The following post is by Joe Giampietro, AIA, CPHC, NK Architects
On July 6th, the Seattle City Council passed a number of revisions to the low-rise zone land use code, including adding Passive House as a way to achieve floor area ratio (FAR) bonuses.
A FAR bonus allows for an increase in building height relative to the area of the lot. Passive House efficiency principles lead to significant energy savings, increased project value, and improved health and comfort for those that live there.
Although this was a minor addition to an otherwise hotly debated set of low-rise zoning updates, this addresses building energy use in a practical and cost effective manner. It is a big move in the right direction.
With the addition of Passive House to the other “green” incentive programs, including LEED Silver, Built Green 4-Star, and the Washington Evergreen Sustainable Development Standards for affordable housing, Seattle has started down the road of recognizing and providing incentives for truly high-performance, low energy design strategies.
Next on the list of legislative actions, the Passive House community is working with the Seattle City Council to consider expanding the Passive House incentive to include both current certification agencies, PHIUS and the Passive House Institute. We have successfully lobbied City Councilman, Mike O’Brien’s staff to include this adjustment in the “omnibus” zoning legislation. The expansion language is currently wending its way through the Council approval process and will be voted on later this summer.
We anticipate that this action will serve as a model for other changes in zoning legislation in Seattle as well as in cities and towns in throughout the Northwest. Let’s take a moment to celebrate one small step in this process!
The following post is by Jess Foster:
Congratulations on your decision to pursue a LEED Credential. These are the most sought after credentials in the green building industry by employers. A new study by Burning Glass Technologies shows that demand for LEED Green Associates and LEED APs has grown 46% in the last 12 months, so you’ve picked a great time to join in on this growing marketing need.
Your next step is to prepare for the LEED Exam. Here are some basic things you should know before selecting an exam prep program or materials:
1. Decide which credential exam to pursue:
There are several credentials you can earn based on your profession and your goals in the green building industry. I recommend looking at the USGBC site (the creator of LEED) or resources prepared by their recognized Education Partners like GBRI. Make sure to download the candidate handbook to understand eligibility requirements, registration and scheduling details.
2. Decide whether to study by yourself or sign up for an exam prep course:
Studying on your own can be challenging given the amount of material covered on these exams. Or, you can sign up for a LEED prep course. A quick Google search will show plenty of paid exam prep providers. Make sure the provider you choose is approved by USGBC or are USGBC Education Partners.
3. Choose an exam prep provider and course style:
Depending on your availability and schedule, there are several ways to prepare. There are live online classes where you attend for a month or so; on-demand only access courses where you watch sessions at your own pace; and in-person classes where an instructor teaches at a physical location. Make a selection that is right for you and your situation.Since the new LEED v4 test was released recently, you should carefully make a selection when registering for an exam prep program. An ideal exam prep course will include:
- Narrated study materials/tutorial with option to download audio files
- A study guide that you can print
- Flash cards
- Section or category quizzes (look for quizzes with answer explanations)
- Simulated Mock Exams (at least two)
I recommend studying in a group or with a partner if you can. Finding someone to study with for your exam has many benefits. Some exam prep providers also provide group discounts, making it easier for your colleagues to join you in the pursuit of a credential. If you do chose to study independently with the support of a providers prep program, you’ll want to have a roadmap or plan to ensure you are staying on track and are covering all the material efficiently. Some USGBC Education Partners programs will include a recommended roadmap for you, taking even more of the guesswork out of studying.
5. Take MOCK exams:
Make sure you are completely prepared leading up to your LEED exam by using a trusted provider’s mock exams. This is your best gauge to ensure you will successfully pass the exam on your first try. This also gives you a targeted way to complete your studies and preparations based on the areas you find you are most lacking in during the mock exams. Once you successfully pass the mock exams you can feel confident going into the real thing.
Jess Foster, GBRI Blog writer, studied history at Furman University, where she encountered the concepts of green living and sustainability for the first time. In her leisure time, she enjoys photographing the wildlife in her backyard and playing with her two Shetland sheepdogs.
The following post is by Jasmine McDermott:
Z Living Systems installed a water-saving, living wall crafted of 6,000 individual plants on a new resident activity club in Los Angeles. The building, which implements a number of sustainable features, achieving LEED Platinum, ultimately creates an “oasis in the middle of a city.” The 1,200 sq. ft. living wall, featured both indoors and outdoors, stretches the length of an Olympic-sized swimming pool while only requiring less than half the amount of water an individual would use showering in one week.
