Should LEEDv4.1 be the future of LEED?

In April 2017, the USGBC released a pilot version of the latest LEED O+M Beta for existing buildings, LEED v4.1. In this new iteration, some credits were simplified, clarifications were made, and a few credits were removed entirely, with the intention of creating the “most inclusive and transparent platform to date.” The idea was to make LEED “the most accessible” certification for buildings globally by making the requirements more achievable. Today, LEED is the world’s most used rating system for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. For the past 18 years, the various versions of LEED have pushed the global green building market progressively forward and encouraged project teams to operate beyond the status quo, with more than 93,000 registered and certified projects and a total of 19.3 billion square feet of space used worldwide.

As part of the regular practice on how the LEED rating systems are developed, the USGBC graciously invited the green building community to read and provide feedback on the LEEDv4.1 Beta version. Through our own reading of the Beta version as well as many people in the community, we’ve confronted some understandable concerns with the approach that the USGBC has adopted to achieve these noble goals. This version (LEEDv4.1) is based on the following concepts:

  • New methodologies for measuring building performance by working with projects to track energy, water, waste, transportation and indoor environmental quality
  • A simple, data-driven path to LEED certification for existing buildings, making it accessible to more projects than any other version of the rating system
  • Updated referenced standards and performance requirements to ensure that LEED remains the global leader in green building

In an attempt to simplify the certification process and to increase accessibility, LEED v4.1 O+M has subsequently diluted its impact, and therefore has regrettably undermined the esteemed image of the certification. With respect to methodology of tracking a building’s waste performance, this version has eliminated requirements for a solid waste management policy, a physical waste stream audit, and the need for environmentally responsible sourcing.  In place of these vital practices used to adequately gauge a building’s waste performance, a building is now only required to provide the weight of waste generated and diverted over a 12-month period, as provided by waste haulers.

This new way of reporting does not incentivize buildings to decrease their contamination rate and improve the diversion rate, nor does it help stakeholders become more mindful about a building’s environmental impact  Given the current political state we are in, where environmental protection laws can be removed virtually on command, and where constant greenwashing by major corporations is ubiquitous, we look to LEED to hold the highest standard for true environmental stewardship as it relates to sustainable building.

The USGBC has been a pioneer of the green building movement, and our ever-growing, impassioned community continues to look to the organization for guidance on how to push the global green building market forward, and to encourage project teams to operate beyond the status quo. Doing so, the community can trust that when a project is LEED v4.1 certified, it will be common knowledge that the buildings have met crucial standards of environmental and health resilience. We hope that the US Green Building Council will thoughtfully review and consider the Beta’s feedback focus on how to continuously improve our built environments through concise, meaningful requirements without compromised impacts.

Resources:
https://www.usgbc.org/sites/default/files/LEED%20v4.1%20Summary%20of%20changes.pdf
https://new.usgbc.org/leed-v41

The TRUE Story

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By Denise Braun

Once upon a time there was a planet known as Tellus. The people of Tellus were seeking one important thing in life: The Truth. They grew weary of being misled by their leaders and yearned for more transparency and responsible behavior.  

One day they received encouraging news. The leaders of a relatively small but fast-growing industry took it upon themselves to become more transparent and began telling the truth about the impact their businesses are having on the lives of the citizens of Tellus, and on the planet itself. They had high hopes that their actions would inspire other industry leaders to act as responsible stewards of the planet and all its inhabitants.

Back to reality here on Earth – Wouldn’t it be great if the same could happen here? If our leaders, political and business alike, would be more open about major decisions that affect us all? Well, the story of Tellus is actually happening here. The Green Building industry is championing a movement toward greater transparency of its business practices, and more specifically, the GBCI (Green Business Certification, Inc.) is the industry leader at the heart of it all.

Tellus is actually the Latin word for “Earth,” and in an effort to “Tellus” the truth, the GBCI created a rating system fittingly called TRUE, which stands for Total Resource Use and Efficiency. The TRUE rating system pushed the building industry to take a hard, introspective look at their production processes, as well as at the life-cycle of the products being used during construction. It is designed to move us away from a linear life-cycle of products that is costly, inefficient and harmful to the environment, toward a closed loop life-cycle in which products are repurposed or are made from recyclable materials. It aims to not only reduce the amount of waste being generated, but also to divert all “waste” away from landfills and incinerators. In fact, TRUE is on a mission to bring the Zero Waste movement to the forefront of the Green Building industry.

