Tag Archives: LEED

Quick Reads on LEED

1. Challenges Seeking LEED Status in Older Buildings

Pursuing certification through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system can create major challenges for maintenance and engineering managers. The task is even greater when the institutional and commercial facilities date back to the days of Thomas Jefferson.

“It certainly presents a challenge for us to access the HVAC and lighting systems to repair and replace them without causing any further damage to the building,” says Ryan Taylor, zone maintenance superintendent for central grounds at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, whose responsibilities include many of the original buildings designed by Jefferson. “We have to work closely with our historic preservation team to make sure we’re following the appropriate procedures and using proper materials for the repairs. We work closely with them to identify major problems that we need to focus on and make sure we’re taking the right steps to prepare them properly so those buildings can be preserved.”

The university has 23 LEED-certified buildings — including one building at the platinum, four at the gold, and 12 at the silver levels — and infuses sustainability and LEED into its capital development process, from pre-planning to post-occupancy. The maintenance department plays a central role in the LEED-certification process from the development stage.

“On the maintenance side, we are involved in the design review process and work with the architects and engineers to make sure the systems being installed are maintenance-friendly,” Taylor says. “It’s a combination of looking at LEED and looking at maintenance-friendly systems that we can continue to maintain once the building is constructed or renovated.”

2.  Is LEED Broken?

Today’s tip of the day is about what we can learn from LEED’s critics.

Oftentimes, the natural response to criticism is to get defensive, dig in your heels, and then counterattack. But that is usually less productive and more polarizing. To avoid such a reaction and instead open a dialogue is the key finding common ground and moving forward.

With that in mind, one of the more fascinating sessions at Greenbuild 2013 was titled “What We Can Learn From LEED’s Critics.” The session, presented by Tristan Roberts of BuildingGreen, Rob Watson of ECON Group (and who carries the “Father of LEED” moniker), and Pamela Lippe of E4 Inc., broke LEED criticisms into three main categories, and then examined the validity of each, and how USGBC has responded.

The first criticism is that the LEED process is broken — this covered both the rating system development process, as well as the certification process. To address the first, USGBC says it has maintained an open, iterative process to the rating system development process, as evidenced by the more than 20,000 public comments over six comment periods, and then the 86 percent approval when LEED v4 was put to a vote. They‘ve also drastically cut down on the time between submission and certification — 85 percent of projects are ruled on within 25 days of submission. That’s a vast improvement.

The second criticism is that LEED is not vigorous enough. You hear this one a lot from the vocal critics who say a LEED certified building isn’t any better than a traditional. USGBC is working diligently to compile more LEED data — now requiring all LEED registered projects to submit five years of water and energy data — to show that LEED buildings are, indeed, more environmentally responsible than traditional. During this discussion, Rob Watson unleashed the quote of the conference: “If your building isn’t performing, it’s your fault. Not LEED’s.” How true.

The third criticism is that LEED is too complex and too expensive. You commonly hear this from folks who think LEED certification is simply “buying a plaque” and that the constant updates to LEED make it impossible to keep up. No one would deny that LEEDv4 is a giant step forward in terms of rigor, but that’s what is needed to move the market, says USGBC. And as for “buying a plaque,” reasonable minds can disagree on the value of certification itself, but USGBC has always said that a third-party review is what really motivates projects teams to stay the course and follow through.

3.  LEED Dynamic Plaque May Lead To Better LEED Performance

Today’s tip of the day is about the performance of LEED certified buildings, and the new LEED Dynamic Plaque.

One of the hallmarks of a high-performance building is one that performs, highly. If that sounds to you like some sort of Jedi Mind Trick of circular reasoning, you’re not totally wrong. But there’s still much to unpack there — especially when you consider the long-standing snipe about supposedly high-performance, LEED-certified buildings that they were more about the checklist, and less about the actual performance.

Last year, at Greenbuild, concurrent with its roll-out of the new LEEDv4 system, which emphasizes performance and human health, U.S. Green Building Council also re-introduced its new vision for how buildings will be scored and monitored in the future: the LEED Dynamic Plaque. (Video of USGBC’s Scot Horst’s presentation is here.)

The LEED Dynamic Plaque — the concept was first introduced at Greenbuild 2012, but now, there is actually a real, live plaque being piloted in USGBC’s own Platinum space — gives users a real-time display of how the building is doing in the areas of water, waste, energy, transportation, and human experience. So now longer will LEED be a set-it-and-forget-it proposition – every user of the building from Day 1 forward will be able to see how the building is performing. And therefore, everyone will know whether or not it truly is a high-performance building as a LEED certification seemingly promises.

While transparency of data for all seems like a great idea in theory, the idea of the LEED Dynamic Plaque may make more than a few facility managers nervous. What if the building isn’t actually performing as intended? Who gets the blame?

But progressive facility managers see any data as an opportunity, especially when that data specifically shows opportunity. The LEED Dynamic Plaque will show occupants and upper managers alike — far outside the confines of a budget-request power point or an energy data spreadsheet — that the organization has a building it can be proud of.

4.  What Is High-Performance Building?

Today’s tip of the day is about the meaning of the term “high-performance building.” “High-performance” is actually a much more encompassing, and frankly, more accurate, term than “green” when it comes to describing the buildings facility managers own, manage, and maintain. But what does “high-performance” actually mean? Does it mean LEED-certified buildings that are energy and water efficient? Facilities that are people-friendly and get high marks from occupants for creature comforts? Highly automated, integrated buildings that turn big data into big efficiency gains with smart analytics? The answer, of course, is yes. A high-performance building is all of those things and more. The key to a high-performance building is optimization and integration of all things — whether fan speeds or fire safety, whether landscaping or lighting efficiency. It means thinking on both a micro and macro level about how building systems interact, and how building occupants interact with those systems. Yes, “high-performance” does tend to have a bit more to it than the traditional definition of green (a building that is environmentally responsible). Thinking about making a building “high-performance” means considering aspects of the building— fire/life-safety, ADA compliance, communication plans, even art work or other occupant-focused “bonuses” — that were certainly also considered in a green building, but may not have been emphasized. “High-performance” is how those in the industry will think about and define successful buildings in the future.

Source: Facilitiesnet

Ensuring the Most Energy Efficient Equipment

How can facility managers make sure they’re getting the most energy efficiency out of new or upgraded building equipment?

Ongoing energy use measurement and diagnostics will help optimize energy performance and keep building systems operating smoothly. There are new building energy management applications which bridge between data collection to diagnostics, alerts, and work orders, but an excellent facilities manager is the key to success. It’s also a tremendous asset to have tenant billed for actual energy consumption. Sub-metering tenant spaces with easily accessible, simple energy reports allow both building owners and tenants to understand energy use and costs. This transparency makes it easier to keep things running as planned and adapt as necessary.

