LEED


[Originally posted at EcoGeek. It’s not entirely new news, since the Army began adopting ASHRAE 189.1 in 2010, but it’s further movement in a direction they were already headed in. It’s probably a greater blow to LEED, since the DoD was one of its biggest adopters.

AIA Michigan COTE has been working to get more information about the new International Green Construction Code (IGCC) out to our members, and I have to admit that I’m still not completely clear about how the IGCC interacts with current state building code. I do think that there will be an increasing move toward having green building practice embedded in code.

At the same time, I think that LEED can maintain its leadership by further pushing the envelope. LEED has become very mainstream, and that is both good (in terms of overall uptake of the message) and bad (in that it has become less distinctive). LEED has to finesse the balance between being cutting edge and being accessible. I think, as it has become more and more popular, it has become too ordinary, and it needs to regain some of its distinctiveness and its status as marking truly exceptional buildings.]

[Edit to add: Some further clarification came out after I wrote this original article. See the followup posted at EcoGeek, as well, for a fuller picture of what is going on.]

While the headline may sound dire, it’s not an indication that the US Army is giving up on green building. Instead, the Army has announced it will use a new construction code of its own which is based on the ASHRAE 189.1 standard for new buildings and renovations, rather than continue to use LEED or the High Perfromance Sustainable Buildings standards. This new standard will “govern all new construction, major renovations and leased space acquisition.” The Army had already adopted ASHRAE 189.1 late in 2010.

Some of the impetus for this change is political. In 2011, Congress acted to prevent any Department of Defense project from achieving LEED gold or platinum certification as part of that year’s Defense Reauthorization bill.

Moreover, LEED is fundamentally a marketing program that recognizes buildings built to a particular high standard of performance. At its core, the Army is more concerned about having better buildings that it can operate more efficiently. Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Dr. Dorothy Robyn stated that, “With more than 300,000 buildings and 2.2 billion square feet of building space, DoD has a footprint three times that of Wal-Mart and six times that of GSA. Our corresponding energy bill is $4 billion annually.” The Defense Department recognizes the importance of green buildings for its overall operational effectiveness.

The armed forces have been one of the biggest early adopters of LEED, and if all of the services are going to move away from using LEED as their standard for improved performance, that is likely to have a strong effect on USGBC, GBCI, and the LEED program as a whole. “The repercussions of this announcement will be widespread,” notes Green Building Law Update. “For federal contractors, this is a game changer. The LEED AP credential will be less valuable. Past performance highlighting LEED certification will be less valuable, if not totally irrelevant.”

ASHRAE 189.1 is not some lesser standard. It was develeoped by ASHRAE (the professional organization of mechanical engineers), US Green Building Council, and IESNA (the professional organization of lighting engineers), as well as the International Code Council. Moreover, the Army’s action is not unprecedented. The International Code Council has also developed the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) which incorporates the ANSI/ASHRAE/USGBC/IES Standard 189.1 as a “jurisdictional compliance option.” Increasingly, building codes are going to directly incorporate green measures instead of relying on third-party standards that are merely optional.

Ultimately, this may push LEED in new directions. LEED was meant to push the envelope and to transform the marketplace. In that respect, it has accomplished much of that initial goal. As the industry has moved to embrace LEED, perhaps in the coming years, LEED will again push for even greater improvements in building technology and again make LEED an indication of a truly elite building.

via: Green Building Law Update

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A list of common mistakes occurring in LEED-H projects. Good for reference.

Top 10 LEED snafus – an article to share with LEED classes.

Green or Greenwash The Quiz This one, from Building Green, isn’t easy, even if you’re deeply involved in sustainability and green building. I got what I’d consider a borderline pass on this myself (9 out of 12), though I would argue the subjective nature of one of the questions that I answered differently than their correct answer.

Posting has been slow of late, so this is an update about current projects and activities.

The Corner Brewery addition is under construction, and last week the structure of the premanufactured building finally started coming together. The photo (above) is the first arch of the addition building, with the existing building beyond. The building will be assembled from a number of these sections attached together to make a long, deep-ribbed structure. Before it was raised, this part was lying on the ground, and, since it was a windy day, the loose ends of the metal were being blown around. But, as it is assembled, the whole thing should be strong and self-supporting. Hopefully there will be good weather in the next week or so, and there can be some better progress photography.

On a personal front, I will be teaching a LEED exam prep course for Wayne County Community College this fall. I’ve been a study group facilitator for a few previous LEED-AP and LEED-GA study groups working with USGBC, but this will be more on my own. I have my own syllabus to develop and go through the material in a longer format than the study groups. I’m looking forward to getting back into LEED again. Even when I have mixed feelings about its true effectiveness (LEED is, at its essential core, a marketing program, not a way to build the greenest buildings possible), I recognize that it has done a lot to raise awareness of the importance of building greener buildings and to recognize some buildings that have been leaders in advancing the technology.

A couple of residential projects are at the early stages, but not at a point where there’s much to show. It’s good to have interesting design challenges, even with smaller projects. I suppose if these were simple projects, they would just be talking with a builder. But having to re-configure an old farm house for a more contemporary lifestyle and fitting a 2-car garage into a side-yard only wide enough for a single width driveway are the kinds of things that are interesting to work through.

These were going to be a few quick links for last month, and have been sitting in the queue for a while.

