DJC Green Building Blog

The contractor’s role in LEED can make a big difference

Posted on August 28, 2014

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.

SMR Architects rendering courtesy of PHG

Using a different solar thermal system saved money that was spent on upgrades for the Williams Apartments. The Plymouth Housing project opened in 2013 and is certified LEED platinum.

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.

 

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Do rain gardens work at industrial sites?

Posted on July 29, 2014

The following post is by the Washington Environmental Council:

Rand Lymangrover thought he had tried everything. His company, Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE), was failing to meet benchmarks for their general stormwater permit for the runoff from their Port of Tacoma facility. The main problems were zinc and copper: two metals in abundant supply at an industrial terminal with lots of galvanized fencing and heavy vehicle traffic.

Before the rain gardens were installed.

After failing to get below benchmarks by cleaning up and installing stormwater vault filters, Lymangrover turned to rain gardens. If it worked, he reasoned, the company would save money: at $24,000, it would cost about 10 percent of a more traditional, industrial-scale filtering system.

The contractor was David Hymel with Rain Dog Designs. The rain gardens were installed with the help of Stewardship Partners, which is working with Washington StateUniversity to install 12,000 rain gardens in the Puget Sound region.

Three years later, the rain gardens are working perfectly and are a regularly visited by other industrial businesses, city council members and many others.

After the rain gardens were installed.

“In addition to getting us below the benchmark, the rain gardens have really improved how things look down here and show that this green infrastructure feature works at an industrial level,” Lymangrover said. “You can always find a place to do a rain garden.”

During heavy rainfall, the TOTE rain gardens can handle over 160 gallons of runoff per minute.

Lymangrover invites other industrial businesses that are looking for solutions to their stormwater issues to consider a rain garden – and visit the ones at TOTE. His ultimate goal: to eliminate all stormwater runoff from the terminal.

Washington Environmental Council is a nonprofit, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to protect, restore and sustain Washington’s environment.

 

 

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Frank Ching illustrates new green building guide

Posted on June 6, 2014

Architect Francis D.K. “Frank” Ching, a professor emeritus at the University of Washington, is co-author of Green Building Illustrated, a newly published guide to green building design and construction.

Ian Shapiro, co-owner of Taitem Engineering in Ithaca, N.Y., wrote the text, and Ching was the illustrator.

The book, written for architects, engineers and builders, offers a variety of in-depth approaches to green building design, including a visual presentation of the theory, practices and complexities of sustainable design.

Shapiro emailed the DJC this description from Wiley, the publisher:

From the outside to the inside of a building, (the authors) cover all aspects of sustainability, providing a framework and detailed strategies to design buildings that are substantively green. The book begins with an explanation of why we need to build green, the theories behind it and current rating systems before moving on to a comprehensive discussion of vital topics. These topics include site selection, passive design using building shape, water conservation, ventilation and air quality, heating and cooling, minimum-impact materials, and much more.

Ching recently retired after more than 35 years of teaching. He is the bestselling author of Building Construction Illustrated, among other books on architecture and design, all published by Wiley. His works have been translated into more than 16 languages and are regarded as classics for their renowned graphic presentations.

Shapiro has been a visiting lecturer at Cornell University, Tompkins-Cortland Community College and Syracuse University. He has worked on several LEED building design projects, has led a variety of energy conservation research projects, and is a frequent contributor to ASHRAE Journal and Home Energy magazine.

The guide is available at local bookstores, including Ada’s, Elliott Bay and the University Book Store.

 

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New life for old wood at Stone34

Posted on May 23, 2014

The following post is by DJC staff:

Skanska USA crews recently finished the glass-enclosed staircase at Stone34 in Wallingford.

The stairwell is lined with fir wood salvaged from a pair of 1920s-era buildings that once stood on the site. The buildings were last owned by Fremont Dock Co., which acquired them in the 1980s.

Photo courtesy of Skanska

The wood is salvaged from a pair of 1920s-era buildings that once stood on the site.

Salvaged wood gives the staircase a look and feel that’s unusual for new construction, Skanska says.

The 129,000-square-foot project will house the Brooks Sports headquarters when it opens this summer.

Curious about the salvaged wood? Skanska passed along these tidbits:

• 45 pieces of lumber were salvaged before the old buildings were demolished. All the wood in salvageable condition was reused.

• Everett-based W.W. Wells Millwork did the milling and cutting. LMN Architects helped choose a milling profile and cut that would complement the wood’s appearance.

• Milling work requires a great deal of raw material, so the Skanska team turned to one of its other developments, 400 Fairview in South Lake Union, to supplement the supply with another 140 linear feet of wood.

•Using wood from the 400 Fairview site — also fir — was not easy since it had to match Stone34’s milling profile and be in good condition.

• The salvaged wood will also be used for slats beneath several glass canopies. On the north side of the building savaged wood is used as exterior cladding.

• 98 percent of the construction waste has been diverted from landfills.

• Non-salvaged wood at Stone34 is FSC-certified, meaning it was harvested from responsibly managed forests. Examples include Stone34’s outdoor benches and the lobby floor.

 

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That new desk might have been a telephone pole

Posted on April 28, 2014

The following post is by DJC staff:

Windfall Lumber was started in 1997 in Tumwater with one goal: to sell wood responsibly.

It uses reclaimed, salvaged and FSC-certified wood to make tables, countertops, architectural wall cladding, panel and flooring products.

Production of a Windfall Lumber table top.

Every piece handcrafted by Windfall Lumber has a story. Wood comes from telephone poles, gym floors, shipping pallets, hardwood scraps, trees downed by windstorms, deconstructed granary storage bins and warehouses, as well as FSC hardwoods grown in the Pacific NW.