Answers provided by Wendy Fok, project director, High Performance Demonstration Project of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Center for Market Innovation.

Source: http://www.facilitiesnet.com/energyefficiency/article/Ensuring-the-Most-Energy-Efficient-Equipment–14995?source=part

Net zero energy for retail is possible

green energy chicago
Jason Robbins, Walgreens manager of mechanical engineering, and Jamie Meyers, manager of sustainability at Walgreens, discuss the energy-efficient technologies used in the net-zero drugstore in Evanston.

Imagine paying pennies for your utility bill. Better yet, imagine paying nothing. That’s the chimera architects, scientists, and building owners have chased for decades. “Net-zero” energy is a simple enough concept; it’s the idea that a building can produce enough renewable energy on-site to cancel out its consumption. But it has taken decades for technology to catch up with such a lofty goal. High costs and inefficient hardware created a barrier to entry that few but the most idealistic attempted to overcome. For most consumers, the return on investment wasn’t worth mainstream implementation. The economics may still be a stretch for many, but a proliferation of energy-conscious projects—several of them in Chicago—suggests we may be approaching a new dawn.

In November, Deerfield-based Walgreens became the first major US retailer on record to create a net-zero energy store, in the North Shore burg of Evanston. And it heralds the arrival of Chicago as a national leader that is breaking ground not only in the retail arena, but in the educational, residential, and farming sectors as well. “The industry as a whole considers net zero for retail impossible,” says Jason Robbins, manager of mechanical engineering for Walgreens, “until the first company does and shows that it is possible.”

In that case, consider the door blown open. Thanks to solar, wind, and geothermal technologies, the Evanston store is not only scheduled to reduce its required consumption by 50 percent, it will also produce all the energy it requires. It has even recycled 85 percent of the old site’s new materials into the construction of the new one.

walgreens chicago
Cool air is delivered to Walgreens from geothermal pipes.

Walgreens engineers project that the store will consume only 220,000 kilowatt hours per year (compared to the 450,000 kWh a normal store scarfs down), while producing up to 256,000 kWh, given optimal weather conditions. Excess energy will be sold back to the utility companies.

Eight hundred and fifty roof-mounted solar panels accomplish most of this feat by covering 95 to 100 percent of the store’s needs, while two 35-foot wind turbines chip in another 10 percent and offset emissions from an estimated 2.2 passenger vehicles. Massive geothermal pipes sunk 550 feet into the ground deliver air from deep within the earth at a year-round temperature of 54.5, which means that the air conditioning unit needs to do less work than normal to bring the indoor temperature to a comfortable 72 degrees.

So why now? “The right technology is finally available, but the push over the past seven to 10 years has revolved around companies becoming more responsible,” explains Jamie Meyers, manager of sustainability for Walgreens. For Walgreens, it was the logical next step in a company philosophy that champions sustainability in more ways than just the utility bill. “We saw this as part of the mantle of leadership,” Meyers says. “If we want to [be true to our tagline] of being ‘at the corner of happy and healthy,’ what can we do to demonstrate that living well goes beyond our products?”

walgreens chicago
Solar panels provide 95 to 100 percent of the Evanston Walgreens’ energy needs.

A TV inside the store tracks wind direction and speed; the indoor and outdoor temperatures; the amount of solar gain; and the levels of carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases.

Part of the initiative is educating customers. With Walgreens headquartered in Deerfield, there’s no question that Chicago is on the forefront of the net-zero movement. And with its fleet of 8,200 stores growing at more than 100 per year, the key benefits of this project are sure to spread across the country. Walgreens has already advised other Chicagoland companies on how to replicate its success, though Meyers declined to reveal which ones.

But is net zero becoming a way of life? “That’s certainly where it’s heading,” Meyers says. “I don’t think we’re at a critical mass yet, but customers are discerning based on the reputation of the company, and they will demand innovation.”

Backyard Greens

the plant chicago
Leafy greens are grown in an aquaponic production system at The Plant.

On the opposite end of Chicagoland from affluent college town Evanston, a revolution is underway in the form of a very different net-zero initiative. Sprouting in the Back of the Yards is The Plant, a vertical-farming operation in the defunct meat-packing facility that used to house Peer Foods. Where men with knives once tore flesh and broke bones, horticulturists now nurture leafy green life.

The Plant was founded in 2010 when John Edel and his company, Bubbly Dynamics, bought the 93,500-square-foot building for a mere $525,000 with the aim of offering a local, sustainable alternative to wasteful food production. While a new construction might have cost them thousands of dollars per square foot, this deal had the mind-bogglingly low cost of approximately $5.50 per square foot. “It was sold as a strip-and-rip because of all the valuable materials, but what we want to do instead is continue to focus on food production and take advantage of this building’s energy efficiency,” says Abigail Lundrigan, The Plant’s education and marketing coordinator, as she leads a group of curious Chicagoans past the rickety freight elevators and through the insulated passageways of the labyrinthine brick building.

the plant chicago
One third of The Plant is dedicated to aquaponic cultivation of watercress and other plants.

A third of the building is devoted to aquaponic growth in the form of live fish (tilapia, to be exact), chard, watercress, arugula, and lettuce mix. Two thirds are set aside for a community education space, a commercial kitchen (rentable by the hour when completed), and work spaces for independent food professionals like a kombucha brewery, a beer brewery, a bakery, and more.

Thanks to The Plant’s sustainability measures, it diverts 30 tons of waste per day. Mirroring the symbiosis of nature, it works like this: Fish waste feeds the greens. A giant, 100-foot anaerobic digester turns food waste into algae for the fish and a fuel called “bio gas,” which burns with 91 percent efficiency in a generator, creating electricity for the grow lights and steam for heating and cooling. All food waste—whether it’s from the fish, the breweries, the plants, or the humans—is fed back into the digester, and all loops are closed. In the process, The Plant’s operators plans to create 125 jobs and divert 10,000 tons of food waste out of landfills each year.

More will follow, but already The Plant’s tenants include Arize Kombucha; Pleasant House Bakery; Nature’s Little Recyclers, a worm farm; Greens and Gills, a fish and farm aquaponic operation; and the Urban Canopy, an organization that aims to support agriculture in cities.

the plant chicago
Fresh bread is made at Peerless Bread & Jam (PB&J) bakery, a tenant of The Plant.

As much as Lundrigan and her team aim to develop The Plant into a producer in its own right, they hope that replication is another major byproduct. Though they’re only one-third through a five-to-seven-year process, they’ve already set a precedent of being transparent and specific about the sources of funding and regulations. “It’s unheard of, and it’s the Chicago way of doing things: Apologize later instead of begging permission,” Lundrigan says, noting that the Department of Agriculture, the inspecting agency, doesn’t really have protocols set up to deal with an urban farm.

