One of the most exciting parts of any year in the green building industry is looking through the projects that were recognized by the American Institute of Architects in the Committee on the Environment (COTE) awards. All of these projects are notable for achieving design excellent and environmental performance while adapting to different scales, climate zones and typologies.Read more
I recently attended a fascinating mass timber session at Greenbuild. Mass timber is gaining traction in the design and construction world because it is beautiful and is now proven to be as safe as other forms of construction. The session brought into focus the growing role that mass timber construction is playing in green building. As the construction and design industries continue to explore ways of building gorgeous, functional structures with lower embodied carbon footprints, it is time to explore the potential of mass timber construction.
Mass Timber Construction 101
Mass timber construction is characterized by the use of large solid wood panels for floor, wall and roof construction. Terms with which one may be familiar include Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), Nail Laminated Timber (NLT) and Glue Laminated Timber (glulam). CLT and NLT can be used as panels for floors, roof decks and walls. Glulam components are typically used for columns and beams.
This is not an entirely new field. The nine story Butler Square Building in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was built in 1908 and is still in use. Contemporary mass timber buildings have been built in Europe for the last twenty years or more. Adopted codes in many jurisdictions in the United States are currently behind the curve. Mass timber is not the same as light wood framing and should not be considered as such. In fact, three new Type IV construction classifications have already been approved for the 2021 International Building Code. One of them, Type IV-A, fully protected, provides a 3-hour frame and 2-hour floor for construction up to eighteen stories and 270 feet in height.
The Benefits of Mass Timber Construction
- Predictability of Schedule: Mass timber construction projects are often delivered on time or early due to the efficiency and speed of construction.
- Streamlined Construction Process: When you choose mass timber construction, crews can work on placed decking immediately. This speeds-up the construction process and removes some of the delays that can occur when you choose other building materials.
- Reduced Foundations: Mass timber structures are 25% of the weight of concrete, so foundations can be reduced.
- Less Waste: Unlike other construction materials that generate and leave behind a great deal of waste, there is little to no job site waste that occurs with timber. Factory waste can be recycled completely.
- Less Labor: Mass timber construction requires smaller crews which saves money.
- Less Community Disturbance: Mass timber construction produces less construction traffic and assembly generates less noise than the construction of alternate structural systems.
- Carbon Reduction: Mass timber has the potential to sequester carbon but the benefit depends on sustainable forest management, the project’s life cycle and the eventual end of life recycling of the building materials. Mass timber buildings definitely have a smaller carbon footprint than other types of construction but owners and designers interested in this calculation must wade into the weeds to truly quantify the difference.
The Potential Obstacles for Mass Timber Construction
- Plan Review: Because mass timber construction is not as widely accepted by building codes in the United States, you may need to spend more time and money having your plans reviewed and approved than you ordinarily would. Reviewers may require more protection than is necessary. Wrapping mass timber elements in gypsum significantly increases cost and reduces the carbon benefit, not to mention that you can no longer see the beautiful wood structure.
- Insurance: Check with the owner’s insurance company before going too far into the process. Mass timber isn’t the same as light wood framing but insurance companies sometimes need education. Fire test information and additional studies are available to give to your insurer when negotiating rates.
- Experienced Project Teams: Architects undertaking their first mass timber project should work with a structural engineer or another architect with experience. Contractors need experience as well. In one of the case studies presented, the owner required the assembly of a sample bay of the building so the contractor could understand how the components would go together. This aided the contractor in establishing an appropriate price and schedule for the work.
- Material Availability: With increased interest in mass timber construction, plants capable of producing CLT, NLT and glulam products may be challenged. As with any popular product, check on availability and lead times.
Mass timber buildings hold much promise, not only for buildings seeking environmental benefits, but for delivering beautiful buildings on time and on budget. Under the 2021 building code, mass timber buildings that are sprinklered can be fully exposed up to nine stories. The biophilic benefits of beautiful wood workplaces cannot be understated. The full potential of mass timber construction is only beginning to be explored.
Net Zero Energy (NZE) is currently one of the most exciting concepts in green building. Buildings with the zero energy distinction seamlessly combine renewable energy sources with energy efficiency to create a building that generates as much energy as it utilizes over a set time period. Does that sound ambitious? It is! Through an integrative design process, the ambitious can quickly become achievable.
One of the distinctions available for green buildings with Net Zero Energy is LEED Zero. This program is a complement to the existing LEED certification program for those buildings that are already certified. If you are preparing for the LEED certification process, remember that you are reimagining what a building can be and how your business could signal to the community that you care about the future. Why wouldn’t you shoot for the stars, or at least LEED Zero?
