Takeaways From the 2021 Greenbuild Conference

New leadership at USGBC

Two members of Doo Consulting joined our colleague from the San Diego office to attend the 2021 Greenbuild conference there. It’s an interesting year for the US Green Building Council. The organization will be electing a new president, only the fourth in nearly forty years. Attention to the leadership transition was understated. While the organization embarks on a search for new president, Peter Templeton, a long time USGBC leader and former president of GBCI, will be serving as the acting president of the organization after Mahesh Ramashanian’s departure at the end of this October. Peter has committed to undertaking a strategic review of the organization and addressing issues of leadership, culture and technology to better serve the USGBC community. If you have been frustrated by an inability to communicate with USGBC or GBCI, or by the functionality (or lack thereof) of LEED Online, there is reason to anticipate positive change. USGBC has been a leader in mobilizing the building sector including manufacturers, developers, institutions, designers, and builders toward a greener, healthier and more resilient future. Their leadership is needed now more than ever.

Reducing Carbon

In-person attendance at the conference was light. I’ve heard estimates that around 2,000 people were in attendance. Despite this, the conference was still vibrant and it was good to run into colleagues from around the world who chose to attend. I hope all who traveled to San Diego offset their carbon emission! Carbon was a common theme throughout most of the sessions whether directly or indirectly. It was definitely the elephant in the room. In my opinion, the most significant presentation was on “SE2050”, the structural engineering equivalent of Architecture 2030. Having the structural engineers onboard to address carbon reduction is huge. SE 2050 is an initiative by the Structural Engineering institute (SEI) for which over 60 firms have already signed up! An estimated 50% of new building embodied carbon is in the building’s structure. If you want a structural engineer who can help you reduce embodied carbon in your building, I encourage you to select an engineer who has signed the SE2050 Commitment or encourage your engineer to do so. For more information you can visit www.SE2050.org.

The Use of Life Cycle Assessments

There were a number of sessions on the tools and how-to of life cycle assessments. As with any modeling tool, the output is only as good as the input. For LCA modeling, consistency is key. Who was the modeler? What software did they use? Which version? To what version of which standard did you establish your baseline? All these things are important when comparing your data from project to project or between models created for the same project. This will be a growing part of building analysis going forward as Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) reporting for real estate portfolios increases.

Credit Changes and Updates in LEED v4.1

USGBC does not stand still and there are more addenda being advanced for LEED v4.1. Based on the uptake of credits, USGBC assesses how it might adjust the standard to encourage the change they are seeking in the market. For example, the Building Product Declarations and Optimization (BPDO) credits, as they were introduced in LEED v4, were the least pursued of all LEED credits. These credits were created to encourage transparency in the reporting of product material and chemical content. Through an assessment of the questions and comments that were received, the number of times the credit was pursued and achieved, and other factors, USGBC has amended these credits to provide clarifications, greater guidance and/or adjustments to the requirements. Under LEED v4.1, the BPDO credits have seen the greatest increase in pursuits and the number of Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and Health Products Declarations (HPDs) available from manufacturers has increased considerably. The last LEED addendum was issued in April of 2021. Here are a few of the credit updates we heard about at Greenbuild. For a complete update, click here.

Location and Transit

  • The High Priority Site Credit has been amended to include Economically Disadvantaged Communities based on census tract data.
  • Access to transit can now include project sponsored transit if benchmarks are met.
  • Fuel Efficient Vehicles is now Electric Vehicles – This means EVs only and the number of spaces required is now 5%. While there was discussion of the embodied carbon of EV infrastructure, this is not only a matter of the elimination of fossil fuels but also of grid harmonization. Once again, USGBC is looking to the future.

Energy and Atmosphere

  • Energy Performance now references ASHRAE 90.1-2016. Still less than code, you say? Remember, LEED is an international rating system and some places have no code. Even in the US, not all jurisdictions have adopted the latest code. The beauty of LEED is that it provides an entry point that encourages participation while there is no limit to what a project team can challenge itself to achieve.
  • Demand Control is now Grid Harmonization and includes “Case 3 – Load Flexibility and Management Strategies”.
  • Renewable energy now considers 3 tiers of renewable energy sourcing.

Materials and Resources

  • Guidance on EPDs has been updated again. Under Option 1 most EPD’s are valued as 1 whole product except for a Product Specific Type III EPD which is valued at 1.5 products for the purpose of credit achievement.
  • The number of products required for CS and Warehouse projects is reduce from 20 to 10.

There are numerous other changes in all credit categories with the goal of increasing project team engagement and accelerating positive change in the market.  I encourage you to refer to the April amendment. For assistance with your project, call us at Doo Consulting.

NEW LEED v4 Accreditations at Doo Consulting

NEW LEED v4 Accreditations at Doo Consulting

Logo for LEED for homes v4

LEED v4 for Homes

4/4/17.  Doo Consulting congratulates Rebecca Gullott, Mudhar AlDurra and Peter Doo for adding new LEED v4 accreditations to their portfolio. “Having diverse accreditations benefits our clients because the US Green Building Council (USGBC) now requires LEED consultants to be accredited under the rating system for which a building is to be certified,” said Peter Doo, President of DooConsulting.