  • Henry Gifford (the engineer who helped kick off the demand for accountability and numbers to prove energy efficiency in LEED buildings) has also written about misconceptions about heat pumps. (The article is a few months old, but I just came across it recently. I think I was already pretty aware of most of his points, but it’s still a good article.)

“People are still stuck on what they see in TV and magazines,” she believes. “If they can save some money on the mechanical or on energy efficiency and get square footage for the large living room they want, they will take square footage nine times out of 10. Most of the time, they will sacrifice everything for square footage.” 

This is the project I was referencing earlier in my Verbal Prototyping post. They are looking at renovating an existing office building and making it a much greener building than it currently is. Part of this project would involve exposing more of the basement wall in order to add larger windows and bring daylight into the basement to make it useful office space.

Sketch concept for building renovation and addition. View from southwest.

This is what the existing building currently looks like (northwest corner):

Despite the dire forecasts I’ve heard from a couple of presentations and seminars I’ve heard earlier this year, there hasn’t been much in the way of litigation over LEED and green building.  There is a case of a condo development (I think) on the east coast where the contractor had other problems, and then some dispute surrounding the LEED certification of the project led to a lawsuit.  (I’m going from memory here, so I may not have this correct.  I’ll have some better resources below.)  But, that was the single example for ‘LEEDigation’ for a while.

Having been to these law and insurance seminars, and hearing all kinds of warnings and dire predictions about the forthcoming torrent of green building litigation that is just around the corner, I haven’t seen all that much

Now, there’s a new case coming out where the Gold-level certification of a high school (Northland Pines High School in Eagle River, Wisconsin which was awarded Gold under LEED NC 2.1) was challenged. Not only was it challenged (in December of 2008), but, after the certification was upheld by the USGBC, it is now being tried in the press, with the appellants now posting copies of their appeal and documentation for everyone to review.

My question upon hearing about this is to wonder about the motivation of the individuals behind this. Why are they so adamant about taking away the certification this building was awarded?

A copy of the original appeal has been posted, and I will admit to not having read the whole thing. However, for me, this is the telling line, from the front page:

The engineering professionals preparing this appeal were originally retained to review the design for non-compliance with LEED prerequisites due to litigation threats made by the design team against the appellants for publicly expressing their concerns for the design provided.

I think it’s less an issue of LEED certification being disputed than that LEED is being used as proxy for a wider dispute. Of course, that’s not a new thing in law.

Does stripping this building of its LEED Gold status do anything to advance the cause of green building? I don’t see what this is going to accomplish, other than boosting the egos of one set of litigants or the other.


A couple writers who I follow semi regularly on the topic of green building law are:

Stephen Del Percio – Green Real Estate Law Journal
Chris Cheatham – Green Building Law Update

If you want to read more about this kind of thing, I think these guys are both good sources to follow. Both of them have made recent posts about this decertification issue, if you want to find out more and get their takes on the matter.

I would hope that it would not become an issue on any project I am ever involved in. I think a lot of this particular case comes down to mishandling the expectations and the relationship with the various parties involved. But I also find it useful to keep up on what the experts have to say about this, even if I think the predictions are overstated, because if we stay aware of the nasty alternatives that can come up, we’ll work to try to avoid that kind of confrontation in the first place.

[Originally posted at Inhabitat. The graphic is useful, and is probably the best part of this whole thing.  I think this could be a useful way to communicate to an owner about the costs that LEED certification brings.  It’s simplistic, but it’s a starting point, and that’s useful.  Unfortunately there’s not a whole lot of content I could add in the small amount of space Inhabitat allots to articles.  I felt like I was really going longer than they would like with this, and I don’t really say that much in this.]

The Cost of LEED, sustainable design, green design, green  building, sustainable architecture, leed certification, leadership in  energy and environmental design

LEED is one of the world’s most well-known green building rating systems. But, like any popular system, it has both its supporters as well as its detractors. High-profile architects have sparked debate about the importance and usefulness of LEED, and the issue of keeping LEED buildings green has also been raised. Another frequent issue in the debate is the cost involved in getting a building through the LEED certification process. Seeking to demystify the costs and benefits behind the green building certification, BuildingGreen.com recently produced a report with some of the answers.

Different organizations have looked at the costs of LEED and tried to calculate how much more a green building costs. Building Green’s study does not try to fix a premium percentage (based on the cost of construction), but instead looks at the issue in terms of where the costs arise, and what their relative magnitude is.

Building Green’s list contains four categories of costs related to the LEED process: 1. the fees; 2. cost of documentation time and effort; 3. cost of extra research, design, commissioning, and modeling for compliance; 4. costs of construction.

If having a building commissioned means that its systems are running efficiently and it cuts energy use by 20%, then perhaps it is worth the $0.50-$1.00 per square foot that commissioning services typically cost. And, it should be noted, building commissioning can be carried out for any building, not just one that is being LEED certified.

Construction costs are only one part of the whole cost of owning and operating a building. Operations and maintenance also represent significant costs over the life of a building. Many green building owners find that the investments in energy-efficient equipment, insulation, and other improvements can pay back in reduced building operating cost.

Building Green offers a great set of resources for anyone interested in the field of sustainable building. Full access to all of their resources is an annual subscription, but a number of things are also available to non-subscribers. The complete Building Green report on “The Cost of LEED” can be purchased from BuildingGreen.com.

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