In response to California’s severe drought, Governor Brown’s office released regulations surrounding water conservation and is encouraging a number of water conservation practices. Z Living Systems incorporates a number of these practices into their living walls creating a sustainable alternative for landscaping.
Z Living Systems' proprietary system takes plants, hardy drought-tolerant native species, which are first transplanted into the company's living wall pots from their original nursery pots, delivers them onsite, and then hangs them onto a prefabricated structure. The system allows for first day, full coverage of vegetation. Following the installation, the company utilizes an irrigation controller that allows the control of irrigation remotely in response to weather conditions. In collaboration with Rios Clementi Hale Studios, there was an effort to blur the lines of indoor and outdoor by continuing the living wall through the exterior and interior of the building.
- Architect- Rios Clementi Hale Studios
- Contractor- Fassberg
- Builder- Brookfield Residential
Water Conservation Practices Utilized by Z Living Systems Living Wall
- Smart irrigation controller
- Drip irrigation
- Drought tolerant or native plants
- Watering once a week
- Preventing runoff
Jasmine McDermott is a co-founder of Z Living Systems, a living-wall provider based in San Luis Obispo, California.
The following post is from Washington State University:
More than one-third of new commercial building space includes energy-saving features, but without training or an operator’s manual many occupants are in the dark about how to use them.
Julia Day recently published a paper in Building and Environment that for the first time shows that occupants who had effective training in using the features of their high-performance buildings were more satisfied with their work environments. Day did the work as a doctoral student at Washington State University; she is now an assistant professor at Kansas State University.
She was a WSU graduate student in interior design when she walked into an office supposedly designed for energy efficiency and noticed that the blinds were all closed and numerous lights were turned on. The building had been designed to use daylighting strategies to save energy from electric lighting.
After inquiring, Day learned that cabinetry and systems furniture throughout the building blocked nearly half of the occupants from access to the blind controls. Only a few determined folks would climb on or under their desks to operate the blinds.
“People couldn’t turn off their lights, and that was the whole point of implementing daylighting in the first place,” she said. “The whole experience started me on my path.”
Working with David Gunderson, professor in the WSU School of Design and Construction, Day looked at more than 50 high-performance buildings across the U.S. She gathered data, including their architectural and engineering plans, and did interviews and surveys of building occupants.
She examined how people were being trained in the buildings and whether their training was effective. Sometimes, she learned, the features were simply mentioned in a meeting or a quick email was sent to everyone, and people did not truly understand how their actions could affect the building’s overall energy use.
One LEED gold building had lights throughout to indicate the best times of day to open and close windows to take advantage of natural ventilation. A green light indicated it was time to open windows.
“I asked 15 people if they knew what the light meant, and they all thought it was part of the fire alarm system,” she said. “There’s a gap, and people do not really understand these buildings.”
According to CBRE Research, the amount of commercial space that is certified as high-performance in energy efficiency through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star or U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED has grown from 5.6 percent of commercial space in 2005 to 39.3 percent at the end of 2013.
Yet in many cases, the corporate culture of energy use in buildings hasn’t caught up. While at home our mothers nagged us to turn off the lights when we left a room or to shut the door because “you don’t live in a barn,” office culture has often ignored and even discouraged common-sense energy saving.
Day found that making the best use of a highly efficient building means carefully creating a culture focused on conservation. In buildings with an energy-focused culture, workers were engaged, participated and were satisfied with their building environment.
“If they received good training, they were more satisfied and happier with their work environment,” she said.
She is working to develop an energy lab and would like to develop occupant training programs to take advantage of high-performance buildings.
“With stricter energy codes, the expectations are that buildings will be more energy efficient and sustainable,” she said. “But we have to get out of the mindset where we are not actively engaged in our environments. That shift takes a lot of education, and there is a huge gap right now.”
The following post is by James Jenkins:
There’s been a lot of controversy over the expense and effectiveness of LEED certification. The controversy is affecting the perception of LEED, driving governments to remove laws requiring certification for publicly funded projects and pushing organizations that used to pursue Gold at a minimum to pursue Silver as a maximum. It’s a disturbing trend that is ill-informed.