Already, more than 130 projects across the globe are TRUE certified, covering more than 250 million square feet of buildings. These include the likes of Tesla, Cintas, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., and many other companies that have seen the benefit of going Zero-Waste.

How does TRUE benefit businesses and buildings?

  • Cutting out waste cuts costs: Being efficient and smart about the waste you are producing will save you money. Sustainable purchasing, proper recycling, composting, and other methods can help decrease costs of facility operations. 
  • Eliminates waste pollution
  • Zero-waste facilities help eliminate pollution that normally gets into our air, our water, and our soil. This occurs when waste ends up in a landfill or is burned in an incinerator, and not only compromises our own wellbeing but also that of organisms and ecosystems around us. Reducing and diverting waste effectively like TRUE facilities do can eliminate this. 
  • Promote social responsibility: TRUE facilities are supporters of the triple bottom line: people, profit, and planet. These facilities are committed to supporting the health of people, the environment, and the economy on both local and global scales.

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The TRUE certification focuses on performance and real data. Essentially it compels leaders and industries to maintain and document the Truth – the quality or state of being true.  An honest assessment of the impacts of major industries is precisely what the inhabitants of Tellus, or Earth, deserve.

Recap: City of LA EBEWE Ordinance

The City of Los Angeles Existing Buildings Energy & Water Efficiency (EBEWE) ordinance has been adopted and is taking effect, first for buildings of 100,000 SF and above. Over the next two years, it will affect all buildings over 20,000 SF. Los Angeles joins a growing number of cities that is collecting and publishing building energy and water consumption data utilizing ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, as well as requiring efficiency improvements over time if buildings aren’t ENERGY STAR certified. 

The main elements:

  • Submit Benchmarking Reports showing compliance to the Department of Building & Safety on the following schedule:
    • Buildings of at least 100,000 SF: Initial report due November 1, 2017 (this new date is being adopted)
    • Buildings >50,000 SF: Initial report due April 1, 2018
    • Buildings >20,000 SF: Initial report due April 1, 2019
    • Annual reports: Due April 1 each year.
  • Implement energy & water consumption reduction
    • Required every 5 years
    • Can be achieved through building audits and retro-commissioning, or by meeting energy and water consumption reduction targets
    • Buildings that obtain ENERGY STAR certification, don’t have central cooling systems or have been occupied less than 5 years can utilize an alternative compliance path.

More information is available at betterbuildingsla.com. We’re happy to assist!

Update: Santa Monica Water Neutrality Ordinance Takes Effect

Santa Monica’s Water Neutrality ordinance, which ZC Principal John Zinner has played a significant role in developing, took effect July 1. It impacts all commercial and residential projects that increase water use from the previous level on their site, including new buildings, significant remodels, and new pools, spas and even fountains.


There are two compliance paths to offset the increase in water use. Owners can pay a fee which the city will use to retrofit water efficient fixtures, most likely in older apartment buildings, or they can directly install a sufficient number of offsite fixtures.

The city has released the initial Water Calculators to project water use for different project types. The initial calculators only address water efficiency; they will be modified later to incorporate water reuse.  John Zinner and Glen Boldt reviewed the calculator and submitted significant comments that the city is reviewing.

This is the largest and most aggressive ordinance of its type adopted to date in California. Los Angeles County is considering a similar ordinance.

Read more here.