Rebecca achieved her LEED Building Design and Construction (BD+C) accreditation, Mudhar AlDurra achieved accreditation under LEED for Homes, and Peter Doo achieved his latest accreditation under  Interior Design and Construction (ID+C). All accreditations are under LEED v4, the current version of LEED adopted by USGBC.

Difference between LEED 2009 and LEED v4:

LEED v4 is a more rigorous standard than LEED 2009, and in October 2016, the USGBC ceased registering new projects under the LEED 2009 standard. Newly registering buildings must use LEED v4 as the rating system.  One difference in LEED v4 is its emphasis on measurement as the preferred means to demonstrate conformance. Additionally, the Materials Credits focus on a Read more

Harvard-Syracuse Demonstrate IAQ Improves Occupant Performance

Harvard-Syracuse Demonstrate IAQ Improves Occupant Performance

Where do you feel your best at work? Do you ever feel the need go for a walk outside to clear your head? If you answered those questions with, “I feel best in a room with fresh air” or “Yes, I enjoy getting out, the air helps me to think,” you are in lock step with researchers at Harvard University School of Public Health who recently issued a report confirming their findings that indoor air quality (IAQ) improves the performance of individuals in buildings.

In 2015, Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Syracuse University Center of Excellence issued a report on a double blind study providing results that indicate improved human performance measures among individuals placed in environments with better indoor air quality.

What is interesting about this study is the amount of control in the experiment’s protocols. The study included the creation of identical office environments with the ability to control air quality. Participants performed their normal work activities in these spaces. Air quality mimicked that in normal office conditions on both the lower and higher end of the spectrum. At the end of each day participants were subjected to a series of cognitive and performance tests. Neither the subjects nor the test administrators knew what air quality conditions had been provided for the day.

The results were dramatic. Cognitive performance of those who were exposed to better air quality was 60% greater than that of participants in the alternative environment!  When subjects were exposed to additional conditions simulating a higher ventilation rate, the cognitive scores were 101% higher.

Statistics such as 60% improvement and 101% improvement, when replicated over time, would give one cause to rethink the cost benefit of increased ventilation.  This enhancement is often rejected as a possible LEED credit to pursue because of its negative impact on energy performance.  While technology is providing solutions to the ventilation/energy balance initial costs and perceptions remain a factor in decision-making.  Given this study data, the formula for the cost benefit analysis when considering the potential impact on wellbeing, occupant performance and productivity, may bear a recalculation.

What of the building developer to whom direct benefits of occupant performance do not accrue? It would be unwise to advertise performance benefits of locating in such a building. A tenant whose productivity did not improve could justify a legal claim if a building developer advertised such benefits. Experiments and published results such as the Harvard/Syracuse study provide the evidence needed to make a case that is more than anecdotal. While a developer may not advertise that her building yields a more productive staff for its tenants, a tenant may seek a building with documented air quality with an understanding that such an environment could improve staff retention, worker satisfaction and performance. This could in turn improve occupancy rates, reduce vacancy durations, provide opportunities for higher rent or other benefits to building owners.

The implications of this report are significant. Its effect on the market is likely to be small for now. It is the first of many such studies that need to be done and whose results need to be broadcast. We encourage you to share this study and comment on this blog.

Lorraine Doo, LEED AP, is a partner at Doo Consulting and holds a Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. The firm has used its projects in a study on the relationship between green buildings and wellbeing. Contact us if interested in exploring the relationship between buildings and health.

Peter Doo to speak at CSI MARC

Peter Doo to speak at CSI MARC

Doo, FAIA, LEED Fellow, GGP, to speak at the CSI Mid Atlantic Regional Conference (MARC), April 9th. Peter will share insights on the future of green building certifications presenting his view of the growing certification landscape as well as comparing LEED to the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) that has been adopted by a number of jurisdictions and the State of Maryland. He will be joined by Lantia Stevens from USG and Tom Liebel From Marks Thomas Architects in a panel discussion after individual presentations. CSI MARC 2016 Regional Conference, April 8th & 9 th, The Lord Baltimore Hotel, 20 West Baltimore Street, Baltimore Maryland 21201.

Not So Fast - Doo Consulting Blog

Not So Fast

IgccAt recent blog post on the Green Building Law Update titled “Maryland Sidesteps LEED in Favor of the IgCC” suggests that “fewer, if any, Maryland state and local government projects will be LEED certified in the future.” But, I say, “Not so fast!” Yes, the Maryland legislature just passed an amendment to the State’s green building law that will allow the IgCC to be used as a compliance path to green building in addition to current compliance paths which are LEED Silver or other “nationally accepted numeric rating systems reviewed and recommended by the Maryland Green Building Council and approved by the Secretaries of Budget and Management and General Services.”