The result: sustenance for a food desert, a resource for food entrepreneurs, a source of jobs in a distressed neighborhood, and a model for repurposing the industrial skeleton left behind as Chicago transitions from Carl Sandburg’s “tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities” into a greener place.

Conservation University

Over in McHenry County, Loyola University is developing a “Retreat and Ecology Campus” that aims to become net zero within the current decade. Wayne Magdziarz, senior vice president of capital planning, says it’s part of a much larger plan to green Loyola’s campuses and to provide a laboratory for future growth. The university has reduced about 34 percent of its consumption over the past four years, saving roughly $3 million per year. “We’ve embraced building green,” Magdziarz, says, referencing developments at both its Water Tower and Lake Shore campuses over the past decade. “We’re a Jesuit institution with a strong commitment to justice issues, and we believe we should be good stewards to the environment in order to live out our mission.”

The university retrofitted insulation, windows, and mechanical systems in existing buildings, which will reduce power demands by about 34 percent. “What’s completed to date is ‘net-zero ready,’” says Don McLauchlan, one of the principals at Elara Engineering, the firm that has overseen Loyola’s green projects for more than a decade. “That means we’ve made it as efficient as practically possible. What’s left is to add the renewable energy component.”

The plan: 91 geothermal wells driven 500 feet into the earth will handle heating and cooling, while photovoltaic panels, solar thermal cells, and wind turbines will harvest energy from the elements. There is also a biodiesel lab, which will generate 30,000 gallons of fuel from food waste across the campuses of Loyola and other institutions, including Northwestern.

“Chicago is clearly a leader,” McLauchlan says of the sustainability movement. “We’re seeing it in the private sector, too. Ask any manager of a downtown office building, and they will now know their Energy Star rating.”

The Hurdle

For all the drum banging about the admittedly impressive strides these Chicago institutions are making, we’re still years away from having compelling financial incentives for the average consumer to go net zero. “You want to be energy-efficient first, because the economics of net zero still aren’t quite there,” McLauchlan says. “Renewable energy is still very expensive, but just proving that it’s possible is a first big step.”

Karen Weigert
Karen Weigert, Chicago’s first chief sustainability officer.

Certain policies, such as President Obama’s “20 by 2020” initiative (a mandate that federal buildings generate 20 percent of their energy renewably within the next six years), provide some motivation. So does Chicago’s own Sustainable Chicago 2015 project, an aggressive plan to green the city over three years led by Chicago’s first-ever chief sustainability officer, Karen Weigert. “We should be about a third of the way done, but in a number of cases, we’re ahead,” Weigert explains, pointing to signs of progress: over 10,000 annual Divvy Bike memberships; a 65 percent increase in retrofitting activity in energy efficiency zones; 75 miles of water mains replaced; and groundbreaking on the 2.7-mile Bloomingdale Trail (the anticipated elevated trail system that will run through Bucktown, Wicker Park, Humboldt Park, and Logan Square), with its first phase opening to the public this fall. So far, though, many developing net-zero projects are doing so for philosophical reasons.

“I’m designing every home at a LEED Silver base level,” says William Scholtens, principal and founder of Elements Architectural Group, a residential design firm based in Oak Park. “I don’t see clients asking for it yet; I sense that it’s us keeping the conversation going.”

William Scholtens
William Scholtens of Elements Architectural Group designs every home to LEED Silver standards.

Scholtens recently transformed an 1880s row house in Lincoln Park into a LEED Platinum gem. Like the Loyola campus, the Lincoln Park home is currently net-zero ready and is equipped for photovoltaics, which convert solar radiation into electricity. In the few years since its completion, the architect and his client have discussed the pros and cons of taking it all the way, but to add the solar-harvesting component would be too pricey. “The cost to add photovoltaics to the home is close to $100,000,” Scholtens explains. “His energy bill is currently $100 to $200 a month. That’s a 50-year payback.” For the technology to become more widely adopted, “it needs to get cheaper,” he says. “As cost goes down and efficiency goes up, we might have a shot.”

Scholtens doesn’t believe any of this diminishes Chicago’s position at the forefront of the movement, largely because the city has become a go-to national resource. “One of the things Chicago is doing that’s leading the way is the amount of green professionals we have,” Scholtens says, as he runs through a list of places—upstate New York; Cape Cod; Marin County, California; even Hawaii—all of which have net-zero residential developments that Scholtens has been involved with. “I see us as an exporter of the [net-zero] mind-set.”

In the meantime, technological advances like fusion energy and more accessible photovoltaics in the form of shingles and window panes suggest that a financially viable net-zero future may be just around the corner—and Chicago is leading the charge.

Read more at http://michiganavemag.com/living/articles/chicago-institutions-lead-the-way-with-eco-friendly-practices#ZZHAVegKWiCuMlLY.99

California’s First Net Zero Energy Library

Editor’s Foreword: During my college years, I used to swing by the West Berkeley Public Library on University Avenue after shopping at the nearby art stores for my studio projects. I remember its dismal entrance, dim lighting, and run-down furniture squeezed into tight quarters. I’m so excited to learn that it has been replaced with a beautiful, modern, and green building, which is the first zero net energy library in California designed to have a net zero annual energy bill. Currently the library is undergoing ZNE verification with the City of Berkeley and the commissioning agent. Verification is a year-long process in which the monthly reports from the energy dashboard are reviewed.

The new NZE West Berkeley Public Library nicely anchors the urban street frontage on University Avenue in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Mark Luthringer)

The West Berkeley Public Library (WBPL) is a new 9,339 square foot structure located in a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood of Berkeley, California. The project cost is $7.5 million and was completed in October 2013, under budget. The facility is designed for a code maximum of 252 occupants. The new design gives the library a prominent position on the street, increasing its visibility in the community. The WBPL serves a diverse population and features programs for adults, teens, and children. The library’s large collections of Latino, East Indian, and Asian material reflect the cultural diversity and needs of the neighborhood.

Interior view of the NZE West Berkeley Public Library designed by Harley Ellis Devereaux. (Photo by Mark Luthringer)

Overall Project Goals:

In 2009, the City of Berkeley published its Climate Action Plan, seeking to reduce its Green House Gas emissions to 33% below 2000 levels by 2020. Upon auditing its building portfolio, the city quickly realized that the only way to achieve this goal would be to have all new city buildings achieve ZNE performance. The city decided to begin with a library funded by Berkeley residents under a bond issue and issued a RFP. Harley Ellis Devereaux prevailed as the winning design team due to the strength of its proposal for a ZNE design — the only ZNE proposal received by the City.

In addition to being responsive to Berkeley’s policy objectives, the proposal also addressed State of California ZNE policies, which call for all new residential and commercial construction to be ZNE by 2020 and 2030 respectively. PG&E, a large utility serving northern California, launched its ZNE Pilot Program in 2010 and selected the WBPL project as a ZNE case study. PG&E provided funding and became a partner in supporting the analytical and modeling work for the project.