Many projects achieve LEED certification without any impact to their construction budget. Of course there are registration and certification fees that cannot be avoided but those costs are generally inconsequential. The costs to achieve LEED that do get noticed are the ones that change the design. Often times the contractor is not expected to change the outcome of LEED certification as many of the decisions and features were included during design. However, the contractor can contribute significantly by taking an active and educated role in the LEED process.
Design Document are not Absolute: Work with and educate your entire team and you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.
On a project we recently completed for Celgene we were able to achieve 30% Recycled Content, well beyond the initial 10% that was indicated on the LEED Scorecard. By identifying all scopes of work that could contribute Recycled Content and working directly with our subcontractors to help them understand what we were looking for and the documentation we needed to support it we were able to substantially increase the recycled content and contribute an additional 2 points to the project. Collaboration and education were key to accomplishing this.
Know the Intent of a LEED Credit and Get Creative: Many LEED Credits are achieved using one of few technologies or methodologies but sometimes simple, creative solutions can be used with little added cost.
At Northeastern University’s Seattle Campus we initially dismissed achieving LEED CI EA Credit 1 for HVAC Zoning because two private offices shared a single VAV box and the cost was determined to be prohibitive to add an additional one. The fact that we were so close to meeting the criteria kept nagging at the team. One day someone asked why we couldn’t control a damper using the occupancy sensors already installed for the lighting. It turns out that we could! While, not a typical way to achieve the credit the USGBC agreed that this simplified occupied/unoccupied status of providing ventilation to the space sufficiently met the zoning criteria.
Understand the Goals, Build it Effectively: If you understand the end goal, not the specific technology, you can find better solutions at a lower cost without affecting the project.
Plymouth Housing’s LEED Platinum Williams Apartments included a solar thermal system in the design. Initially, the project assumed that evacuated tube collectors would be used on the project, indeed the attractiveness of this newer technology and the capacity to produce higher temperature water appears to be the best option. However, looking at total cost combined with efficiency led us to a different conclusion. In our research, on a flat roof where the angle we could set the collectors was infinite the efficiency of the two systems were nearly identical and the costs roughly the same for the same heating capacity. However, the evacuated tube collectors needed twice the roof area, twice the racking, more connection points in the roof and longer piping. The flat plate collectors were the lowest first and life-cycle cost. The savings between these two systems allowed us to include upgrades elsewhere that further enhanced the sustainability of the project.
As you can see, these examples did not involve spending large amounts of money but raised the certification level for each project. There are more than enough examples of LEED by addition and these are the projects that give opponents of LEED something to argue. These projects prove that LEED can be a tool of inspiration, when used as such pushes everyone on a team to do more with the same, or less, resources.
James Jenkins is the in-house Sustainability Manager and Net Zero Specialist for BNBuilders in Seattle. James has completed dozens of LEED projects and three Living Building Challenges.
The following post is by DJC staff:
Sustainability consultant Jerry Yudelson, has released his annual list of the top 10 green building trends and says he expects this year will see a rapid increase in energy retrofits on existing buildings, a new focus on water conservation, and a switch to cloud-based systems for monitoring and managing energy use.
He says the expansion will be global thanks to the economic recovery in most of Europe and North America. “There is no doubt that we are seeing more agencies, architectural firms, development organizations and companies building green each year,” he writes, “and there is nothing on the horizon that will stop this MegaTrend or its constituent elements.”
By the way, Yudelson also announced he is the new president of Green Building Initiative, the organization responsible for the Green Globes green building rating and certification system that he says is increasingly competing with LEED.
Yudelson Associates’ Top 10 Green Building MegaTrends for 2014
- Green building in North America continue its strong growth in 2014, with the ongoing expansion of commercial real estate construction together with government, university, nonprofit and school construction. This will build on the fact that in 2013 green building project registrations in new construction accounted for about 30% of all new projects.
- In 2014, there will be rapid uptake of energy-efficiency green building retrofits.. Note: this trend will be strongest in corporate and commercial real estate, along with the “MUSH” market (Municipal, University, School and Hospital) projects, given the availability of cheap financing and the rise of numerous new players in the building energy retrofit market. Yudelson says absolute building performance, and resultant operating cost, (vs. the relative improvement approach still enshrined in most rating systems) is going to be an increasing focus for building owners.