To date, the Maryland Green Building Council (MGBC) has not recommended any alternative rating system; hence, the pressure to adopt some alternative compliance path. The timing of the adoption of the IgCC as a code in the state of Maryland is perfect. Not only does it present a viable option to LEED that the Council can accept but, it coincides with other concerns about LEED v4 as well as interest in other numeric rating systems for schools.

I have seen a draft of the version of the IgCC that the MGBC is working on. There is nothing definitive as it is a work in progress but, the current version states that a Green Building certification equivalent to a LEED Silver rating would exempt one from IgCC compliance.

Remember that a Code is a minimum standard. What is good about this for green building is that it sets a minimum performance standard for all buildings and, as a code, requires compliance. The IgCC can be “tuned” to meet the priorities of a particular jurisdiction. For Maryland, the adopted version of the IgCC can advance State priorities for energy use reduction, water quality and other goals.

LEED, on the other hand, is a rating system that rewards green building efforts by awarding points for specified actions or “credits” that the project delivers. The more credits you accumulate, the higher your score. Selection of those credits is up to the discretion of the design team. The State has no control over the credits that a project team will pursue, other than requiring the level of certification (LEED Silver). So, while a group of buildings may all be LEED Silver certified, there is unlikely to be any consistency in the energy performance of those buildings.

Let’s be absolutely clear; the State’s version of the IgCC has NOT yet been fully drafted, let alone approved. Whether State agencies and their architects will find it easier to comply with the IgCC and its required performance targets or pursue a LEED certification where they can pick and choose the credits to achieve is unclear. Certainly, the design and construction industry is familiar with LEED and, in some cases, may find it advantageous to not have to comply with the IgCC. Additionally, with the implementation of LEED v4 this summer, USGBC will re-establish LEED as an aspirational rating system. Certainly the LEED moniker has a market cache that “code compliant” cannot match.

I agree with Stewart, author of “Maryland Sidesteps LEED,” that the adoption and implementation of the IgCC will be good for green building and good for the State overall. I do not agree that the State is “sidestepping LEED,” rather it is complementing this numeric rating system with a code to cover more buildings and advance green building.

Moving Towards Materials that Matter - Doo Consulting Blog

Moving towards Materials that Matter

On July 8, HDR, Inc., an 8,000 employee global architectural firm, issued a Press Release declaring that they are giving notice to all product manufacturers with whom they do business that they will be expecting Health Product Declarations (HPD) or Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) for building products and materials. An HPD is a disclosure of information regarding building product content and associated health information, that defines the critical information that is needed by building designers, specifiers, owners and users. A schedule has been set in a letter to the manufacturers, dated June 17, 2013, that these HPDs and EPDs will be provided by January 1, 2014, in order for sales representatives to be able to make presentations to the HDR staff, a common practice in the design industry. Companies who have provided this information by January 1, 2015, will receive preferential consideration for inclusion in project specifications.

While HDR, Inc. has already issued this announcement, a coalition of other large firms are preparing to follow suit. It is my understanding that an announcement by that coalition is due out later this summer. From what I hear, this coalition could represent as much as 30% of global construction.

Why the push for product disclosures? We have known for quite some time that many of the ingredients in the building materials that are used in construction include chemicals that are harmful to human and environmental health either in the manufacturing process or as installed or both. Many of these chemicals are well known to both the building industry and the general public. Chemicals such as mercury, lead and asbestos are already commonly avoided. Others are less familiar such as phthalates, fire retardants, cadmium and formaldehyde. While some of these chemicals are a part of the formula for products for a reason, architects, owners and the general public should be able to decide whether the benefit are worth the risk and whether there are alternatives. The first step to being able to make informed decisions is to be able to have the information in the first place.

There are two primary reasons for this initiative. One is that it is the responsible thing to do to protect the public health. The other is risk mitigation on the part of the design community. That this grassroots initiative, born of a group of design firms getting together to advocate for change, should be happening now is ironic given the hue and cry created by a similar requirement proposed as a part of the next version of LEED. LEED version4, which just passed ballot after a one-year delay and six public comment periods, retained this credit for product ingredient disclosure (which is optional), though it was hard fought.

This initiative is likely to be followed by other entities, large and small. I know of some cities that are considering a similar requirement while companies like Google and others already have chemical restricted material requirements for their buildings. I have contacted several smaller companies that I work with to see if they are aware of this initiative among design firms. When asked what they intend to do, I am impressed with the level of support that I hear. Appropriately cautious, they all intend to watch this carefully.

More than a year ago, while the materials credit debate raged around the early drafts of LEED v4, I predicted that product ingredient transparency would be the next market transformation in the design and construction industry. There was the usual concern about its impact on costs, new product reliability, effects on the building industry in the midst of a recession and so on.

The buildings and environments that we create will now have the opportunity to be healthier and the processes that are employed to create them will be healthier too. These disclosures are going to change what the marketplace will expect and buy. That will, in turn, change how materials are produced and what our products are made of. There will be new jobs in the chemical and manufacturing industries. Demand for healthier interiors in existing buildings will create new opportunities for design and construction. Hats off to the firms that are taking the lead in this important effort.