Interior designers, architects, builders and homeowners have used Windfall Lumber products, and they can be found locally at Starbucks, Whole Foods, Amazon, Olympia Coffee Roasting Co., University of Washington, Washington State University, Seabrook and Clover Park Technical College.

Tables and countertops come with live-edge, end grain and butcher-block designs. Wall cladding comes in stained and textured finishes. New colored cladding is now available. Panelized wood, which is used for wall and casework covering, comes in several stains and texture finishes.

The wood ranges from Douglas fir, maple and Oregon black walnut to Pacific madrone and Oregon myrtle. Reclaimed material is sourced regionally close to the manufacturing facility. Design, saw milling, kiln drying and finishing take place under one roof.

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Take a free green home tour on Saturday

Posted on April 25, 2014

The following post is by DJC staff:

Here’s your chance to tromp through neighbors’ homes and check out what’s new in green building.

Northwest EcoBuilding and Built Green will hold their annual green home tour on Saturday, April 26, showcasing green remodels, new homes and energy retrofits.

This net-zero energy house in Issaquah is one of the stops on the green home tour.

The free self-guided tour covers 35 homes and 12 “sustainability stops” where visitors can tour green businesses, civic buildings and other attractions.

The event runs from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. No tickets are required.

Though most of the sites are in Seattle, the tour also has stops in Edmonds, Bothell, Issaquah and Shaw Island in the San Juans.

Participants can start the tour any site.

An organized 5-mile walking tour is also planned, beginning at 11 a.m. at Hale’s Ales, at 4301 Leary Ave. N.W. The four-hour tour will take participants through the Fremont, Phinney and Greenwood neighborhoods. A bus is available to go back to Hale's after the last stop. Email info@feetfirst.org or call (206) 652-2310, Ext. 5 for more information.

 

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Oso mudslide: Were the risks ignored?

Posted on April 3, 2014

The following post is by DJC staff:

Disaster-resiliency expert Stephen Flynn has posted a piece about the Oso mudslide on Northeastern University Seattle’s Re: Connect blog.
Flynn is a professor of political science and director of Northeastern’s Center for Resilience Studies in Burlington, Mass.

Oso mudslide

He spoke with the DJC in February about lessons from Hurricane Sandy and the need to better prepare for natural and manmade disasters.
In his post he says we tend to ignore the risk of disasters until they happen and says builders, developers and planners have a role to play in changing that.

He writes:

It is purposeful denial, bordering on negligence, which allows residential property development in dangerous areas. That negligence is fed by a self-destructive cycle that begins when builders and developers with short-term interests are granted local permits to build new homes on low-lying barrier islands, flood plains, or near steep hills in the wilderness. These homes then require investments in new public infrastructure, which in turn require additional tax revenues to build and sustain. In order to expand the tax base, towns end up approving new property development adding new fuel to growth. When the foreseeable disaster inevitably strikes, individual property owners are often wiped out and the American taxpayer ends up picking up most of the tab.

Read the whole thing here and tell us what you think.

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How green is the future? Yudelson’s 2014 predictions

Posted on January 14, 2014

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.

Jerry Yudelson

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

 

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House gets a deep green remodel for $150 a square foot

Posted on April 17, 2013

The following post is by Kathleen O'Brien:

It's taken awhile to go from touring green homes to actually living in one, but for Becky Chan, it's been well worth it.  Chan has been blogging her two-year journey, and says she got hooked on the idea as a result of visiting "homes built with recycled or reclaimed materials to reduce waste, homes with green roofs and living walls to slow stormwater  runoff and filter pollutants, and the first net-zero-energy house built in Seattle.”

Photo by Becky Chan

This year's Green Home Tour will include Becky Chan's net-zero energy house, which has a 6.72-kilowatt solar array.

Now, those who plan to partake of this year's Green Home Tour on April 27, co-produced by the NW EcoBuilding Guild and Built Green of King and Snohomish County, will get to see her "deep green" remodel.

Parie Hines, LD Arch, designed the remodel and was impressed by Chan's focus on combining deep green ambitions with "thrift."  Hines conservatively estimates a final construction cost of $150 per square foot (the original goal was $135 per square foot), pointing out that the new remodel includes high quality (and expensive) windows and infrastructure, while keeping finishes and details simple (and less expensive).

Chan's "Blue View, Green Built" net zero energy remodel is one of several in the North Seattle tour quadrant, and includes SIPS construction (3 walls were replaced with SIPS), rainwater harvesting, natural materials, salvaged/reused materials, solar PV, ductless mini-split heating, triple glazed windows, and a heat pump water heater. The home is also an example of deconstruction.

After the tour, she wanted to learn more, so she joined the NW EcoBuilding Guild, the nonprofit that has organized the free tour for three years.  She also attended a net zero energy workshop conducted by Sustainable Ballard where she met Ted Clifton, TC Legend Homes. Clifton had built the net zero energy house Chan had so admired in the 2011 tour. She eventually hired him to conduct the remodel. She then bought a home, with remodeling in mind, that was conveniently located to services she knew she would need, proactively reducing her carbon footprint.

For those responsible for programming, funding, or otherwise involved with green building education, the hope is that this education translates to implementation. Chan's deep green remodel is a great example of how this works.

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. She continues to provide consulting on special projects for O'Brien & Company, the firm she founded over 20 years ago, and provides leadership training and mentoring through her legacy project: The Emerge Leadership Project. Her book "Green Home Primer" is apparently on Becky Chan's bed stand (No kidding!)

 

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Chemical trade group lobbies to block LEED

Posted on February 19, 2013

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.

Guenther

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.

SXC.hu file photo

A high-performance building?

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.

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