Challenges included the tight urban setting and high traffic area. Through an exploration of various design strategies, the team came up with an innovative design balancing the needs of the community and site restrictions with its energy efficiency goals. The WBPL will have a net zero annual energy bill each year and a zero carbon footprint.

Site and Floor Plan of the West Berkeley Public Library. (Image courtesy Harley Ellis Devereaux)

Energy Performance Goals:

Roof Design and Natural Ventilation

The Zero Net Energy (ZNE) approach had a profound impact on the design process. The starting point for the entire design was the building’s roof. Through modeling, the design team determined the optimal roof configuration and designed the rest of the building to maximize energy efficiency. Optimizing the renewal energy production resulted in a compact volume to maximize an even roof plane for the installation of solar panels. Passive strategies then had to be developed to ensure that the energy consumption of the building would not exceed the energy production on the roof. Specific climate data was analyzed. Solar radiation would be used for photovoltaics, and wind was identified as a naturally available energy source to be used as an engine to drive natural ventilation through the building.

Diagram showing the ZNE and green design features of the West Berkeley Public Library. (Image courtesy Harley Ellis Devereaux)

Due to noise levels from a very busy front street the south façade could not have operable windows. To make the natural flow of air through the building work, a wind chimney was developed so that the steady breeze from the San Francisco Bay could be employed to blow over the extended front facade in such a way that a negative pressure behind the top portion of the front facade combined with louvers in this area would pull the air through.

A small garden forms a micro-climate to the north side of the building so that fresh air for natural ventilation can also be drawn from here.

Natural ventilation in combination with a radiant flooring system for heating and cooling as well as thermal mass are integrated into an overall system so that no conventional air handling system is needed. CO2 sensors connected through the beams to the window motors will ensure that the windows open when fresh air is needed.

Plenty of natural daylighting provides sufficient lighting in the West Berkeley Public Library. (Photo by Mark Luthringer)


In order to maximize the use of day light, the main front facade receives a large window wall over the full width of the main library space. This south facing glazing is equipped with a horizontal solar shading system. Skylights are north facing to minimize glare impact of direct sunlight. The position of large window walls on the north and south side of the main library space allows for views through the building. The finish floor is elevated several feet above street level providing a sense of safety and a comfortable view to the urban environment.

A reading nook in the children area is generously glazed towards the small garden.

Internally borrowed light through glazed walls and clerestory windows let internal spaces connect to the natural light. Artificial light sources are installed close to the areas where light is actually needed. Book stack lighting for example is attached to the top of the stacks to focus all light on the books.

Lighting for the book stacks in the West Berkeley Public Library comes from built-in energy efficient light fixtures above the stacks rather than relying on general ambient lighting. (Photo by Mark Luthringer)


The ZNE West Berkeley Public Library building far exceeds the 2030 Commitment because over the course of a year, it is expected to balance out the energy it produces with the energy consumed resulting in an annual EUI (energy use intensity) of zero. PG&E believes that based on the energy modeling and the increased efficiency of the PV panels, the building may actually be a net positive generator of electricity.

  • The project relies upon the sun to provide renewable energy through the combination of a PV system for electricity production and a solar thermal system for hot water generation for the radiant floor heating.
  • The internal electrical loads used for lighting are reduced by the extensive presence and use of daylight. Large shaded windows on the north and south elevations are balanced with smaller ones on the east elevation. The west facade is a highly insulated solid wall. The ratio of window openings to solid wall is balanced to minimize heat losses with day-lighting gains.
  • To reduce plug loads, the design team selected Energy Star rated and high efficient appliances. The service desk has a laptop charging station where the distribution of laptop computers can be controlled.
  • Since no forced air system is used and ventilation is provided completely naturally, and extensive daylight is achieved with skylights throughout the building, the building can be used even when there is a power outage.
  • Natural gas usage was eliminated from the building design; thus all thermal loads are satisfied with a solar-thermal system.

Diagram showing how the mixed-mode operating system works in different seasons at the West Berkeley Public Library. (Image courtesy Harley Ellis Devereaux)


The AIA 2030 Commitment uses EPA’s Target Finder as a reference standard and the EUI target for Libraries is 104. The WBPL’s total EUI is 25 kBtu/sf/year, a 76% reduction from the national average EUI for this type of building. The library is a net positive building, with a Net EUI of 11.1 kBtu/sf/year (Total energy generation of 36.1 kBtu/sf/year – 25 kBtu/sf/year = 11.1kbtu/sf/yr).

Interior view of clerestory windows in the West Berkeley Public Library. (Photo by Mark Luthringer)

Other Performance Goals:

Ecology and Water

The West Berkeley Public Library occupies over 82% of the site, presenting a creative challenge to meet and balance all stormwater management, landscape restoration, public use, and accessibility goals. On this fully developed urban site, stormwater runoff is filtered, cleaned, and detained before it gets discharged into the City’s storm drainage system and the San Francisco Bay. All roof runoff is collected in flow-through planters integrated into the base of the building. In these constructed planters, vegetation and specially designed sandy soils filter and clean the water.

At-grade planting beds also filter runoff from the paved surfaces before leaving the site while providing some ground water recharge. In addition to mechanical and biological cleaning of the water, the planters are designed to detain both routine and major flood flows before the runoff enters the City’s storm drainage system, thus mitigating serious downstream flooding problems. All plantings were selected for their drought tolerance and ability to survive in a healthy condition in the local climate with minimal water-efficient irrigation and seasonal pulses of rainwater. Potable water use is reduced by 58.2% from the LEED baseline.

The top of a Flow-Through Planter can be seen at the base of the building. Its specially designed soil and selection of planting help filter and clean stormwater. (Photo by Mark Luthringer)

Flexibility and Adaptability

The project was also carefully designed for long-term flexibility and adaptability. The library stacks are designed to be large and airy, in anticipation of needing less books and shelving in the future (with the advent of new media). The multi-purpose room serves as an additional reading room as well as a community meeting room, which can also be used as a stand-alone space after hours. The PV panels are mounted on stanchions as opposed to having the racks mounted directly on the roof. This design allows water flow on the roof to be unimpeded and allows for future technology without impacting the roof itself.

Interior view of the West Berkeley Public Library in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Mark Luthringer)

Material Selection

Exterior walls of the WBPL building consist of:

  • Swiss Pearl cement composite panel rain screen system for both thermal and moisture control performance.
  • FSC DreamDex wood rain screen exterior assembly.
  • Cement plaster at remaining areas.
  • 3×8 FSC wood studs at 24” o.c. with Roxul mineral rock wool insulation.

The Roxul insulation was selected for its excellent thermal, hydrothermal, fire resistant, and acoustical performance as well as its minimal impact on the environment because of its all-natural materials. R-30 was achieved with two layers of 3.5” of rock wool in the walls and R-40 was achieved with two 6” layers of rock wool in the roof assembly.

