Posts tagged ‘green building’

LEED Certification More Affordable in 2012

Dan Probst, chairman of energy and sustainability at Jones Lang LaSalle, recently published a report in which he discussed the affordability of LEED Certification. For years, individuals criticized the LEED Certification process for being too costly. Probst now makes the case the LEED is the standard for building design and construction certainly in the United States, and potentially around the world.
Due to its massive growth and international acceptance, LEED Certification has become a more affordable process for those wanting to participate.In the beginning, LEED Certification was expensive. Just like any new product that fills individuals with excitement and apprehension, LEED was this mysterious and exclusive green building standard that was hot on the market. Architects, engineers, and other building professionals who wanted to be on the cutting edge of their industries looked into LEED Certification and were faced with question of whether or not to pursue it. It was so new, and the results weren’t exactly quantifiable. Was it worth it to spend so much?
In the beginning, LEED Certification was probably more of a marketing tool. It was a standard not 100% for reducing environmental impact but more for showing a commitment toward green building and sustainability. It was a status symbol to show that you were a building professional who went through extensive sustainability training, passed a challenging exam, gained a new certification, and went on to consult and advise others on how to implement sustainability into their business practices. Yes, LEED Certification was expensive back in the day, especially when you consider this reasoning.

Now, however, numerous sustainability reports have shown the effectiveness of LEED Certification. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has updated the LEED Rating System to make its certifications more impactful and substantial. By adjusting and validating the process, LEED Certification has found its way to the top. It is now standard for building professionals to be aware of the LEED Certification process and to make plans to pursue a certification.

Probst goes on to say, “It’s actually less expensive to design and build to the U.S. Green Building Council LEED standards today. Recycled building materials used to be rare, and cost more, but now they’re so common that they cost less. In other cases, the upfront cost of sustainable features is still higher, but the payback period is so short that it’s an easy call. A good example is lighting; if you need to retrofit a lighting system, LED may cost more but the savings in energy and labor costs are far greater than the upfront cost.”

When the iPod was first introduced, it cost hundreds of dollars. Now you can purchase one for less than $100. All new products are expensive in the beginning. It takes consumer passion and commitment to validate the product, but once it is proven to be legitimate and successful, the cost goes down.

The total amount of square feet of LEED certified space now stands at about 1.7 billion, and there’s still a long way to go. It’s much easier now to become involved in the LEED Certification process, so let’s continue this momentum!

January 9, 2012 at 1:18 pm Leave a comment

More LEED Retrofits Than New Construction

The U.S. Green Building Council announced this month that LEED Certification for existing buildings has surpassed LEED Certification for new construction. The square footage of LEED certified existing buildings surpassed LEED certified new construction by 15 million square feet. The explosive growth of existing building retrofits since 2008 certainly illustrates a change in the sustainability and green building fields. Historically, LEED Certification for new construction (which corresponds with the LEED AP Building Design & Construction credential for individuals) was overwhelmingly most popular, both in volume and square footage. Over the last three years, however, existing building retrofits have taken off and become more commonplace than new construction. New construction in general has slowed down, and sustainability professionals have seen a need in the marketplace to retrofit the buildings we already own and operate to lower costs and increase efficiency.“The U.S. is home to more than sixty billion square feet of existing commercial buildings, and we know that most of those buildings are energy guzzlers and water sieves,” said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair of the U.S. Green Building Council, in a statement. “Greening these buildings takes hands-on work, creating precious jobs, especially for construction workers.” He goes on to note that making these existing buildings energy and water efficient has an enormous positive impact on the building’s cost of operations, while the improvements in indoor air quality that go with less toxic cleaning solutions and better filtration systems create healthier environments for those who live and work in such buildings.

Three high-profile LEED: Existing Buildings O&M skyscraper retrofits in recent years are the case in point: the Empire State Building (New York City), Taipei 101 (Taipei) and the Transamerica Pyramid (San Francisco). Green upgrades to these buildings have resulted not only in certification, but in energy savings of $4.4 million, $700,00 and $700,000, respectively.