Will Net Zero Energy Cost More?
One of the most interesting resources published by the US Department of Energy demonstrates that high-performance NZE design is possible on budgets similar to those of traditionally-constructed buildings. What are some of the strategies that can lower costs and ensure NZE?
- Assemble a qualified project team including the contractor. Use of experienced subcontractors early in the design process can help to ensure that your cost guidelines are being met.
- Utilize performance-based procurement to strike a balance between budget, energy savings and other benefits.
- Consider cost shifting. Money spent on energy efficiency measures can be saved in the reduced size and capacity of the mechanical systems.
- Consider life cycle cost impacts when designing.
- Maximize the usage of repeatable, modular design strategies during the design phase.
- Investigate local incentives (utility and tax rebates) and alternative financing options for higher-cost construction projects.
Understanding LEED Zero: Energy
The LEED Zero program for energy efficiency is designed to celebrate spaces that have a source energy use balance of zero over a 12-month period. Beyond this aspect of the Zero program, you could also be recognized for Zero Carbon (operating with net zero carbon emissions from energy consumption and occupant transportation to carbon emissions offset over 12 months), Zero Water (potable water use balance of zero over 12 months) or Zero Waste (achieving the Platinum level of certification through GCBI’s True Zero Waste program).
Doo Consulting’s Net Zero Energy Projects
Our team has been fortunate enough to assist with numerous Net Zero Energy projects in our community. We are currently working with two Baltimore City Public Schools, Graceland Park and Holabird Academy, that will be the flagship NZE schools for the City. In this project, we are auditing the LEED process on behalf of the owner. At the same time, we are creating compelling stories for the students and the greater school community that showcase the energy efficiency strategies used to achieve net zero. Watch for these!
July 18, 2019, Washington, D.C.: Doo Consulting proudly accepted the U.S. Green Building Council – National Capital Region’s (USGBCNCR) 2019 Innovative Project of the Year Award for New Construction – Commercial on behalf of the project team for the Town Hall Education Arts and Recreation Campus West (THEARC West). The award was presented at the USGBCNRC’s annual Midsummer Night’s Green event at the Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater in Southwest
Applicants were judged based on the project’s innovation beyond certification; degree of difficulty; integrative process; design flexibility and life cycle impact reduction; community engagement; health and wellness integration; as well as the overall quality of the application. The USGBC National Capital Region includes the District of Columbia; Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland; and northern Virginia, including Frederick, Loudon, Shenandoah, Prince William, Stafford, Fairfax and Arlington counties.
THEARC West Project Team
Our project team included:
Developer: WC Smith
Architect: Sanchez Palmer Architects
LEED & Sustainability Consultant: Doo Consulting, LLC
Civil/Landscape Engineer: VIKA
Contractor: WCS Construction, LLC
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
― Frederick Douglass
The Town Hall Education, Arts & Recreation Campus (THEARC) was constructed to serve the underserved. Through a collaboration of partner organizations, the most recent campus expansion, the LEED Certified Gold®THEARC West, provides access to high quality educational, health, cultural, recreation and social service programs to the Anacostia River community in Washington, DC. The nonprofit Building Bridges Across the River (BBAR) is the brainchild of Chris Smith, the CEO of DC-based developer WC Smith. Chris runs THEARC and many of its programs with the mission to improve the quality of life for children and adults who reside east of the Anacostia River by providing leadership, management and financial oversight of THEARC, 11th Street Bridge Park, THEARC Farm, THEARC Theater & Skyland Workforce Center.
Through these projects, BBAR uses a multi-sector approach to address significant social, health, environmental and economic disparities that exist in DC. It is the largest social service, multi-sector, nonprofit collaboration in America.BBAR’s approach to community building through collaboration in an area vulnerable to gentrification and displacement is a truly innovative path to urban revitalization. Building resilient, equitable and prosperous communities is the key to achieving a truly sustainable world both socially and environmentally.
THEARC is a home away from home for the many underserved children and adults of East of the River. With the help of the non-profit resident partners, the community is able to participate in dance classes, music, fine arts, academics, continuing education, mentoring, tutoring, recreation, medical care and other services at a substantially reduced cost or no cost at all. THEARC facilitates measurable positive social impact for one of the most historically-underserved areas of Washington, DC.
THEARC West’s design and construction team focused on creating an environment where occupants, especially children, can thrive. THEARC is, perhaps, the most valuable neighborhood asset in Southeast Washington, DC; enriching this dense, underserved community with a multitude of opportunities. The campus is located centrally within the residential area of focus allowing ease of access for youth and community members without vehicles. The site provides neighborhood residents and occupants with opportunities to directly connect with nature in a manner they may rarely encounter otherwise. The THEARC Farm is both a teaching tool and a resource that provides fresh produce to the community at a low cost through theCommunity Supported Agriculture program, Community Raised Inspired & Sourced Produce (CRISP), while engaging neighbors in hands-on cultivation activities and supporting a weekly onsite farmer’s market.
