Posts Tagged ‘LEED certification’

Green Trend Forecasting

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The following article was published by Shawn Hesse, with Emersion Design and the 2008 Chair of the USGBC Cincinnati Chapter.

Over the course of the last 8 years, Green talk has infiltrated everything. The number of ”Green Building” articles in newspapers has jumped from around 1,000 per year in 2000 to more than 9,000 in 2007. More cities and states are adopting green building incentives and policies (like Cincinnati and Ohio). Much of this has been attributed to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Rating system and its success. The USGBC has had a huge impact on the building industry as membership in the organization has grown by 50% every year for the last ten years. But there is something much larger at work in our world than the impact of LEED. Companies ranging from Wal-Mart to Starbucks are touting their sustainability initiatives, and it isn’t just limited to the United States. There are now Green Building Councils in twelve countries on five continents. Somewhere along the way, ‘green’ has crossed the line between a fad and a movement.

Motivations for companies going green vary widely, and aside from the obvious motivation of saving the planet, many organizations have gone green to save money, or even to simply improve their public image. Still others have started talking green just to ride the wave of dollars following as customers seek greener products, vehicles, homes, and offices. So what’s next? Amidst the green buzz, here are several trends in the green movement that visionary businesses should be preparing for.

The first green trend and the reason LEED has been successful, is third party verification. In a time when Chevron and BP make commercials about their sustainability missions, and green-washing claims like ‘all natural’ are everywhere, it is important to have verifiable definitions for what green really is. For buildings, that is LEED, but there are many other important third party verifications for the rest of our lives and businesses. The International Organization for Standardization is developing the 14000 series of ISO standards to define vocabulary and validate processes for product manufacturing and environmental impact management.

The second trend related to going green is rising energy costs. This should go without saying, but energy will only get more expensive before and if it ever gets cheaper. A comparison between investing the same amount of money in the S&P 500 or in energy efficiency for your building puts it all in perspective. Over the last ten years, the S&P 500 Index Fund has increased 36.8% while energy costs have risen 300%.

The phrase ”Blue collar jobs to Green collar jobs” is one of the hottest topics for politicians, and represents the third trend. With the global push for sustainability, the need for solar panel manufacturing and installing, wind turbine manufacturing, green product manufacturing, and an endless list of sustainable business opportunities justifies the name ”the Next Industrial Revolution”.

Finally, savvy businesses recognize that by embracing sustainability at their core, employees will be proud to work there. When your job and your company is about more than just making widgets, a sense of loyalty and pride is inevitable, and as ‘Generation Y’ takes hold in the workforce, with their notorious ‘job-hopping’ tendencies, it is even more important for employers to recognize the recruitment potential of going green before their competitors do.

LEED versus Green

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The following article was published by Greg Raffio, LEED AP, with Heapy Engineering.

Three years ago, my team of graduate engineering students was presenting the energy, environmental, and economic analysis for the construction of a net-zero energy building. The client patiently listened, asked questions, and then dictated a verdict… we had the financial green light. Years of analysis, research, and calculations had paid off.

Next, we assembled a professional design team to take the project from concept to concrete. The house would have it all: net-zero energy use, a sustainable project site, low water use, and sustainable materials. The idea of LEED certification was brought up and immediately dismissed by the team. Why would our building need such a stamp of approval when we knew just how good the design was? No one knew just how wrong we were. Throughout the various stages of design, our student team lamented as the green features were removed. Once completed, the building would retain its net-zero energy status, but had lost all other important green features.

My current projects are larger and more expensive than that small house. But, the values of the lessons learned during my final years as a graduate student are greater than any that I have learned. I have come to realize the true value of the LEED rating system as a necessity to truly attain sustainable (”green”) design.

During my career, I have seen project teams make 70% of the design decisions while spending just the first 1% of the design budget. Thus, it becomes a daunting task to retroactively set project goals … specifically sustainability goals. The less prominent the goal, the more likely the feature necessary to attain that goal will fall by the wayside or be ”value-engineered” from the project.

The LEED Rating System is a tool that a design team uses in order to insure that a project’s green features are properly designed, constructed, and accounted for. Human error pervades the construction process. Examples of such errors include ordering the wrong product, calculation mistakes, or forgetting a step in a process. The LEED process, by no means ensures a perfect building. However, many portions of the LEED process act to significantly decrease such errors. One of the most prominent examples is the commissioning process, which is a service that all owners will benefit from, regardless of project scope, size, or cost.

Once the entire project has been completed, the owner asks, ”What insures that I now own and operate a green building?” If the project has achieved LEED Certification, the team can be certain of their answer. The entire project team knows which goals have been successfully achieved, how much energy and water the building should save, and what type of indoor environment has been created for the building occupants.

A holistic perspective is necessary to grasp the true impact of a third-party rating system such as LEED. The LEED Rating system has two major components. First, LEED promotes general sustainability oriented features such as bike racks and daylighting. Second, LEED is a group of ”best-practice” codes and standards compiled to influence the construction industry. When projects pursue LEED Certification, the market is driven to provide goods and services that attain the standards that have been chosen. Each LEED-Certified project strengthens the green building movement, pushes for products that are less impactful on people and the environment, and enables property owners to truly know just how ”green” their building is.