Dreamdex, a resin impregnated pine wood exterior siding material, was selected for its durability and promise of low maintenance requirements over its life. Unfortunately Dreamdex was discontinued with barely sufficient warehouse stock available for the project duration, thus Harley Ellis Devereaux worked closely with the builder throughout construction to take great care in minimizing waste by careful selection and placement of the siding material. The rain screen details were also modified to decrease its installation complexity, which minimized mistakes, wastage and reduced the amount of required furring channels by 1/3 as well as the amount of Dreamdex wastage.

The West Berkeley Public Library at dusk. (Photo by Mark Luthringer)

Public Transportation and Walkability

The West Berkeley Public Library does not have any on-site parking. The library’s central location in the neighborhood offers patrons close proximity to public transportation. Bus and train lines are all within walking distance. The library also has adequate space for bike parking. Many of the patrons enjoy walking to the library and shopping in nearby stores.

Project Team:

  • Architect and MEP Engineer: Harley Ellis Devereaux
  • Audio Visual: Smith, Fause, and McDonald Inc.
  • Civil Engineer: Moran Engineering
  • Landscape Architect: John Northmore Roberts and Associates
  • Mechanical/Electrical Engineer: Timmons Design Engineers
  • Signage: Bruning + Associates Design
  • Structural Engineer: Tipping Mar
  • General Contractor: West Bay Builders
  • Construction Manager: Kitchell CEM

Source: GABReport

LEED-Certified Buildings Are Often Less Energy-Efficient Than Uncertified Ones

The term “going green” is gaining favor with a growing number of companies. Look no further than “green” certification plaques displayed outside buildings, or the litany of products on store shelves labeled organic. For those concerned with keeping up appearances, going green has never been easier. But for business owners focused on creating value for customers, it’s never been more wasteful.

So-called “green” buildings provide a useful example. A host of organizations are in the business of rating buildings based on environmental standards, but the mere existence of a rating system doesn’t make these organizations credible.

One such rating system is LEED, or the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards. LEED is managed by the U.S. Green Building Council, a privately run non-profit, and promoted by Uncle Sam. However, despite its name, LEED doesn’t actually require buildings to prove that they’re ahead of the curve on energy and water efficiency.

Applicants can acquire LEED status merely by offering computer models that project the building will meet a certain threshold. Moreover, they can do this even before the building is occupied. After that, buildings don’t have to demonstrate continued efficiency. It’s like telling your parents you’ll take care of the house while they’re away and then throwing a huge party, except in this case your parents never return to see the damage.

The LEED rating system is also gimmicky. Installing a bike rack gets you a point, while adding only the minimum number of parking spaces scores you two. This allows buildings to take the easiest and cheapest path to green glory without actually doing much for the environment. LEED developer Rob Watson has even admitted to “[throwing] a few gimmes in there.” In turn, some environmentalists have rightly criticized LEED as mere “greenwashing.”

Even though building developers can easily game the system, LEED certification can still add significant costs to a new building. These costs are often borne by taxpayers. The General Services Administration estimates that soft costs alone, such as fees for LEED consultants, add about $150,000 to the price of a new federal building. That figure doesn’t even include added construction costs to achieve LEED status.

Unsurprisingly, research shows that LEED-certified buildings are often less energy-efficient than their uncertified counterparts. One study found that even in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Green Building Council’s own backyard, many of the LEED-certified buildings were the least energy-efficient of all comparable buildings.

By comparison, consider Energy Star, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) own green building rating system. Unlike LEED, buildings must submit actual utility bills before they can claim the Energy Star seal. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, therefore, that comparisons have shown no correlation between LEED certification and a high Energy Star score.

There’s nothing wrong with saving energy, but unfortunately “green” building ratings systems such as LEED offer little more than a plaque and a press release. What’s worse, these rating systems make buildings more expensive to build, and thus to occupy. And as more of LEED-certified buildings crop up across the country, businesses operating on thin margins will find it increasingly difficult to find affordable space.

Much of the same can be said of another “green” scheme, this one pushed by organic food activists: labeling of foods containing genetically engineered ingredients, or GMOs. In defiance of science, many environmental activists decry genetically engineered crops like corn and soy, promoting “GMO-free” foods as the “greener” option.

Far from being bad for the environment, GMOs are actually quite beneficial. Using modern biotechnology, GMOs allow farmers to grow more food on less land, helping both the environment as well as the economy. Forcing farmers to return to old agricultural practices would reduce food production and raise prices, making it harder for American families to put food on the table.

Indeed, some green activists are now trying to force states to label foods that contain GMOs, but studies show such efforts would increase food costs—adding up to $450 to a family’s annual grocery bill. An outright ban on GMOs would only inflict more pain on American households.

The most well-respected scientific and medical associations in the world find that GMOs are A-OK. This “who’s who” list of the scientific community includes the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, British Royal Society, World Health Organization, American Medical Association and American Association for the Advancement of Science. It seems the only groups opposed to GMOs are environmental activists pushing a political agenda.

A look beyond the rhetoric and into the science exposes many so-called “green” schemes as expensive scams. We all want to show Mother Nature some love, but don’t be fooled by corporate tricks that play on our green sympathies. Instead, ride a bike to work, plant a tree, or do some composting. It’s the difference between being green and simply spending more green.

By Anastasia Swearingen — Anastasia Swearingen is a senior research analyst at Berman and Company.

Source: Forbes

A LEED Platinum house helped this home owner reduce her energy bills by nearly 1/3 this past winter

Dolores Watson stands in front of her home in Cleveland’s Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood. She owns the house, but the local community land trust owns the land on which it stands. She said the agreement enabled her to get a new house with green technologies. She shows the certificate certifying her house as LEED platinum, a certification which includes high energy efficiency. (Lonnie Timmons, III, The Plain Dealer)

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The colonial with brick-red siding and white trim on Pear Avenue in the city’s Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood belongs to Dolores Watson. The land beneath it has another owner.

This may sound like the makings of a real estate horror story, but it is not. The land on which the house sits is owned by the Land Trust, a program of Neighborhood Housing Services of Cleveland, or NHS. In fact, Watson is quite pleased with the arrangement.

“My house was affordable!” she said of the home she bought in 2009 for about $125,000, which was a newly constructed environmentally green building.

A primary goal of community land trusts is to create a permanent stock of affordable and moderately priced housing. Such trusts can also play a role in preventing foreclosures. Additionally, the trusts have the power to shape land usage by supporting certain types of development, such as green housing.

There will be a local spotlight on the movement this week. The national conference of the National Community Land Trust Network, or the Network, will be held Sunday through Wednesday at the Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center.