Notable Sustainable Design Features
Some of the most notable sustainable design features of the project include:
- A rooftop photovoltaic solar array estimated to generate 63,416 kWh of electricity annually.
- 5424 ft2 of permeable parking pavers and 15,796 ft2vegetated roof (89% of total roof) help manage stormwater and mitigate the heat island effect that causes increased temperatures resulting from concentrated development in urban areas.
- Responsibly-sourced and healthy construction materials as well as the diversion of 92% of waste from the landfill through salvage and recycling efforts.
- A focus on natural light and design that fosters increased physical activity.
- The 418,233ft2site boasts 93.51% open space with 94% of that being vegetated and 305,350 ft2 of which is protected from development. A reduction energy cost savings by 29.64% and potable water use by 30.92% with the purchase of renewable energy credits to support the expansion of clean green energy for the building’s remaining energy use.
- Safe bike parking, staff showers, and a partnership with DC Department of Transportation’sCapital Bikeshare that furnishes short term bike rental stations on campus encourage bicycle use.
The 13th Living Future Unconference did not fail to provide its annual re-charge with this year’s theme of Collaboration and Abundance. As always, there was a plethora of inspiration from every Plenary, “15 Minutes of Brilliance,” the many interactive sessions and the tours and workshops.
Climate Change and Social Justice
Climate change and social justice were a common thread in all presentations this year, as this group is clear that #timeisrunningout and that action from every sector is the only option. The Living Future Institute and many seasoned green warriors have been working tirelessly for years to get the message out about the reality and urgency of climate change (or whatever term works for you). This year’s conference was focused on how we can continue to collaborate on our trajectory. We are at risk for more imminent and dramatic global crises. Inequities to disadvantaged populations continue unchecked – intensifying issues of poverty, poor health, inadequate education, housing, and harmful biases.
Hope in the Midst of Trying Times
The unconference provided a respite and an abundance of spirit. We were wowed by @jamie_margolin, one of the youngest presenters for “15 Minutes of Brilliance” on the first day. At 17, Jamie is the co-founder of the #ThisIsZeroHour movement for students. She has been taking time off school each week to strike on behalf of climate change, and every weekend, she goes to a different community to talk about her vision for a better future. In her future world, climate change is not something she, her friends and their children want to have to worry about. She talks about it, writes about it, lobbies for appropriate policies, gets other students involved in it and fully expects to be successful. With her inspiring passion and confidence, she will be. She and her friends are organizing a youth climate action summit in Miami Florida on July 12 – 14. If you are nearby, you should go. Learn more at: www.thisiszerohour.org.
We had another 15 Minutes of Brilliance with Mark Chambers, Director of Sustainability for New York City (@growacity). Mark kicked off our last day describing some of the initiatives in the #GreenNewDeal announced by Mayor De Blasio to address climate change. One of these policies, now in place in New York City, mandates that buildings over 25,000 square feet cut their carbon emissions by 40% by 2030; and curtail them by 80% by 2050. While the requirement is controversial, buildings in New York City are responsible for 70% of the city’s carbon emissions. Nationally, buildings represent nearly 40% of total carbon emissions. These emissions must be reduced if we are going to prevent global temperature rise from exceeding 1.5°C (2.7°F).
There are a host of other policies in the OneNYC2050 plan that cross every aspect of life in the City. Mark said that, in developing their plan, one of the most important lessons was that “If you want people to fight alongside you, you have to fight alongside them.” In the spirit of the unconference theme of collaboration, this was a powerful message. The OneNYC2050plan is a massive undertaking, and could only have been accomplished through community engagement, collaboration and communication. It will certainly bring abundance to the city in time. If you have been to NYC recently, you can feel a new energy related to this plan and can feel their sustainability and equity efforts taking root. The strategy to “building a strong and fair city” weaves a set of actions to address climate, equity and social issues into an extraordinarily comprehensive strategic plan. The topics within the plan range from housing to jobs to education, health care and voting rights. Take the time to look at it to appreciate the effort and thoughtfulness that went into its development and creation.
