1. Challenges Seeking LEED Status in Older Buildings
Pursuing certification through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system can create major challenges for maintenance and engineering managers. The task is even greater when the institutional and commercial facilities date back to the days of Thomas Jefferson.
“It certainly presents a challenge for us to access the HVAC and lighting systems to repair and replace them without causing any further damage to the building,” says Ryan Taylor, zone maintenance superintendent for central grounds at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, whose responsibilities include many of the original buildings designed by Jefferson. “We have to work closely with our historic preservation team to make sure we’re following the appropriate procedures and using proper materials for the repairs. We work closely with them to identify major problems that we need to focus on and make sure we’re taking the right steps to prepare them properly so those buildings can be preserved.”
The university has 23 LEED-certified buildings — including one building at the platinum, four at the gold, and 12 at the silver levels — and infuses sustainability and LEED into its capital development process, from pre-planning to post-occupancy. The maintenance department plays a central role in the LEED-certification process from the development stage.
“On the maintenance side, we are involved in the design review process and work with the architects and engineers to make sure the systems being installed are maintenance-friendly,” Taylor says. “It’s a combination of looking at LEED and looking at maintenance-friendly systems that we can continue to maintain once the building is constructed or renovated.”
2. Is LEED Broken?
Today’s tip of the day is about what we can learn from LEED’s critics.
Oftentimes, the natural response to criticism is to get defensive, dig in your heels, and then counterattack. But that is usually less productive and more polarizing. To avoid such a reaction and instead open dialogue is the key to finding common ground and moving forward.
With that in mind, one of the more fascinating sessions at Greenbuild 2013 was titled “What We Can Learn From LEED’s Critics.” The session, presented by Tristan Roberts of BuildingGreen, Rob Watson of ECON Group (and who carries the “Father of LEED” moniker), and Pamela Lippe of E4 Inc., broke LEED criticisms into three main categories, and then examined the validity of each, and how USGBC has responded.
The first criticism is that the LEED process is broken — this covered both the rating system development process, as well as the certification process. To address the first, USGBC says it has maintained an open, iterative process to the rating system development process, as evidenced by the more than 20,000 public comments over six comment periods, and then the 86 percent approval when LEED v4 was put to a vote. They‘ve also drastically cut down on the time between submission and certification — 85 percent of projects are ruled on within 25 days of submission. That’s a vast improvement.
The second criticism is that LEED is not vigorous enough. You hear this one a lot from the vocal critics who say a LEED-certified building isn’t any better than a traditional one. USGBC is working diligently to compile more LEED data — now requiring all LEED registered projects to submit five years of water and energy data — to show that LEED buildings are, indeed, more environmentally responsible than traditional. During this discussion, Rob Watson unleashed the quote of the conference: “If your building isn’t performing, it’s your fault. Not LEED’s.” How true.
The third criticism is that LEED is too complex and too expensive. You commonly hear this from folks who think LEED certification is simply “buying a plaque” and that the constant updates to LEED make it impossible to keep up. No one would deny that LEEDv4 is a giant step forward in terms of rigor, but that’s what is needed to move the market, says USGBC. And as for “buying a plaque,” reasonable minds can disagree on the value of certification itself, but USGBC has always said that a third-party review is what really motivates project teams to stay the course and follow through.
3. LEED Dynamic Plaque May Lead To Better LEED Performance
Today’s tip of the day is about the performance of LEED-certified buildings and the new LEED Dynamic Plaque.
One of the hallmarks of a high-performance building is one that performs, highly. If that sounds to you like some sort of Jedi Mind Trick of circular reasoning, you’re not totally wrong. But there’s still much to unpack there — especially when you consider the long-standing snipe about supposedly high-performance, LEED-certified buildings that they were more about the checklist, and less about the actual performance.
Last year, at Greenbuild, concurrent with its roll-out of the new LEEDv4 system, which emphasizes performance and human health, U.S. Green Building Council also re-introduced its new vision for how buildings will be scored and monitored in the future: the LEED Dynamic Plaque. (Video of USGBC’s Scot Horst’s presentation is here.)
The LEED Dynamic Plaque — the concept was first introduced at Greenbuild 2012, but now, there is actually a real, live plaque being piloted in USGBC’s own Platinum space — gives users a real-time display of how the building is doing in the areas of water, waste, energy, transportation, and human experience. So no longer will LEED be a set-it-and-forget-it proposition – every user of the building from Day 1 forward will be able to see how the building is performing. And therefore, everyone will know whether or not it truly is a high-performance building as a LEED certification seemingly promises.
While the transparency of data for all seems like a great idea, in theory, the idea of the LEED Dynamic Plaque may make more than a few facility managers nervous. What if the building isn’t actually performing as intended? Who gets the blame?
But progressive facility managers see any data as an opportunity, especially when that data specifically shows opportunity. The LEED Dynamic Plaque will show occupants and upper managers alike — far outside the confines of a budget-request power point or an energy data spreadsheet — that the organization has a building it can be proud of.
4. What Is a High-Performance Building?
Today’s tip of the day is about the meaning of the term “high-performance building.” “High-performance” is actually a much more encompassing, and frankly, more accurate, term than “green” when it comes to describing the buildings facility managers own, manage, and maintain. But what does “high-performance” actually mean? Does it mean LEED-certified buildings that are energy and water efficient? Facilities that are people-friendly and get high marks from occupants for creature comforts? Highly automated, integrated buildings that turn big data into big efficiency gains with smart analytics? The answer, of course, is yes. A high-performance building is all of those things and more. The key to a high-performance building is optimization and integration of all things — whether fan speeds or fire safety, whether landscaping or lighting efficiency. It means thinking on both a micro and macro level about how building systems interact, and how building occupants interact with those systems. Yes, “high-performance” does tend to have a bit more to it than the traditional definition of green (a building that is environmentally responsible). Thinking about making a building “high-performance” means considering aspects of the building— fire/life-safety, ADA compliance, communication plans, even artwork or other occupant-focused “bonuses” — that were certainly also considered in a green building, but may not have been emphasized. “High-performance” is how those in the industry will think about and define successful buildings in the future.