LEED Certified Buildings Must Do Green Cleaning

A recent change to the indoor environmental quality section of the LEED Rating System mandates that buildings must implement a green cleaning policy in order to qualify for LEED Certification and re-certification. What this means is that companies and facility owners must approach cleaning in the same serious and committed fashion that they approach the building’s overall sustainability.

Healthy alternatives to traditional cleaners must also meet LEED standards in order to qualify. Such cleaning programs are highly accessible through the USGBC, International Sanity Supply Association, Green Seal, EPA, and other resources. One safe measure is to keep an eye out for labels that include caution statements such as “may cause severe eye irritation.” If these statements appear on a product label, the cleaning program probably does not qualify under LEED’s new standard. Some believe is costs less money to trade in traditional cleaning products for certified sustainable products than it does to pay for exposure control devices such as gloves, masks, goggles, and other methods of protection.

In addition, the new LEED standard asks suppliers to be fully transparent about the chemicals used in their products and then asks them to provide certified, safe alternative products. Under current U.S. regulations, cleaning product suppliers are not required to fully disclose chemicals in their products.

The updated 2012 LEED Rating System intends to ensure the long-term “staying power” of LEED Certification. In the process, the USGBC will be implementing more stringent criteria to help raise the bar for buildings.

January 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm Leave a comment

LEED Certification Project Submittal Tips

For anyone who has participated on a LEED-registered project, you are certainly aware of all the documentation that is involved in the process. You may be a LEED Green Associate or a LEED AP with Specialty, but no matter what your title is or how much experience you have in the building industry, it can be overwhelming and intimidating to submit a project for LEED Certification. You may be wondering what information the reviewers at the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) need to fully assess your work.

After years of individuals fretting over the LEED Certification project submittal process, the GBCI decided to post a set of LEED Project Submittal Tips for the five major commercial LEED rating systems, including both the current 2009 (v3) versions and the previous 2008 (or v2) versions.

These public documents share a wealth of tips for each credit and prerequisite. Before the GBCI made these documents available to all, individuals had to register with LEEDuser and consult the various Checklist tabs on the interface for credit guidance. Having a comprehensive resource like this, especially from the organization that ultimately determines the fate of your LEED project, will certainly benefit many who have worried and stressed over the process.

For those looking for more experience with LEED projects, Everblue Training Institute offers a class fully dedicated to earning LEED Project Experience. Not only do LEED Green Associates need project experience before attempting to achieve the LEED AP with Specialty status, but participating on a real project provides enhanced knowledge unmatched anywhere. Everblue assigns its students to a real project and walk them through the project submittal process every step of the way. Learn more about Everblue’s LEED Project Experience Online course.

What was once an overwhelming process has certainly been fine-tuned over time. There are a number of resources available to those who want experience working on a LEED project and who need guidance when going through the process. Take advantage of these resources so you can relax, enjoy the experience, and go through the project submittal process correctly the first time!

January 12, 2012 at 8:15 pm Leave a comment

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

Making LEED Certification More Efficient

The Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) is hoping to streamline the LEED Certification process to make it faster, with the goal of reducing the process to less than six months.

There is currently a backlog of projects waiting for LEED Certification approval. The CaGBC hope their new streamlined process will fix backlog problems and speed up the application process for participants.

Now that the CaGBC is seeing more demand for LEED Certification, they also see a need to create a more streamlined process. This is their attempt to better serve the market and encourage growth and expansion of LEED Certification across the country.

Changes include shortening the three-stage certification process to two stages for LEED Canada NC 1.0 and LEED Canada CS 1.0 projects, investing in more sophisticated technology to improve the administration of certification, and introducing a design review process. The CaGBC has also hired four new review teams to work on certifying projects and addressing backlogs.

These changes should make LEED Green Associates and LEED APs happy, as concerns have risen that LEED documentation is too confusing and that LEED Certification takes too long. The CaGBC changes should please the individuals who participate in LEED projects.

December 28, 2011 at 3:41 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

Introducing the LEED Volume Program

The USGBC recently announced a new program that will streamline the LEED Certification process for multiple buildings. The LEED Volume Program, as it is called, is available for many of the LEED Rating Systems, including LEED AP Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (EBOM). The purpose of the program is to enable an organization to certify a large number of its existing buildings or new construction projects all at once. The LEED Volume Program establishes verifiable guidelines and simplifies the LEED documentation process.If an organization has integrated sustainable strategies into multiple buildings, they can apply the approved LEED prototype credit to the LEED Certifications of each building. Retailers and hotel chains with a prototypical building are well suited to participate in this program. The LEED Volume Program for existing buildings is compatible with a wide range of market sectors including commercial offices, hospitals, retail, government, and higher education.

This program will enable LEED Green Associates and LEED APs handling the documentation requirements of their LEED projects to meet bulk requirements. This makes the entire process less stressful for those in charge. An organization must define a prototype by choosing a set of prerequisites and credits that are common to all the projects it plans to certify. These can be either technical or managerial uniform practices. The GBCI will “precertify” a prototype or a series of prototypes. Project managers would then apply for certification of actual buildings, relying on the pre-approved documentation and providing additional information only for credits that differ from the prototype.

One stipulation of this streamlined process is that project managers must develop a quality control plan that outlines tools and processes that will be used to consistently meet the LEED credit requirements on all buildings that will be certified. The quality control plan will be accompanied by an education plan, to ensure all participants on the LEED project understand the green building strategies that are being implemented.

In theory, this is a great idea. It’ll be interesting to see how successful this program is. For individuals who are fully entrenched in the industry, and have acquired LEED accreditation, the LEED Volume Program must be a blessing to them. Those who understand the LEED documentation requirements inside and out will be thankful that the USGBC is giving them this opportunity to develop a prototype that will be applied to multiple projects. It will certainly reduce stress and, hopefully, the level of paperwork involved. I’m sure it will take a while to work out the kinks, but in the end, this should be a very simple and helpful program for LEED Certification.

December 15, 2011 at 1:07 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

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