The Power of Collaboration
Author and green warrior Bill McKibben gave an amazing opening plenary about his experience with the power of collaboration. Bill described the history of his organization, 350.org. The term “350” means 350 parts per million — the safe concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In 2008, CO2 levels were already 358 ppm. We are currently around 410 ppm. Bill and his colleagues decided that they had to do something about the climate crisis, and they had to do it immediately! He and a group of interns and university friends divided up the seven continents, one per person, and began to “get the word out.” They emailed individuals on each continent and asked if they would help them promote the problem with “350.” They were told that they could do it however they chose. Visit the website to see the results! After that simple task, he and his friends wrote a book on global warming, and now there are several in print.
Outstanding Leadership in Environmental Causes
On the second day of the unconference, former Irish President, Mary Robinson did not fail to impress or keep us inspired. Ms. Robinson has been a green warrior for decades, and has been a member of the global Council of Elders, founded by Nelson Mandela, since 2007. This groupprovides guidance on peacemaking and human rights. Ms. Robinson said all countries must be committed to doing what they can to sustain the planet – and countries whose use of fossil fuels is impacting other countries must do what is right to change their dependence; and maintain the agreements to keep the world below 2°C of warming (remember our magic number?). This is the temperature considered ‘safe’ by scientists. We are nearing that mark today, so we are not safe. Learn more about her work now at the Mary Robinson Climate Justice foundation. Also, read this report on cities that are doing the most to address climate issues here: Cities doing the most to combat global warming.
During the Q&A, former President Robinson was asked by a young high school student in the audience how to respond to friends who did not believe him when he talked about climate change, and how not to be discouraged in the face of doubt. She challenged him to keep going by reminding him of the life, hardship and work of Archbishop Tutu. Sharing a story, she told of when Archbishop Tutu was asked by a reporter why he was such an optimist, he responded, “I am not an optimist, I’m a prisoner of hope.” As a prisoner of hope, you have no choice but to work for a better future. After her presentation, Ms. Robinson, leaving the hall, came specifically to the young man who had asked the question and shook his hand. It was a beautiful and touching gesture, and one I know he will not soon forget.
Moving Forward to a Better Future Together
Many sessions were specifically focused on collaboration exercises and showcased different strategies for working with diverse communities to take on elusive challenges – whether a particular part of a project, a design issue, or a big topic, such as housing the homeless in a community. These techniques were helpful in focusing on shared foundational ideals first, clarifying needs, sharing ideas, asking questions, and formulating solutions together. This is the kind of activity that makes the Living Future unconference so unique and special – engaging with a diverse group of people who are focused on making positive, constructive change in and for our larger environment.
At Doo Consulting, we remain prisoners of hope. We recognize that there are financial imperatives for every project. But, there are also opportunities. Through collaboration, we seek to find beneficial solutions for our clients and owners.
In 2018, Maryland was among the top ten states for LEED®-certified buildings. Doo Consulting was proud to work on one of the most notable projects, the new Stagehouse at Merriweather Post Pavilion. This unique 25,897 ft2new construction project was recently highlighted by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC®).
The USGBC List
This month, the USGBC announced their annual list of the Top 10 States for LEED. Maryland weighs in at number 10 with 113 certified buildings and nearly 17 million SF of construction. Washington, D.C. was awarded an honorable mention because it is not a state, however it is the leader on the basis of SF per capita. Washington, D.C. has more than ten times the square feet of certified building per capita than Illinois, the number one leader! Together, the top 10 states are home to 128 million Americans and have constructed over 468 million gross square feet of LEED-certified space in 2018.
Merriweather Post Pavilion Stagehouse Project
The Stagehouse at Merriweather Post Pavilion was the featured Maryland project of the official USGBC Top 10 Campaign. Merriweather Post Pavilion is a musical institution that has hosted some of the greatest artists in music history including Elton John, The Grateful Dead, The Doors and Janis Joplin. Today, the venue hosts top-notch talent including Florence & the Machine, Jason Aldean, Phish, and Pentatonix. The non-profit owner, the Downtown Columbia Arts & Culture Commission (DCACC), and the independent venue-runner, I.M.P., are both dedicated to environmental sustainability. Singer song-writer Jack Johnson said, “We love coming back to Merriweather Post. This is one of those venues, I’d say probably number one, that not only did they make the (environmentally responsible) changes but they didn’t make us feel bad about having to make the changes and even made us feel good about asking to make the changes.”
The LEED Silver®Stagehouse at Merriweather Post Pavilion is designed to be a home away from home for touring artists. The sustainable design elements include touches that are unnoticeable to the untrained eye, like a white roof with a high-solar reflective index and building materials with no or low volatile organic compounds (VOC).
