Des Moines-based Meidh Corp. led the owner of a California building to a farm in southwest Iowa in an effort to obtain a sustainability certification for existing buildings.

In order to meet the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification for existing buildings, a Principal Real Estate Investors property near Los Angeles had to offset its footprint with sustainable green space. That was impossible in an urban setting.

Meidh CEO Chris Draper essentially found the fine print in the LEED certification that allowed Principal to purchase green space credits from Pinhook Farm, an Iowa-based livestock operation that seeks to give back as much to the environment as it consumes.

Draper worked with West Des Moines-based Green Fuels Exchange Inc. to generate a land-use restriction agreement in which Pinhook Farm owner Seth Watkins agreed to conserve a section of forest to offset the footprint of the California property.

The agreement allowed the California property to qualify for an offsite land protection credit that was needed for the LEED Gold certification.

Watkins is following the green building council's conservation guidelines to improve soil quality and reduce water contamination on more than 3,000 acres near Clarinda and in southeast Nebraska. His goal is to have what is called a net-zero impact on the environment.

"With everything you want in terms of stewardship, they're doing a fantastic job," Draper said.

The arrangement can work for new construction, but the conserved land needs to be within 500 miles of the property seeking LEED certification.

"We haven't heard of anyone doing it ever," Draper said. "We saw this thing come up, and we haven't seen any projects that have done it on the existing buildings side."