Sustainability Policies: From A to "ZC," The Long View

By John Zinner

I became involved in solar energy while studying for my masters in urban planning. It was the Fall of 1976. During that semester Jimmy Carter was elected president preaching energy conservation and Amory Lovins published his groundbreaking article in which he was the first to argue that it is cheaper for utilities to invest in energy efficiency than new generation capacity (he's been proven right over and over again). After spending seven years as City of Los Angeles Energy Coordinator on the staff of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and then working as an independent environmental consultant with both public and private clients, I began looking for a way to tie together the many “siloed” issues, including water supply, stormwater management, solid waste and air quality. I felt that a unifying vision was needed to string these varied environmental concerns into a coherent and integrated whole. In 1990 I found that others were thinking the same thing, calling it "sustainability," and I joined this burgeoning community that recognized that any solution to the environment must be comprehensive in order to truly effect positive and lasting change. Two years later, the 1992 UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro adopted “sustainable development” as defined by the Brundtland Commission: "Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." This encompasses what is now known as the triple bottom line of social, economic, and environmental sustainability.

Only a year later this definition was adopted by USGBC’s founders as they began to assemble the building blocks of the LEED rating system with the goal of transforming the development industry. The transformation USGBC set in motion has succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams and it's been a privilege to contribute. Recall that when the first commercial version of LEED (v2.0) was released in 2000, it was thought that only one version would ever be needed. Now look at where we are! 

"The transformation USGBC set in motion has succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams"

In fact, LEED and sustainability have become so widely used as building and operating standards that a common question within our field is — “What is the half-life of a LEED consultant?” With many codes incorporating key elements of LEED, might we be soon out of a job? I suppose we find ourselves actively working toward that goal and after all of these years I’m so heartened to see sustainability really sticking.
 
One projection is that the recent moves toward federal environmental deregulation will be only a blip. The US is alone among nations in this trend, and key market movers such as developers and transnational corporations know that the current administration will come and go while the international movement to address climate change is irreversible. The future of sustainability still has a long way to go, and will have winners and losers, as happens during all major economic transformations, but the direction is clear and unstoppable. 

Enjoy Earth Day

Sustainable and Healthy Space as a Site of Reflection — An Interview with Architect, Paul Murdoch

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Q: Is there an aspect of the project where design and sustainability most engage with one another?

The new public park restores land degraded by industrial use and coal mining into a designed memorial landscape. Healing the land sustainably is a metaphor for emotional healing by experiencing this commemorative setting. Therefore, sustainable design strategies take on multiple dimensions; historic, poetic, symbolic, experiential and biological. 

Q: How do sustainable, healthy spaces encourage or complement the site as a space of reflection?

Daylight is used in the visitor center to connect visitors to the natural and commemorative landscape so the story told in the displays always has a direct connection with the site. Archival material in the exhibits required low light levels. Rather than exhibit within a “black box,” eight different glass types, studied through a digital daylight model, respond to the various exposures to enhance building performance while mitigating negative effects on the exhibits. This careful location of building apertures and high performance glazing of various types allows the interior to be visually connected with the memorial landscape and its many moods, promoting personal reflection.
 
Q: What didn't make it into the final design? Why?

We initially thought that the park would be completely self-sustaining in terms of energy production, water use and waste treatment. The NPS capital budgets were not defined in those terms and life cycle analysis during design did not support the additional up-front costs for various measures. Additionally, operations budgets and staff training required resources that were not available.
 
Q: The project is very energy efficient—what are the key strategies?

Geothermal heat pumps, radiant ceiling for heating and cooling, a robust thermal envelope, and natural lighting as noted above all contribute to the energy efficiency while enhancing the memorial expression. For example, full height curtain walls visually unite the interior and exterior. Skylights along each side provide diffused natural light grazing each of the textured concrete memorial walls. Ceramic frit in a hemlock pattern on glass at the entrance end filters southwestern light and screens visitor activity. A view window facing the field and crash site uses reflective tinted glass to provide an open panorama of the memorial landscape while reducing solar gain and glare at the interior. So each measure improves performance while helping to commemorate.

Flight 93 National Memorial Receives LEED Gold Certification

Zinner Consultants (ZC) is pleased to announce that the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County, PA, has received LEED-NC Gold certification. The development of the Memorial has been a long process for all involved, especially for the family and friends of the 40 passengers and crew that lost their lives almost 15 years ago.

The Memorial's sustainability elements focus on the site, a restored coal mine, through habitat and open space protection, stormwater management and water reuse, and on the indoor environmental quality and energy and water efficiency of the Visitor Center Complex.