The Stagehouse design allows for a 26% reduction in energy costs and a 44% reduction in water use compared to a similar baseline building. Together with JP2 Architects, B&R Consulting Engineers, the Merriweather team, and construction contractors, we were able to reduce the project’s environmental footprint by utilizing materials with high-recycled content and products extracted and manufactured within 500 miles of the project site. A whopping 96% of the waste from the Stagehouse construction and demolition was diverted from landfills using salvage and recycling programs.
Merriweather Post Pavilion engages in a robust ongoing waste management program for their operations, composting food scraps onsite and recycling several waste streams.
The Little Things Make a Big Difference
It’s the little things, too. It’s the convenience of the bottle filling stations, the cool wallpaper made from discarded newspapers, and the creative reuse of old concert banners for just about any purpose behind-the-scenes. It’s about the fact that everyone’s in. The owners, the producers, the staff, and the artists are all in. Everyone’s on-board and speaking the same language, and they’re all saying, “this is how we do it now.” And these efforts are not lost on the 20,000 music fans that fill the seats and lawn for a sold out performance. Believe me – I’m often one of them. After all, music is about inspiring community – finding others to share in the groove. Merriweather Post Pavilion helps us do that. Now they help us do it more responsibly.
On January 22, 2019, LEED published the update to LEED version4. Along with other clarifications and changes, LEED version 4.1 updates the referenced energy standard that we discussed in our “State of LEED – LEED, IgCC and the IECC”. LEED v4.1 is a significant improvement over LEED v4 and I thought a brief epilogue was justified.
In our recent State of LEED series, I tried to stay focused on the value of LEED and to address some of the misconceptions and criticisms about the rating system. One of the criticisms of LEED has been its energy standard which has lagged behind many building and energy codes. LEED v4.1 updates the referenced energy code to ASHRAE 90.1, 2016. This is the latest energy standard and means that LEED is now up to date and aheadof many locally adopted energy codes around the country. In addition to updated energy performance requirements, LEED v4.1 provides many overdue updates and clarifications to v4 credits including renewable energy, rainwater management and much more.
For now, USGBC is allowing project teams to cherry-pick LEED v4.1 credits that are advantageous to their project. If your project is registered under LEED v4, you do not have to upgrade the entire rating to LEED v4.1. If the LEED v4.1 transit credit allows your project to earn a point where LEED v4 would not (The number of trips has been revised.), you may use the LEED v4.1 criteria for that credit without changing other LEED v4 credit documentation which you may have completed.
There is much excitement in the green building community around the updates embodied in LEED v4.1. A more detailed review of those changes are presented in a LEED v4.1 blog by Josh Radoff of WSP so I will not repeat that assessment. One hopes that building owners will be as excited about these updates and the increased clarity and relevance of LEED v4.1 as we are.
Additionally, USGBC has now created LEED Zero that verifies the achievement of net zero goals including energy, water, waste and carbon.
We think that LEED v4.1 is more straight forward and, along with LEED Zero, brings the rating system up to date with green building practices and expectations within the industry. Should you have any questions about updating your project or pursuing a LEED certification under the new LEED version 4.1 protocol, contact us here.
The Year of the Brown Earth Pig
The Year of the Brown Earth Pig begins on February 5, 2019. Though not an appealing image for the year, the pig’s chubby countenance and big ears are symbols of wealth. While economists ponder the next recession, some are suggesting that this won’t occur until 2020. Perhaps the good fortune of the Pig will prevail in 2019. The Pig is also a genial animal so one can hope that human relations may be more cordial this year than the Year of the Earth Dog, 2018, during which the more territorial and aggressive natures of that animal were prominently on display. Last year the Earth element predicted good fortune for things like real estate, agriculture and the environment. I would say yes, in general, to real estate but, perhaps, not so much for agriculture or the environment. Between extreme weather, tariffs and regulatory roll-backs, the year was not so friendly to agriculture or the environment. Earth is the ruling element again in 2019. To see the predictions for your Chinese zodiac sign in the Year of the Pig, click here.
Doo Consulting was recognized as a JUST organization by the International Living Future Institute in 2018. JUST is not a certification, rather it is a voluntary transparency platform through which organizations disclose their operations including how they treat their employees and where they make their financial and community investments. Its purpose is to promote social equity and improve employee engagement. Doo Consulting has chosen to disclose its operations and since receiving this recognition, it has selected Calvert, a global leader in responsible investing, as its retirement savings manager. We are proud of this accomplishment and continue to filter organizational decisions through this lens.
Studying Effective Energy Efficiency Measures
Peter Doo, architect Miche Booz and energy modeler Morteza Kasmaei investigated strategies to achieve Net Zero and Passive House affordability. Reassessing a Net Zero and Passive House certified project, the team studied costs and impacts of energy efficiency strategies with the goal of understanding which were most effective and affordable. The team presented their study of the Gaddy House at Design DC. Insulation, air barriers, glazing; what are the most significant strategies? We figured a few things out. Watch for a future blog.