The local land trust is early in its development. The NHS program retains control of the land at seven homes, including Watson’s, and has another house for sale in Shaker Heights. The trust is rehabbing four homes for sale in South Euclid. The trust also has nine rental units in Shaker Heights, primarily used by entrepreneurs in the LaunchHouse Accelerator and a four-unit apartment building in Ohio City.

One theme runs throughout most of the projects: allowing those without big budgets to benefit from green housing.

Watson’s house is LEED certified platinum. This means it has reached the highest green level for projects of its kind under the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design program. The house is in the Cleveland EcoVillage, where the focus is on environmentally friendly housing and lifestyles.

When the polar vortex hit Cleveland this past winter, Watson didn’t have to fret about having high energy bills.

“I am saving a ton of money on the gas bill,” said Watson, who works at the nonprofit Earth Day Coalition. “I have lived in an apartment, in which during a not particularly cold winter, I would routinely pay $100 or more for a gas bill. My budget billing has been dropped to $32 a month for the whole house.”

The 1,400-square-foot house doesn’t have solar panels, but derives much of its energy savings from being extremely well insulated.

Watson’s house was appraised with a market value of $160,000 when it was built more than five years ago, said David Rothstein, NHS’ director of resource development and public affairs. The land trust put in $35,000 so that the house would be in the target price point.

“We don’t actually break out land value, per se, when we price a house,” he said in an email. “We look at what will be affordable to a moderate-income buyer — about $30,000-$35,000 in household income — and then (we) raise enough subsidy to bring the cost down to that level.”

Buying a house in connection with a land trust may appear antithetical to the widely held value of homeownership representing a piece of the American Dream: Homeowners don’t own the land, they lease it for 99 years. When they sell, there are restrictions on how high the resale price may be. Gone are the notions of viewing a home as an ever-appreciating investment that can be tapped like a piggy bank.

“I didn’t have any trouble with the fact that somebody else owns the land, and I own the house,” Watson said. “I think it is a novel concept whose time has come.”

Even if Northeast Ohio’s real estate market heats up, as it did in the mid 2000s before the bust, Watson isn’t concerned that she won’t be able to cash-in on such appreciation. To her, ensuring that housing remains affordable is a more important goal.

“Sometimes you just have to be willing to pay it forward,” she said.

Melora Hiller, executive director of the Network, said community trust homes could help with neighborhood stabilization. Because homeowners have secured affordable housing, they often return to school, start businesses or pursue other goals since money isn’t being diverted into ever-increasing rents or mortgages so high that families struggle to keep pace. She said people in land trust houses generally stay in their homes longer than other homeowners.

Land trust homes can also ward off foreclosures, which have been a major driver of neighborhood destabilization in Northeast Ohio by creating large swaths of abandoned homes. In many city neighborhoods, some of the foreclosed homes had been bought with assistance from programs aimed at making homeownership more affordable. However, these homeowners refinanced mortgages for riskier products that led to them losing their homes.

Hiller said during the foreclosure crises, land trust homes had one-eighth the number of foreclosures. Owning the land meant that trusts were usually notified when homeowners tried to refinance or if they were falling behind with their mortgage.

“It is not to say that a foreclosure could never happen, but there are so many protections put in place,” Hiller said.

If a foreclosure proved inevitable, she said a land trust would usually be given the first right of refusal in acquiring the home.

Rothstein said he believes the land trust could play a role in lowering local foreclosure rates and dealing with their aftermath. In Cuyahoga County in 2013, there were 10,215 new foreclosure filings, he said. That was down from 2012, when there were 13,234.

“What we see are the total number of foreclosure filings falling, but still at historically high levels,” he said. “Programs like the Land Trust model will help communities deal with the onslaught of vacant and abandoned houses.”

Hiller said holding the conference in Cleveland is fitting because it gives an opportunity to see the range that land trusts have to offer. They can work in places like Cleveland as well as in places like Orcas Island, Washington, where property values were rising so rapidly that they were pricing out all but the wealthy. Affordable housing was needed for workers from coffee house baristas to teachers and firefighters.

“The community land trust model is a really flexible tool, so it can be used in cool housing markets as well as hot markets,” she said.

View original article here: http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2014/04/homeowner_likes_happy_she_does.html

LEED v4 Expands Acoustic Performance In Multiple Areas

n addition to Schools and Healthcare, LEED Building Design and Construction (BD+C) v4 expands acoustic performance into several other variations of the rating system, such as New Construction, Data Centers, and Hospitality. LEED Interior Design and Construction (ID+C) v4 also includes a new EQ credit for Acoustic Performance.

LEED BD+C v4 EQ Prerequisite: Minimum Acoustic Performance (Schools only). This Schools-only prerequisite ratchets up the v2009 criteria by specifying a maximum HVAC background noise level of 40 dBA. A new requirement requires high-noise sites to implement measures to mitigate sound transmission into core learning spaces (including between spaces).

Core learning spaces at or over 20,000 cubic feet will need to reduce the reverberation time in accordance with the 2002 NRC-CNRC Construction Technology Update No. 51, Acoustical Design of Rooms for Speech (or local equivalent). Spaces under 20,000 cubic feet must either exhibit sound-absorbent finishes (NRC rating of 0.70 or higher) that equal or exceed the ceiling area, or teams must confirm conformance to ANSI Standard S12.60-2010.

LEED BD+C v4 EQ Credit: Acoustic Performance (1 point). Unlike the Schools-only prerequisite, this credit also applies to LEED for New Construction, Data Centers, Warehouses & Distribution Centers, Hospitality, and Commercial Interiors. There is Schools-specific credit language and the two-point Healthcare-2009 EQc2 credit is also parsed.

New Construction, Data Centers, Warehouses & Distribution Centers, Hospitality, and Commercial Interiors Criteria: Teams shall minimize HVAC background noise per the 2011 ASHRAE Handbook, HVAC Applications, Chapter 48, Table 1 or AHRI Standard 885-2008, Table 15 (or a local equivalent). Teams must calculate or measure sound levels to confirm compliance. The credit also references the ASHRAE 2011 Applications Handbook, Table 6 (or a local equivalent) for maximum allowable HVAC noise levels resulting from sound transmission paths.

Next, teams must meet the composite STCc ratings and reverberation time requirements as tabulated in the LEED credit language. Lastly, for large conference rooms and assembly spaces, teams shall address the need for sound reinforcement systems. If needed, teams shall meet the specified Speech Transmission Index (STI) or Common Intelligibility Scale (CIS) rating, keep sound levels at or below 70 dBA, and maintain specified sound-level coverage. For projects that use masking systems, the design levels must not exceed 48 dBA.

Schools Criteria: Building off of the schools-specific prerequisite, HVAC background noise levels may not exceed 35 dBA. The credit also requires projects to meet ANSI Standard S12.60-2010, Part 1, except windows — which must have an STC rating of at least 35 unless noise levels can be verified to justify a lower rating.