- Zero-net-energy buildings are become increasingly commonplace, in both residential and commercial sectors. LEED and ENERGY STAR certifications and labels have become too commonplace to confer competitive advantage among building owners. Developers of speculative commercial buildings have also begun to showcase Zero Net Energy designs in order to gain marketplace advantages. Systems such as the Net-Zero Certification of the International Living Building Institute are driving this trend, but it has been growing steadily for about five years.
- LEED will see enhanced competition from Green Globes. This trend is supported by the fact that the Federal government has released its “once every five years” assessment of rating systems and has now put the two systems on an equal footing for government projects. More importantly, LEED will struggle to convince owners, designers and consultants in all sectors that LEED v4 represents more value than hassle.
- The focus of the green building industry will continue its switch from certifying new building design and construction to full greening of existing buildings. This trend has been in place since 2010, and we expect it to accelerate in 2014.
- Green Buildings will increasingly be managed by information technologies, especially those in the “Cloud.” This trend is reflected by the large number of new entrants and new products in fields of building automation, facility management, wireless controls and building services information management over the last three years. In fact, we are calling 2014, “The Year of the Cloud” for how quickly this trend will become fully established.
- Green Building Performance Disclosure will continue as a major trend. This is highlighted by disclosure requirements enacted in 2013 by more than 30 major cities around the country, laws that require commercial building owners to disclose actual green building performance to all new tenants and buyers and, in some places, to the public. This trend will spread rapidly as the easiest way to monitor reductions in carbon emissions from commercial and governmental buildings.
- Healthy Building Products, Product Disclosure Declarations, along with various “Red Lists” of chemicals of concern to healthy building advocates, will become increasingly contentious. This trend has manifested through such tools as the Health Product Declaration and the inclusion of points for avoiding certain chemicals contained in LEEDv4, currently scheduled for full implementation in 2015. We predict that building product manufacturers will increasingly try to gain or maintain market share based on open disclosure of chemicals of concerns. We also foresee that industry-developed disclosure systems will begin to compete with systems offered by dozens of third-party rating agencies.
- Solar power use in buildings will continue to grow, especially because of the prospect of increasing focus on implementing aggressive state-level renewable power standards (RPS) for 2020 and the move toward zero-net-energy buildings. As before, third-party financing partnerships will continue to grow and provide capital for larger rooftop systems on low-rise commercial buildings, parking garages, warehouses and retail stores, as well as on homes.
- Awareness of the coming crisis in fresh water supply, both globally and in the U.S., will increase as global climate change affects rainfall and water supply systems worldwide. Leading building designers, owners and managers will be moved to take further steps to reduce water consumption in buildings by using more conserving fixtures, rainwater recovery systems and innovative new onsite water technologies.
The following post is by Robin Guenther:
The war over toxic chemicals and human health is spilling over into places we live and work: our buildings. The American Chemical Council (ACC) has launched an expensive and focused attack on the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to protect the status quo of a small set of bad-actor manufacturers of toxic and obsolete chemicals. But innovative companies across the building industries and human health advocates are fighting back.
The American Chemical Council is lobbying to end the federal government’s use of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building certification system unless USGBC removes all references to human health. If successful, they will keep taxpayers from receiving the cost savings and productivity benefits that LEED certification has generated. Why does a chemical industry trade association think better buildings are such a threat, you ask?
The USGBC has transformed the global building industry with its emphasis on high performance, low energy and healthier building practices through its LEED certification program. In only a decade, LEED plaques have become synonymous with the best buildings in the world.
USGBC’s mission is to make buildings not only more energy-efficient, but healthier spaces for those who inhabit them. The new draft version of LEED seeks to assuage human health concerns of buildings by offering voluntary credits for buildings using healthy materials. Many in the health community see this as a long overdue step for the rating system.
The ACC, however, sees this as a dangerous threat to their member companies because a few of them make a pretty penny producing controversial chemicals.
So if you can’t beat ‘em, lobby against ‘em, right? ACC is doing what it does best -- spreading misinformation and shoving truckloads of cash into lobbying efforts to keep the market from abandoning toxic materials and embracing green chemistry.
They’ve even gone so far as to form the laughable “American High-Performance Buildings Coalition,” a group whose membership reads like a who’s who of industries that make unhealthy products, all uniting to lobby against LEED. From big chemicals to vinyl to adhesives to petrochemicals -- they’re all here.
These toxic trade associations are trying to convince us that they are the ones who truly support “green” building. Perhaps next they’ll suggest that their products only increase your odds of developing “green” cancer.