LEED and Fitwel Projects in Reno, NV and Sacramento, CA
Doo Consulting began assessing a variety of student housing projects for GMH Capital Partners. Based on the outcome of those assessments, we are assisting in the LEED and Fitwel certifications of projects in Reno, Nevada and Sacramento, California. Academy Reno is a 196 apartment, twelve-story project near the University of Nevada. Academy 65 is a 90 apartment, five-story courtyard building over a retail and parking podium near the California State University campus in Sacramento, California. Doo Consulting is pleased to be assisting in the first Fitwel certifications for this client.
Once again, we take this opportunity to share trends that we think will be influencing sustainability activity in the next year and beyond. Last year we wrote about net zero buildings, resiliency, wellness and corporate social responsibility. We believe those trends will continue. Many of these things are converging to create the trend to watch in 2019.
Technology is blurring the lines between traditional products and services. Industry Convergence refers to this phenomenon. One of the best examples of this is the smartphone. While it remains a communication device, “communication” is now writ large with the ability to share self-produced media with one’s friends and the world by posting on Facebook or YouTube. It is one’s portal to the vast resources of the internet for information and entertainment. It can monitor your health and with third party apps and some additional devices, it can administer health services (insulin) and connect you directly with your provider to make adjustments to your medical devices remotely (pacemaker). As this is not my area of expertise, I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the medical/media/technology convergence.
In another convergence, automobiles will no longer be simply a means of transportation. They are rapidly becoming smart devices connected to their drivers, their surroundings and other cars and smart devices (pedestrians), with which they are communicating. Auto and technology companies are already collaborating to create these new products. In the near future the car will most likely not be yours but its services will provide a “third place,” an alternative live/work environment. Perhaps architects and interior designers will be collaborating with these teams as well. When you enter these new vehicles, you will be connected to your virtual companion (like Alexa or Siri but uniquely yours) that will assist you with tasks or connect you to colleagues while you’re being transported. The car and your AI assistant may be monitoring, evaluating, and rejuvenating your health at the same time. It’s easy to see how industries will need to converge to create this new technology.
These convergences are already shaping how we think about our built environment and sustainability. The concept of smart buildings and the ways we create them are just taking off and they will be full of “converged” technologies. From Revit in the design studio, to robotics in the manufacturing plant and on the job site, to building automation and intelligence in the finished product, opportunities for industry convergence abound. Already, in the built environment, the ability to telework has changed the workplace inside and outside of the formal work environment. While some workers will prefer to have a personalized workspace that they inhabit, others will be more nomadic. In that case, one’s workstation goes with them. Wherever an employee chooses to work, they are connected to the corporate resources, calls and documents can be forwarded, hard copies can be sent to the nearest printer, one can teleconference globally, and colleagues can convene in a variety of formal and informal workplaces to collaborate physically and virtually. We are seeing the evolution of the workplace in corporate offices, co-working places such as WeWork and coffee shops everywhere. The implications of this “flexibility” are vast. If one can work from anywhere in the office, why not work from anywhere in the city? Why not work from anywhere? The most sustainable building is the one that isn’t built. How will this convergence shape our built environment? How much new space will we need? Or, will increasing a building’s utilization rate make existing places active for more hours of the day and mitigate the need for new construction? What amenities and services will be required? How will nature and open space be integrated into this new urban paradigm? And, speaking of convergence, when will the built environment and the natural environment converge to simply be The Environment?
The idea of a circular economy has been around for over twenty years. I recall hearing Bill McDonough refer to the cycles of technical waste and biological waste fifteen years ago. The processes of manufacture, distribution and the speed of technological change have altered the paradigm. Understanding that we cannot continue to throw things away, because there is no “away”, responsible companies are reimagining a circular approach to product delivery and reuse – Cradle to Cradle instead of cradle to grave. The Circular Economy will create more jobs and economic growth. Research from Accenture suggests the rise of the circular economy will unlock $4.5 trillion in new economic growth by 2030.
One way to view the sharing economy is through the lens of resource efficiency. Automobiles sit unused for 90% of their life cycle. The sharing economy, through ride share services (like Uber and Lyft) and car share services, like Turo, allows for increased utilization of these resources. Electric vehicles and battery storage will impact the evolution of the electric utility grid. Autonomous vehicles, drones, solar powered buildings and other intelligent technologies promise to change this equation dramatically. Shared work space, like WeWork, are already changing the nature of commercial real estate. Home sharing is influencing the hospitality and senior living industries. Consumers have become suppliers, not only of physical resources but of knowledge and experiences. Airbnb Experiences and MeetUp, are not only social but also educational and cultural.
