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Setting environmental goals has long been an essential part of IBM’s global environmental management system. In 2021, IBM announced an updated set of environmental sustainability goals. Many of the goals are new, some have been updated and others are continuing. These goals focus on energy, climate change, conservation and biodiversity, pollution prevention and waste management, supply chain and value chain, and our global environmental management system itself.

Goals for environmental sustainability

While not all 21 goals relate to construction projects, when it comes to workplace design, the goals shown here are particularly important to keep in mind:


Procure 75% of the electricity IBM consumes worldwide from renewable sources by 2025, and 90% by 2030.

  • We ask project teams to evaluate opportunities for onsite renewable energy, as well as consider access to renewables that could be delivered through the grid.

  • The Global Real Estate Energy Management team must approve any new renewable energy purchases associated with a project.


Reduce IBM’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 65% by 2025 against base year 2010, adjusted for acquisitions and divestitures.

  • Designing energy efficient buildings and reducing their scope 1, onsite, emissions are key to achieving this goal. Be sure to consider the energy efficiency of all your design decisions and avoid the installation of fossil-fuel-consuming equipment in projects whenever possible.


Reach net zero GHG emissions by 2030 using feasible technologies to remove emissions in an amount that equals or exceeds IBM’s residual emissions. Aim for residual emissions of 350,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent or less by 2030, with 90% of IBM’s electricity coming from renewable sources.

  • Goals 1 and 2, help us achieve goal 3.


Achieve a year-to-year reduction in water withdrawals at specified IBM locations in high or extremely high water-stressed regions.


Plant 50 pollinator gardens at IBM locations globally by year end 2023 to support biodiversity.


Pursue third-party sustainability certification for major office construction and renovation projects executed by IBM globally.


Divert 90%, by weight, of IBM’s total nonhazardous waste from landfill and incineration by 2025 through reuse, recycling, composting and waste-to-energy processes. Use waste-to-energy processes for no more than 10%, by weight, of the diverted waste.

There is information and recommendations throughout these guidelines for increasing the environmental sustainability and occupant well-being of IBM workplaces and aligning with IBM’s environmental goals and objectives.

Third-party sustainability certification

As stated in IBM’s goals, all major office construction and renovation projects are required to pursue third-party certifications. Provided here is a guide to the applicable LEED credits and WELL features that relate to the elements of interior architecture discussed in these workplace design guidelines.

Table of LEED credits and WELL features

This table provides an overview of all the LEED credits and WELL features that pertain to specifying, installing and recycling flooring materials. More in-depth descriptions of the recommended criteria are listed here.

Mandatory: LEED prerequisites and WELL preconditions

  • All projects are required to establish a waste management plan in which a minimum of 5 structural and nonstructural materials will be diverted from landfills or incineration. A final report detailing all major waste streams, including disposal and diversion rates, will be required to meet this prerequisite’s criteria.

  • WELL’s second lighting precondition relates to artificial illuminance thresholds. Option 1 requires compliance with one of WELL’s list of lighting reference guides, while option 2 allows for predetermined illuminance levels, depending on setting and occupant age ranges.

  • WELL’s materials precondition outlines the maximum allowable amounts of hazardous ingredients in newly installed building materials, specifically, allowable levels of asbestos, mercury and lead.

  • Low emitting materials (EQc2), LEED v4. The LEED low emitting materials credit provides guidance on reducing the presence and concertation of hazardous chemicals, specifically, those chemicals that contribute to diminished air quality, and have detrimental impacts on the environment, human health and productivity.

  • WELL’s enhanced indoor air quality (IAQ) feature sets a threshold for organic gases detectable in interior spaces. Specifying low or zero VOC finishes and furnishings may result in lower levels of inorganic gases in interior spaces, supporting efforts to achieve this credit through IAQ testing. Enhanced material restrictions (X05), WELL v2. This WELL feature restricts hazardous chemicals found in common building and electrical products. The feature sets specific thresholds for the presence of halogenated flame retardants (HFRs), PFAS, ortho-phthalates, lead, cadmium and mercury.

  • To meet the criteria of this WELL feature, all spaces must use wet-applied products that are tested by one of WELL’s list of VOC emission testing methods and thresholds, and 75% of the products are third-party tested in compliance with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) v1.2, the Committee for Health-related Evaluation of Building Products (AgBB) or the European Union life-cycle inventory (LCI) VOC thresholds. Or projects can achieve points by specifying products in certain categories that meet WELL’s additional criteria feature.

Specify low impact materials

  • LEED points can be earned through several methods aimed at reducing the lifecycle impact of a project. Reusing, salvaging and refurbishing nonstructural elements; designing for flexibility and reuse; and ensuring recyclability are a few options for achieving this credit.

  • Specifying products and materials from manufacturers who have conducted lifecycle analysis and produced an EPD or other multiattribute certifications that cover the same impact categories may meet the criteria of this credit.

  • Projects are encouraged to use products that disclose information about their raw material supply chains through third-party-verified reports. Material reuse, FSC-certified wood products and certain biobased materials are also considered toward this credit.

Specify transparent materials

  • This credit addresses the need for chemical transparency in material and product ingredients. Products that disclose ingredients and any associated hazards through HPDs, Declare labels or other multiattribute certifications that address ingredients and supply chain optimization are potential qualifiers for this credit.

  • Projects that use a minimum percentage of newly installed finish materials and furnishing products with ingredient disclosures may meet this WELL features criteria.

  • WELL’s material optimization feature rewards points based on the amount of newly installed furnishings and finishes that ensure their ingredients have minimal negative impacts. This outcome is achieved by selecting materials that have been certified with Declare’s Living Building Challenge or Cradle to Cradle or avoided certain benchmarked chemicals.

Lighting and acoustic requirements

  • LEED’s applicable lighting credit awards points to projects that provide occupants with lighting controls in individual occupied spaces or meet 4 of LEED’s criteria for quality lighting.

  • This WELL lighting feature provides guidance on designing appropriate illuminance on work planes and for the various tasks performed in a space by users of all age ranges.

  • To be awarded points toward this lighting feature, projects must meet the color rendering and flicker standards as outlined in the credit.

  • This LEED credit relates to implementation of noise mitigating measures as related to HVAC background noise, sound isolation, reverberation time, and sound reinforcement and masking. To be awarded points, projects must meet the sound transmission class (STC) and reverberation times ratings as outlined in the criteria.

  • This WELL feature sets the STC or weighted sound reduction index (Rw) ratings, and the noise isolation class (NIC) or weighted difference level (Dw) values for walls and doors to provide adequate sound isolation and speech privacy.

  • To achieve points towards this WELL feature, projects must meet the minimum NRC established per space type. The aim of this feature is to reduce reverberation and block sound to support concentration and focus.

  • To manage background noise levels, projects pursuing WELL feature S07 must have floor-ceiling construction that achieves either the minimum impact insulation class (IIC) or the normalized impact sound rating (NISR) per space type.