If you are looking to achieve your LEED Accreditation, it might behoove you to learn about the LEED AP Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance credential. This is the direction green building is going, for now. Until new construction ramps up, it is certainly of paramount importance to retrofit the buildings we currently use to become more sustainable.

December 20, 2011 at 3:40 pm Leave a comment

Nevada Has Most LEED Certified Buildings Per Capita

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) recently identified the state of Nevada as the leader in green building. The state has 10.92 square feet of LEED certified buildings per capita. New Mexico ranked second with 6.35 square feet per capita, followed by New Hampshire (4.49), Oregon (4.07), and South Carolina (3.19). So why is Nevada so determined, and how are builders maintaining this lead?Leon Mead, Las Vegas attorney and council member, indicates that developers are eligible for a variety of credits through the water district and power company if they build green buildings. The critical advantages, he says, are property tax and sales and use tax abatements. Unfortunately, these tax incentives from the state really only apply to commercial buildings, so as a result, there are more LEED projects in the commercial space than there are in residential buildings.

The Centennial Hills Library in northwest Las Vegas, which received 45 points in five environmental categories from the LEED Rating System, was identified as one of the most notable LEED certified projects in the nation.

The library’s exterior glazing, stone, stucco and metal shade structures result in a building reflective of the desert environment, the report said. Interior materials include low-maintenance terrazzo flooring, recyclable carpet, ecoresin panels and linoleum countertops.

Natural lighting reduces the need for electric lights during daylight hours, cutting down on heat gain and cooling costs. Other green elements include an extensive recycling program, water-efficient landscaping and automatic photocell-based controls.

Nevada continues to lead the way in green building by converting its existing buildings to LEED standards. The Sands Expo and Convention Center changed its heating, ventilation and air conditioning system and retrofitted low-flow toilets for LEED certification in maintenance and operations. Sometimes the existing building retrofits are even more special than the building design and construction phases. You get a real look at how much energy you are saving year-to-year.

To be clear, Nevada’s #1 ranking in the country was determined by measuring the amount of green building space per capita. Measuring green building per capita, or for every person, instead of by the number of projects or total square footage is a reminder that the people who use those buildings matter the most, council Senior Vice President Scot Horst said.

Congratulations to the commercial developers in Nevada, as well as the building professionals in New Mexico, New Hampshire, Oregon, and South Carolina! LEED Certification is fast becoming an industry standard. Through tax incentives and general awareness/acceptance, we’re likely to see even more green building in the coming years.

December 12, 2011 at 2:44 pm Leave a comment

Vestas “LEEDs” the Way in Europe

Vestas Wind Power Systems recently moved into their new headquarters in Aarhus, Denmark. The wind turbine manufacturer will soon be honored for having the first LEED Platinum certified building in Europe. This distinction creates a beautiful mix of passion toward wind energy and green building. Who better to set a standard than companies within similar industries?

The headquarters has been called the “House of Vestas” and will join an elite list of approximately 150 commercial buildings in the world that have also accomplished LEED Certification. The building features Denmark’s largest geothermal installation and uses only 50% as much energy as a similarly sized facility.

We’re excited about this announcement because it shows that the company is devoted to sustainability on levels beyond their immediate scope. Their U.S.-based headquarters in Portland is also aiming to achieve LEED Platinum Certification. We hope to see more companies, within the sustainability sector and not, who will look into the benefits of energy efficiency.

Not sure where to start? Afraid to admit that you are behind in the sustainability chatter? It’s time you learn more about green building, energy efficiency, and how the two intertwine. Navigate the LEED Rating System and learn everything you need to know to become an energy efficiency expert.

December 5, 2011 at 2:16 pm Leave a comment

Adobe’s Endeavor into LEED Certification

There are two things that Adobe and LEED have in common: they are both taking over the world! The software giant recently opened a sales office in Beijing, China, and announced its achievement of a LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

There are many noteworthy parts of this announcement, including the fact that this is Adobe’s first LEED Certification outside the United States, this is one of only 24 LEED Certified buildings in Beijing, and one of only 160 LEED Certified buildings in all of China. Taking these accomplishments into consideration, it seems Adobe has proven to the world that they have a firm commitment to sustainability and green building.