Measurement and Transparency
How we affect our environment and each other through these increasingly integrated lifestyles and convergent technologies can only be untangled by measurement, verification, and transparency. In the age of data accessibility, lack of reporting might be construed as a company having poor results or something to hide. In a 2018 study by Label Insight, 93% of consumers said they were more likely to be loyal to a brand that offered complete transparency and 74% said they would switch brands from the product they usually buy to a product that offered more in-depth product information.
What’s your business doing to increase its transparency to consumers?
Will real estate follow suit? Jones Lang LaSalle’s (JLL) recently published 2018 Global Real Estate Transparency Index Report demonstrates how data is influencing the global real estate market and how transparency improves the ability of cities to compete. It’s no surprise that Amazon, looking for a second headquarters away from the West coast, selected locations next to the top two ranked East coast cities, New York and Washington, DC.
For the first time JLL has included sustainability transparency to this report. Energy indexing and green building certifications are the most prevalent voluntary tools. However, sustainability transparency remains relatively low in markets with high levels of planned new building completions. While the US lags Europe nationally, US cities claimed ten of the top fifteen spots for metropolitan areas with high levels of real estate transparency. Investors are increasing demand for sustainability transparency in real estate portfolios. GRESB, Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmarking, is a tool for measuring the sustainability performance of a real estate portfolio. The 2018 JLL Report cites Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting as one of the next transparency indexes for real estate along with Workplace Safety and Wellness.
Industry Convergence and Measurement and Transparency are our watch-words for 2019. In the past we have highlighted products and services. While we could have blogged about things like WeWork and Turo, the latest in building rating systems or cool industry innovations, everything we see suggests that there are more fundamental forces at work. Those forces include technology and information but are driven by concern for the environment and shifts in consumer behavior.
At Doo Consulting, we continue to provide the basic services of building certification and sustainable business assessment and consulting services. However, we always keep an eye on the big picture and offer customized sustainability consulting services as well. We always welcome your inquiries and your comments.
Some owners and project teams believe that being “LEED-like” is the same as achieving LEED certification, but that isn’t the case. Frequently we receive requests from clients who want to create a “LEED-like” building. This is where the project team follows a LEED checklist and declares their project equivalent to a level of LEED certification without actually registering or certifying the project. While you might think “LEED-like” buildings are more cost-effective and lead to the same result, that is seldom the case.
LEED-like Isn’t the Same as LEED Certified
Someone recently said, “When there is a scoreboard and a referee, the game is played differently.” This can apply to many things in life but in relationship to LEED, or any other compliance requirement, this is absolutely true. “LEED-like” buildings are not the same as LEED-certified buildings. If a project team is going through the same design effort to create a non-certified-LEED-compliant building, all consultants are expending the same energy they would if the project was certified. In the end, the costs saved are the project registration fees, certification fees and some of the documentation costs. For large projects, registration and certification fees can amount to tens of thousands of dollars, but as a percent of project costs, it is small; $.05 – $.063 per square foot where the project costs are hundreds of dollars per square foot. For these few cents, one gets a strong motivator for sustainable design excellence.
Knowing that documentation is required and will be reviewed encourages project team members to dot their i’s and cross their t’s. Having achieved LEED certification, recognition of that fact is something that can be substantiated and promoted. As an investor, buyer or simply a building tenant, what can or should one assume when an owner says that a building is “LEED-equivalent”? For LEED certified projects one knows that documentation has been submitted and reviewed to validate the building’s credential. Documentation is also available to the building facilities team to monitor building operations, guide enhanced or recommissioning activities, and guide future renovations of the project.
LEED Is Imperfect
Some critics of LEED and proponents of “LEED-like” buildings choose to highlight perceived flaws in the system as a justification of creating their own green building process. One thing we hear repeatedly is the fact that a bike rack and a 2% energy reduction have the same point value (LEEDv3). The implication is that a point can be bought with the installation of a shower stall and a locker. Critics note that these things should not be considered equivalent and suggest that LEED is too easily “gamed”. The LEED standard is not perfect, but it is well considered and nuanced. One can make a strong argument for the environmental benefits of bicycle usage if people actually do it. Owners and architects are equally guilty for spending money and resources on points that produce no economic or environmental benefit, if that is what they are doing. It is certainly not sustainable to install a shower stall to be used as a closet. To some extent, the system can be manipulated by clever building designers and owners, but the intention and point distribution of the rating system has been established by committees of subject-matter experts doing the best they can to create meaningful criteria to define what a “green building” is.