Healthcare Criteria: The healthcare-specific criteria is basically the Healthcare-2009 EQc2: Acoustic Environment criteria with some minor revisions to the credit language. The two basic options remain:

Option 1: Address speech privacy, sound isolation, and background noise (1-2 points).

Option 2: Acoustical finishes and site exterior noise (1 point).

LEED O+M v4 EQ Credit: Occupant Comfort Survey. Even the Occupant Comfort Survey credit within LEED Building Operations and Maintenance (O+M) v4 requires an acoustic evaluation. This underscores the green building industry’s increasing understanding that our sense of hearing plays a significant factor in comfort, wellness, and the ability to perform in a space.

Daniel Overbey, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, is the director of sustainable design practices for Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects in Indianapolis. He can be reached atdoverbey@bdmd.com.

LEED-EBOM Commissioning Credits Focus On Maintaining Efficient Operations

LEED for New Construction currently provides elements that help link design and construction to operations, but because many are voluntary, they are typically underused. The most apparent opportunity exists within two areas of the Energy and Atmosphere category. The enhanced commissioning credit in the New Construction rating system specifically helps to bridge the gap from the end of design and construction to the operational phase. Specifically, incorporating commissioning activities such as opposed season systems testing generates a track record of operations and performance to analyze and troubleshoot ahead of long-term operations. Commissioning credits in LEED-EBOM pick up right where the New Construction system leaves off, leveraging the fact that, as performance decay never stops, neither should commissioning to help maintain efficient operations.

Even if a building was never commissioned in the first place, the best place to focus efforts is probably in the associated commissioning credits of LEED-EBOM. Either picking up where the design and construction commissioning agent left off, keeping the same commissioning agent on board for the early years of operation, or starting from scratch with the commissioning activities outlined in LEED-EBOM will likely provide substantial gains in operational efficiency. If it is possible to retain the design and construction commissioning agent during the operational phase of a building, it will be easier to incorporate knowledge about design direction, challenges, obstacles, and strategic success into the building’s operational life and future performance successes. Otherwise, building staff hired late in construction, or even after a building is occupied, will not gain the benefit of a building’s early history and lessons learned. Each building is unique in regard to where it has been and where it is going operationally, and the longer design and construction team members can stay engaged with building operations the better.

The other Energy and Atmosphere credit that can contribute significantly to optimized operations pertains to energy metering. The design team can properly segregate branch distribution to the various types of loads in a building, like lighting or HVAC, and provide the associated meters to aid the analysis of energy consumption. However it is the owner/operator of the facility who should still follow through with an annual program to fine tune performance over time. It may come as a surprise to many that for the most part, typical design practice provides very few tools to properly manage the energy-consuming systems in a building. Whether your building included system-level metering to begin with or not, LEED-EBOM incentivizes incorporating meters to measure “major end uses that represent 20 percent or more of the total annual consumption.” We can’t manage what we don’t measure, and a comprehensive metering program goes a long way in ongoing system management and troubleshooting of the issues that become routine in many buildings leading to reduced energy consumption over time.

LEED v4 Offers More Stringent Acoustical Standards

Typically, the term indoor environmental quality (IEQ) evokes considerations of healthy indoor air along with visual and thermal comfort. Adequate ventilation, indoor pollution source control, equitable controllability of lighting systems, and access to daylight and views appropriately draw focus as key concepts for design teams endeavoring for optimal indoor environments. However, the high-performance design community is now beginning to recognize the importance of acoustical comfort as an important sensory influence in assessing IEQ. As part of that recognition, the new LEED v4 offers more stringent acoustical standards.

Loud sounds and ambient environmental noise can be detrimental to the experience of a space, but recent research is going beyond anecdotal evidence to prove just how vital acoustical performance can be for the success of a project — especially schools and healthcare facilities.

Performance And Health

When noise levels in a classroom are too high, students and teachers lose the ability to intelligibly understand each other. According to the United States General Accounting Office (GAO), more than 28 percent of elementary and secondary schools exhibit unsatisfactory environmental noise conditions. In a GAO study of 21,900 schools, concern over acoustics was rated higher than ventilation (27.1 percent), physical security (24.2 percent), indoor air quality (19.2 percent), heating (18.9 percent), or lighting (15.6 percent).

The detrimental effects of poor acoustical environments spread beyond learning environments. Another study, published in the British Journal of Psychology, asked workers to perform two tasks: 1) memorize and then recall a piece of prose; 2) undertake simple mental arithmetic. During the test period, workers were subjected to recordings of general office noise. The research found that the accuracy of the subjects’ work was reduced by approximately 67 percent when exposed to the recorded office. A later study found that 57 percent of workers in an office environment have their concentration negatively affected by nearby sounds and background noise.

Beyond annoyance or decreased productivity, the effect of poor acoustical environments may also impact health.

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) examined evidence from large-scale epidemiological studies linking the population’s exposure to environmental noise with adverse health effects and established a link between road traffic noise and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, including myocardial infarction. In fact, an emerging body of work is beginning to establish a link between exposures to environmental noise and sleep disturbance, cognitive impairment in children, and Tinnitus, among other human health concerns. A facility’s acoustic performance matters for reasons of comfort, occupant performance, and human health.

Tips For Success

Acoustics have been a niche concern for so long that many are uncomfortable with the topic. The following considerations will help achieve good acoustic performance:

Engage an expert: An acoustician can prove very helpful in achieving specific acoustic performance criteria. Alternatively, a mechanical engineer with a specialized knowledge in acoustics can be effective. This acoustic expert should work with the project team to help conduct a site analysis, implement strategies, perform calculations, and take field measurements.

Identify referenced standards: LEED v4 permits a reasonable degree of flexibility within the acoustic performance credit framework. Referenced standards can be bypassed in lieu of local equivalents. Teams should determine the appropriate standards early in a project and commit to them.

Define the criteria early: Teams will be most successful if acoustics are planned for early in the design process. Different user groups have unique requirements that need to be carefully documented. Teams should match appropriate strategies to specific criteria.

HVAC background noise: Determine specific acoustic and HVAC needs, then assign and coordinate design and performance criteria. This will affect what mechanical equipment is selected.

Sound isolation: Complete the calculations during the design phase. Identify or calculate STCc ratings for all assemblies. Verify calculations after substantial completion of construction. Measure the Noise Isolation Class (NIC) for all assemblies.

Reverberation time: A metric heavily influenced by design specifications, criteria should be identified and coordinated. The entire team should have a general understanding of spaces with sensitive or otherwise atypical reverberation time requirements.

Thanks to our friends at Facilities.net for this article!

Experience Shows Value Of Smart Building Measures, But Obstacles Remain

Facility executives say that money often is the biggest obstacle to smart building strategies. Tom Walsh, chief engineer for Transwestern Commercial Services, stresses this includes not just first cost, but also return on investment (ROI). “We prefer ROIs in two to three years,” Walsh explains. He also looks for energy improvements that will increase the value of the building.