Some of the innovative actions that the Adobe team took to achieve LEED Certification in the Beijing office include:
• Reducing water consumption by 88%
• Realizing a 26% savings on lighting energy
• Reducing CO2 emissions by 2,772 KG/year
• Reusing furniture and lighting fixtures as much as possible
• Using “Cool Carpet” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
• Implementing green housekeeping with green-sealed products and recycling
• Using low-emitting construction materials to maintain a favorable indoor environment

Adobe staff proudly states that they will continue to work on improving their understanding of sustainability and demonstrating this understanding in their office environments. They are looking forward to partnering with experts around the world to learn, innovate, and continuously evolve.

December 1, 2011 at 1:14 pm 1 comment

LEED’s First Lawsuit

Southern Builders v. Shaw has surfaced as one of the first major lawsuits regarding LEED certification. The suit illustrates the critical importance of clear contract language for each stakeholder on a green construction project.

The lawsuit concerns the construction of a $7.5 million, 23-unit condominium project in Crisfield, Maryland, called the Captain’s Galley, which was completed back in 2006. The development includes a number of green design features that were intended to garner enough points to receive a LEED Silver rating.

Southern Builders foreclosed on the project. Shaw Development then countersued, partly because the building did not receive the expected LEED rating it was supposed to, which meant that Shaw lost green-tax credits under Maryland’s green building program.

Maryland offers state tax credits of up to 8 percent of a project’s total cost for buildings greater than 20,000 square feet. Only LEED projects are eligible to apply for the credits. The program requires applicants to first submit an Initial Credit Certificate Application to the Maryland Energy Administration. MEA then reviews the application and issues an Initial Credit Certificate, which sets forth the project’s maximum credit amount and sets an expiration date by which the project must receive a Final Credit Certificate.

Projects can only apply for the Final Credit Certificate upon receiving a certificate of occupancy after construction is complete, and a LEED AP must submit an Eligibility Certificate to MEA stating that the building meets the criteria necessary to receive the tax credit (i.e., it meets the requirements to qualify for a LEED Silver rating). However, if the Initial Credit Certificate expires prior to the project obtaining its Final Credit Certificate, the available credits are put back into the program’s pool, the project slides back in line, and must reapply to MEA.

It does not appear that there was language in the contract documents obligating Southern to secure any formal certification from USGBC. With respect to the tax credits, Southern was required to deliver a Certificate of Occupancy within 336 calendar days from the date of the agreement.

In the countersuit, Shaw alleged claims in both negligence and breach of contract against Southern for, among other failures, the contractor’s failure to “construct an environmentally sound ‘green building’ in conformance with the LEED rating system.” However, there was no detail in Shaw’s papers describing precisely how Southern was responsible for the $635,000.00 in lost tax credits.

Presumably, Southern failed to deliver the project to Shaw such that the latter could obtain a certificate of occupancy by the date specified in the Initial Credit Certificate; according to Shaw’s papers, the project remained incomplete “[n]early nine (9) months after the required completion date” (i.e., the 336 calendars specified in the A101).

The total amount in damages that Shaw sought was approximately $1.3 million. The damages it sought for the lost tax credits were the largest under any of its claims.

Though the Circuit Court judge did set the case for trial sometime in August of 2007, it appears that the matter has since settled out of court. Since no official decision was made, a precedent has not been set.

The critical lesson from the lawsuit is that there is no one-size-fits-all form agreement for a green construction project. What was needed here was a thorough understanding of existing state legislation. This legislation, when properly upheld, leads to tax credit in the case of a LEED project. Note to all contractors and project managers: do your research on any state or local legislation that requires a particular order of events prior to LEED certification. You will want to follow the necessary steps to achieve your certification, tax credit, or any other incentive.

December 22, 2009 at 3:54 pm 2 comments


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