LEED Certification Still Remains Relevant
LEED is a tool and, like any tool, it can be used masterfully by a craftsman or used by an amateur with predictably less refined results. Well-designed LEED buildings created by experienced project teams deliver on the promises of the rating system—resource conservation, lower operational costs, restorative site development, healthier indoor environments, and lower carbon emissions. LEED remains an important certification standard for owners, builders and designers. In light of the recent reports from the International Panel on Climate Change and the National Climate Assessment report to Congress and the President, the demand for high-performance, healthy buildings has never been greater.
Certification matters and LEED continues to be the dominant green building certification program in the US and beyond. LEED project registrations in the US were up 14% in 2018 over 2017*. One can expect that certifications will remain important measures of green building performance as we continue to pursue more environmentally benign and healthier buildings while meeting the challenges of climate change.
Is LEED Still Relevant?
This is the final blog in a four-part series on the LEED rating system. All four parts of this series can be found on our website, www.DooConsulting.net. Doo Consulting provides consulting services for LEED and many other green and healthy building rating systems.
After more than two decades of LEED projects, the building industry has changed. Mechanical and electrical systems are more efficient, building envelopes and associated materials are higher performing, healthier interior finishes are readily available. In spite of this, building performance results can be erratic and the perception remains with some that LEED is expensive and not worth the cost. These are misconceptions.
LEED is expensive
Previously, businesses used to roll together a bundle of costs related to LEED including fees, the additional documentation effort, energy modeling, and commissioning. Additionally, you had to consider the cost of constructing a building that met LEED credit requirements to achieve the desired certification level. In the early days (2004-2010?) these were real costs associated with pursuing a LEED certification and they could accumulate. Still, the general wisdom of the time was that a LEED Silver certification might incur a cost premium of 5%, more or less.
These days, both LEED and the energy code provide options to comply through a prescriptive pathway or show energy performance through an energy model. The energy code also calls for a commissioning plan and execution of that plan. These costs can no longer be attributed to LEED as they are now code requirements. The “added” cost of LEED has been reduced considerably and, with the employment of an experienced professional team, the added cost of LEED compliance should be minimal. Even at non-member rates, the registration, review, and certification fees can be as low as $4,920.00 for projects up to 50,000 SF. Administration of the LEED process by the architect or a consultant is an added expense and can be significant for smaller projects. For larger projects, the cost, as a percent of the total project budget, can be very small. However, whatever the cost, there is value in this exercise.
LEED Buildings May Not Perform as Modeled.
Energy cost savings is the most easily understood cost-benefit of high-performance building design. As a result, this is one of the most studied and criticized aspects of the LEED rating system. We have already discussed the relationship between the LEED energy requirements and the energy code. Here we discuss LEED and building performance.
There are numerous cited examples of LEED buildings that underperform on an energy basis. Sometimes this is the result of a miscalculation in the energy model used to predict hours of operation and occupancy. One early example of a building’s use being misaligned with its modeled use is the Lewis Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin College. Though not a LEED project, the Lewis Center was an early example of a green building. It drew much attention and was visited by large numbers of people wanting to see it and to host events there. The building was utilized significantly more than was anticipated or modeled. As a result, it used much more energy than what was predicted. A critical review of the assumptions compared with the experienced operations and occupancy should enable a building owner to identify potential reasons for any design vs. actual discrepancies. In this case an adjustment in expectations is in order when changes in the building use and occupancy has occurred.
Operations Affect Building Performance
Another reason a building may not be performing as designed is that it is not being operated as designed. A recent project of ours was discovered to have completely reestablished set points for heating and air conditioning from the design parameters. Even though the building had been commissioned and facility staff trained, operations were compromised within the first year of occupancy. This happens. LEED attempts to address this by requiring fundamental commissioning, the creation of the operations manual and staff training. Still, operational adjustments and errors occur. This is a justification for and the reason why the Enhanced Commissioning credit exists.
Inconsistencies in design vs. performance and poor operational oversight can arise just as easily in projects seeking to meet or exceed code minimums. A critical review of all buildings would reveal that cases of buildings underperforming are not unique to LEED. What LEED has enabled owners to do through its insistence on the creation of a Basis of Design document and fundamental and enhanced commissioning is to identify these discrepancies so they may be addressed in a timely fashion. This is a cost savings understood and recognized by property owners and managers who embrace the LEED rating system. When viewed critically, LEED consistently proves to be a valuable industry tool.
Is LEED Still Relevant?
This is Part-Three in a four-part series on LEED. In our next blog in this series, we’ll be covering LEED vs “LEED-like” and why LEED remains a great option for all buildings.