While they claim LEED is not consensus-based, this is demonstrably false. Any revision to the LEED standard must be approved through a democratic balloting process open to all 14,000 members of USGBC. These members are architects, engineers, builders, contractors and product manufacturers.
In fact, the ACC and many of its member companies are participating in the LEED development process. But when the professionals who purchase building materials began to suggest that a LEED credit be available for purchasing healthier building materials, suddenly the process is flawed, and not consensus-based.
In the real world, when your customers ask for something, you don’t lobby against their right to buy what they want, do you? Let’s hope these companies wake up and start to reign in their out-of-control trade association before people really start to notice who’s behind the curtain.
Green buildings are about more than energy and water conservation; they must also include consideration of human health. Hospitals have started to lead the way. The Health Product Declaration, an independent, open-source methodology for declaring content of building products, is ushering in a new age of transparency in corporate reporting. The Healthier Hospitals Initiative recently released targets for safer products that include credit for avoiding chemicals of concern in interior furniture. Major manufacturers of health-care building products have begun substituting PVC and phthalate plasticizers with safer alternatives. These firms are innovating and capturing market share.
While the ACC protests these LEED credits, we would venture to say their innovative members are investing in R&D to move to safer alternatives precisely because of these initiatives. The construction industry needs the USGBC and LEED; citizens do, too. Someone has to make the push to get these chemicals out of our faces.
Robin Guenther, FAIA, is a principal focused on health care architecture at Perkins+Will, a global design firm. This piece was distributed by American Forum.
The following post is by Kathleen O'Brien:
In early May, I traveled to Portland to the Cascadia Green Building Council's annual Living Future Conference. I enjoyed the conference a lot, and especially the very practical financial focus in several of the sessions.
Moving the needle on real estate investment was the topic of a Living Future panel including Jason Twill (Vulcan), David Baker (Earth Economics), Theddi Wright Chappell (Cushman & Wakefield), Stuart Cowan (Autopoiesis). They noted that investment in sustainable real estate seems to be "topping out" in the market at this time — at LEED Platinum. Their hope is to help the market cross that barrier into higher realms of sustainable achievement, such as the Living Building Challenge.
Jason, David, Stuart, and Theddi are coauthors of "Economics of Change: Catalyzing the Investment Shift Towards a Restorative Built Environment." The research study was funded by Bullitt Foundation, a long time supporter of environmental protection in the Northwest. The point of the study was to "provide evidence of monetized environmental and social benefits...currently not considered in conventional real estate model(s)." The authors hope to provide a defensible rationale for including these public and private benefits into investment models, appraiser methodologies, and supporting policies. This is especially important for U.S. real estate investments where ROI and IRR are the ultimate drivers of most transactions.
The report lays out the ABC's, if you will, of Ecosystem Goods and Services, the potential Ecosystem Services that Living Buildings might provide, and finally the opportunity to measure, monetize, and value those ecosystem services. The study takes a scholarly approach, a step up from the early days when we in the green building field had to rely more on reason and intuition, since we had little real data to base our assumptions on. (Not that reason and intuition is bad...it's what got us here, yes?).
The report also introduces the concept of integrated real estate investment modeling. From this layperson's view, it seems to build on the conventional model, rather than replace it — an approach that makes a good deal of sense. The methodology they propose will allow many environmental and social benefits currently valued at zero to be seen as economically valuable, and therefore marketable. In the next phase of their work, they plan to produce detailed calculations and case studies of the environmental and social benefits of Living Buildings, test the impact of these values of valuation models or appraisals, and create an open source prototype of the integrated real estate investment marketing tool to "demonstrate how environmental and social benefits can be embedded within a pro forma in an new building development context."
In addition to taking this tool out to the real estate development communities (appraisers and valuation specialists), they hope to provide a basis for changes in local, state, and federal policy that will acknowledge public benefits of Living Building development and incentivize it.
As Theddi noted, "right now investors are going for the low hanging fruit — energy efficiency — for example. We need to provide sufficient rationale if we want them to go beyond that."
Kathleen O'Brien is a long time advocate for green building and sustainable development since before it was "cool." She lives in a green home, and drives a hybrid when she drives at all. Having recently sold her firm, O'Brien & Company, she is now focused on leadership work with those "still in the trenches." For more info see www.emergeleadership.net