The survey results bear out the extent to which a lack of financial resources can be an obstacle to smart building strategies. While only 3 percent of respondents say smart building technology is not available today, 69 percent say they don’t have a budget for smart building strategies. What’s more, having staff resources — another budget issue — is an obstacle for roughly half of respondents. (See Figure 2)

Figure 2. What are the obstacles to development and implementation of smart building strategies in your organization? R=469

We don’t have a budget for smart building strategies: 69%
We don’t have time/staff to implement smart building strategies: 49%
Smart building strategies cost too much: 24%
I’m not familiar with smart building strategies: 19%
Top management does not support the use of smart building strategies: 18%
Information about smart building technology is not readily available: 8%
Smart building technology is not available today: 3%
Other: 7%

Thomas F. Smyth, director, facility services at Cobbleskill Regional Hospital, also believes another obstacle is education and training. “How much quality training is available from the company that sold you that system?” Smyth asks. “Sometimes the training is free. Sometimes training is so expensive you cannot afford it.” On the topic of training, Smyth also believes refresher courses are valuable both for existing facilities staff and for new hires.

Kristina Moores, an associate at Arup, an engineering and design firm, thinks the biggest obstacle to smart building strategies is not all building systems are tied into the building management system, followed closely by the lack of user education. “There are many vendors selling smart equipment and programs, but the new software may not allow for coordinated systems and points reporting from existing building systems,” Moores points out.

Experience With Smart Building Systems

Although funding has posed a hurdle to wider implementation of smart building measures, the survey shows that those measures have paid off with gains in energy efficiency and sustainability. Among facility executives who have implemented smart building strategies, a large majority has found that those measures aid efforts to boost energy efficiency and sustainability. (See Figures 3 and 4.)

Figure 3. Have steps you’ve taken to make your facilities smarter also improved energy efficiency outcomes? R=826

Yes: 82%
No: 4%
Haven’t taken steps to make the facility smarter: 14%


Figure 4. Have steps you’ve taken to make your facilities smarter also improved sustainability outcomes? R=830

Yes: 69%
No: 11%
Haven’t taken steps to make the facility smarter: 20%

It’s worth noting that fairly significant numbers of facility executives say their organizations haven’t taken steps to make the facility smarter. When those organizations are factored out, the vote for the value of smart building measures is even stronger. Looking strictly at respondents who have taken smart building measures, 96 percent say those steps improved energy efficiency, and 86 percent say they improved sustainability.

These results are in line with the experiences of those who are familiar with smart building strategies. Facility executives and independent experts alike have seen that smart building strategies can improve building performance, increasing overall energy efficiency and assisting in sustainability efforts. In addition, the savings in energy costs can improve the bottom line.

According to CABA statistics, advanced smart building strategies can reduce energy use as much as 50 percent compared to unimproved buildings, “with the most efficient buildings performing up to 70 percent better than conventional properties,” says Zimmer.

With smart building strategies, energy efficiency isn’t achieved at the expense of occupant comfort. “If you put the effort and brainpower into your BAS, you can get what you are looking for in controlling the comfort level and also keeping a handle on the energy side of things,” says Smyth.

Provided senior management buys into the smart building strategy, implementation and execution are thought out, and accountability exists, “smart building strategies can significantly lower operational costs through optimizing building functionality across different systems such as lighting, HVAC, security, elevators, etc.,” says Rob Murchison, co-founder of Intelligent Buildings, LLC. Murchison also points to the importance of retrocommissioning and continuously commissioning the building, as well as monitoring and measuring progress.

Key strategies that enable energy efficiency and sustainability ideally use BAS and building energy management systems from building inception, suggests Zimmer. On-going commissioning also is critical. “Through the use of these technologies and techniques, building owners and managers can realize many financial benefits, including lower energy costs, lower maintenance costs, and lower repair and replacement costs,” he explains.

It’s important for facility executives to present a complete picture of the economic value of smart building measures when seeking funding. “Building managers can use life-cycle costs analysis to calculate the cost of a building system over its entire life span,” notes Zimmer. The life cycle process analyzes the long-term impact of construction and infrastructure costs on forecasted operational costs throughout the expected life of the property.

Importance of People in Smart Building Strategies

Experts agree that people play a crucial role in smart building strategies. For Shircliff, the three pillars of a smart building strategy are buildings, people, and technology. “The buildings must be enabled and the people, including process, aligned to best leverage newer technologies and basic information technology (IT),” he says.

Smyth believes a program that focuses on educating employees and hospital staff is essential. Communicating what smart building strategies are being implemented can be accomplished by an email that explains the precise situation, according to Smyth. “Let’s say we want to turn off all computers when they are not in use,” says Smyth. “So we show how many kilowatts per hour can be saved and how that adds up as we get more cooperation. Then we may show what that savings can represent. For instance, we may be able to add another piece of equipment for our patients.”

Walsh also believes keeping building occupants informed helps in energy conservation and sustainability efforts. He uses a newsletter to tell building occupants how much paper is being diverted from landfills, the advantages of using automated faucets, and even the benefits of variable frequency drives.

Like Smyth, Walsh has found informing building occupants encourages them “to pitch in with everyone else. We also get more feedback and that is a good thing.”

Zimmer sees a smart building strategy as combining IT, equipment, and the efforts of highly skilled people.

“The universe of technology solutions that create an intelligent building has evolved considerably over the last decade,” says Zimmer. “Innovations in energy-saving solutions, smart sensing, remote monitoring, automated diagnostics, as well as a myriad of Internet-based solutions have made their way into the domain of intelligent building solutions. The solutions allow buildings to become more responsive to the needs of occupants. The solutions, however, do require oversight by professionals with a high level of expertise.”

Medical Center Uses BAS for Smart Energy, Sustainability Strategies

Located in central Texas, Dell Children’s Medical Center is part of the Seton Family of Hospitals. The 503,000-square-foot medical center has achieved LEED Platinum certification for new construction.

Acting as the heart of this accomplishment is a building automation system (BAS) that efficiently integrates numerous facility systems and devices. From a single workstation, technicians can monitor and control indoor air quality, HVAC operation, and utility distribution. An energy management system also integrates the fire alarm system and provides air handling system control.

Alan Bell, Seton’s director of design and construction, reports that “with our building system we’ve been able to achieve about 17 percent better efficiency than ASHRAE standards, which was the target for our LEED rating.”

The medical center’s BAS supports complex smart building strategies for energy conservation and sustainability. For example, integration with variable frequency drives in combination with underfloor systems drives energy costs down. In addition, chilled water consumption is monitored, kilowatt-hour use is calculated, and run time on all pumps is managed by the BAS.

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