Integrated Design Process

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The following article was published by Chad Edwards, RA, LEED AP, an Associate at Emersion Design and serves on the USGBC Cincinnati Regional Chapter Board of Directors.

The built and natural environments are inextricably and vitally linked. To create a high performance / sustainable facility, a collaborative design approach is essential for a successful outcome. The Integrated Design Process fosters knowledge-sharing among significant stakeholders during the development of a holistic design and leads to increased project value.

These stakeholders should be comprised of the owner group, key users, facilities directors, programmers, real estate managers, architects, commissioning agents, civil engineers, planners, mechanical engineers, interior designers, structural engineers, construction managers, electrical engineers, plumbing designers, landscape architects, and / or key specialty consultants. The General Contractor and / or the Construction Manager should also be included in this process to encourage the sharing of cost, scheduling and construction knowledge. This will also familiarize the contractor with the construction intent resulting in a more accurate bid and more efficient construction period.

During the traditional approach, design and construction professionals work somewhat independently on their respective area of expertise. One of two things can happen when consultants are added to the design process midstream. The new team member shares expertise that changes the project late in the process, requiring more time, effort and money to back track; or more commonly, the team decides not to pursue the new approach. In either case, the project and the owner suffer a consequence. ‘Value Engineering’ during design and construction becomes the norm, which leads to value loss.

The Integrated Design Process deviates from this traditional approach as it leverages the collective expertise as early as the pre-design phase, where the highest potentials and greatest values are realized. ‘Value’ engineering tends to generate project cuts, which successfully lessen the construction costs, but usually lessen the true value. The Integrated Design Process is vital to a successful work process, which can lessen the damages of ‘value’ engineering.

By bringing all the stakeholders to the design process early, intensive analysis and in-depth investigations can discover complementary and innovative project goals and design strategies when change costs less. This Integrated Design Team establishes project goals together while engaging in a productive exchange of ideas. The team understands, applies and tests these goals throughout the design process.

Stakeholders share their knowledge in multi-day charrette (brainstorming) formats; trade-offs and connections are recognized. Problems are reframed and better solutions are generated by creating an innovative and collaborative environment where each opinion matters. The entire team establishes and meets the project goals, objectives and major solutions. These charrettes frequently become rather lively and informal without jurisdiction. They are investigatory by nature, thoughtfully critiqued and leverage the expertise and resources of the team. Connections are made that typically are not immediately understood, such as how paint color impacts the mechanical load or how building orientation affects human productivity. Sometimes the most effective solutions have the lowest construction cost implications and might be undiscovered in a traditional design process.

By utilizing the Integrated Design Process, deep curiosity, thorough analysis and strategic, technical problem solving prevail, leading to a more comprehensive, cost effective and sustainable facility.

Why Bother with LEED Certification

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The following article was published by Michael Senger, LEED AP, is a Mechanical Engineer with Heapy Engineering. Involved in over 100 LEED projects and with +50 LEED Accredited Professional on staff, Heapy Engineering one of the leading sustainable design firms in the country. Michael is also a Board Member of the Cincinnati Regional Chapter of the USGBC.

Building owners often question the additional time and expense involved with registering a building for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED (Registered)) certification through the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), versus just simply including ”green” features in a project. There are several reasons why owners choose to have their buildings certified through the various LEED Rating Systems. Some building owners feel that environmentally it is the right thing to do. Others make the decision to pursue LEED due to requirements of their own governing body. Still other building owners pursue a financial incentive offered through their local government or parent organization. Essentially, there are three general reasons why building owners should seek Certification: commitment, legitimacy, and marketability.

Commitment. By registering your project with the USGBC you are committing to design and construct your building to the standards and requirements outlined by the LEED Rating System. Your design team and your building’s contractor are then committed to integrating those design features to ensure that your building is more durable, healthy and more energy efficient. Through the rigors of budget, programming, or other project challenges, these ”green” features will remain because you and your team decided to produce a building that merits LEED Certification and national recognition for its sustainability.

Legitimacy. In the face of widespread ”green washing” (ie: the attempt by businesses or individuals to mislead consumers as to the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service), LEED Certification tells your peers, clients and customers, that your building’s sustainable features have been verified by a third party to promote energy conservation, to ensure a healthier indoor environment and to reduce its impact on the environment. LEED is a consensus-based system, meaning one that was commented and voted upon by the USGBC’s diverse membership. It ensures that your project team didn’t just invent the ”green” requirements on your own or design your project to some arbitrary definition of sustainability. Instead, thousands of professionals (there are over 45,000 LEED Accredited Professionals within the USGBC) collaborated, discussed and agreed upon these requirements.

Marketability. A LEED Certified headquarters, branch office, retail location, or elementary school is a strong marketing tool to show the community that your organization is committed to something greater than itself. It demonstrates that you were willing to make the extra effort to not only include those features, but also to have them confirmed – better yet Certified – by a nationally and internationally recognized leader in the field. The LEED Rating System is a tool that can help create a space that will enhance your employees’, clients’, or students’ everyday environment while reducing operating and maintenance costs as well as decreasing its impact on the environment. LEED Certification demonstrates how it was accomplished.