Destiny USA
LEED certification is based on a point system that evaluates how green a structure is by looking at six categories: building location, water efficiency, energy efficiency, choice and use of materials, indoor environmental quality, and design innovation. A building receives one of four rankings: Certified, silver, gold and platinum. Out of a possible 62 points, Destiny earned 36 to earn its gold certification.
But a shopping mall, said Chris Straille, who certifies the environmental qualifications of residential buildings in Syracuse, is by its nature “an energy hog that uses and consumes.”
Still, he said, a LEED certified mall is better than a mall that does nothing at all to reduce its carbon footprint.
Straille noted that because builders do not have to have high point totals in every category to be certified, they can choose to make improvements only in areas that are less costly and still be confident that they will meet the certification criteria. “You can kind of get around things that you think are too expensive, or you can do something else that is less valuable to the environment than another aspect of the certification.”
For example, he notes that, “In water efficiency, you don’t necessarily need to get it in low-flow fixtures, you can flow all of your irrigation outside of your building for uses such as watering your lawn. Then you can get all your points there without looking at all of the water efficiencies inside.” He said he does not know enough about Destiny to comment on their specific LEED certification.
But Lauren Staniec – a former employee of Pyramid Management Group, the company that developed Destiny – who was involved with the mall’s LEED certification process, said she was impressed with Destiny’s environmental efforts.
Staniec said she could see how the notion of a sustainable mega-mall might draw skepticism.
"Consumption and consumerism in its entirety is not sustainable; it is inherently an oxymoron."
Photo of one of the many signs promoting Destiny's sustainability efforts
"Consumption and consumerism in its entirety is not sustainable; it is inherently an oxymoron," she said, adding that when she tells people she was the head of sustainability for a series of shopping centers she gets some funny looks.
But Staniec said that Bob Congel, the primary partner of Destiny USA, wanted Destiny to be a “living laboratory” for environmental sustainability in the retail sector.
“His end goal was to make this an education center,” she said. “Not just for the businesses we were trying to lease to, but also for the design teams, the construction teams, and ultimately the consumers as well, which is the part I find the most inspiring” Staniec said. In fact, she said every tenant that chooses to lease in Destiny must get LEED certification.
Staniec’s main job working with Pyramid was to get 60 tenants LEED certified for their expansion under the LEED Core & Shell standards. Previous tenants can keep this status under the 2009 version of LEED, but new tenants must abide by the new and stricter set of LEED v4 regulations. Many of their areas of focus for certification revolve around their waste from packaging and shipments and their overall energy performance.
Pyramid Management Group owns about 22 million square feet of retail space, mostly in the form of shopping centers, in New York, Massachusetts, and Virginia. Each project has its own onsite management.
To achieve LEED certification, Destiny scored 5 out of 5 on water efficiency mostly because of a rainwater harvesting system that collects more than 4 million gallons of rain annually for use in bathrooms and common areas, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.
Another high score was based on the mall’s location. Destiny is located on top of “Oil City,” an old oil field and near a junkyard contaminated with heavy metals and other hazardous waste. The re-development and cleanup of the oil field property and the clean-up of the junkyard were among the biggest contributors to Destiny’s gold certification. Their location in proximity to public transportation also helped earn them points for community development in building a stronger relationship with the city. Destiny received 10/15 credits for their work on sustainable sites and the location of the project.