Harvard Green Building Services is Hiring!

After a year and a half working at Harvard Green Building Services as the resident rookie, we have finally had some turnover and a full-time Senior Project Coordinator position has gone live today! I will certainly vouch that Harvard in general, and GBS specifically, is an amazing place to work, hence the fact that no one wanted to leave in almost two years...

Here's a brief description of the job:
The Harvard Green Building Services program provides sustainable building consulting services to the Harvard community, including existing facility owners, capital project teams, and other units. Consulting services encompass a range of offerings to ensure cost effective green buildings that provide improved indoor environments for occupants and reduce harmful effects on the natural environment. These services include owner’s sustainability representation, sustainability peer review, project management of the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC’s) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification process, commissioning, energy auditing, ECM implementation support, green building knowledge management, and green building education and training. This position is responsible for supporting the GBS team as they facilitate green building design, construction and operations across campus. The position will assist GBS as they provide building commissioning, energy auditing, energy conservation measure project management, and green building consulting services and create and deliver green building educational materials. There will be a large learning component as the employee is exposed to a variety of different tasks and works to gain full proficiency and fluency in these tasks.
Click here for more details and information about how to apply! Please DO NOT forward resumes to me directly, as all resumes must go through Harvard's online system.  If you're having trouble opening that link (it's a little finicky with cookies), go to http://employment.harvard.edu and search for "Senior Project Coodinator."

Good luck!

Hey Wha' Happened?

You may have noticed Real Life LEED has taken a rather lengthy hiatus, and I feel like it probably time to fill you in. Since my last post I've left my position as a researcher at LS3P ASSOCIATES LTD., moved over a thousand miles from Charleston, SC to Cambridge, MA, and took a job as a High Performance Building Specialist in the Green Building Services unit at Harvard University. Please consider my current posting slackness within the context that I just had to move 1,000 miles north and it's hard to type in the cold.

What does this mean? For one, I'll be seeing a much higher volume of LEED projects and project reviews. Just today I was working on gathering all of our office's GBCI reviews, combining them by credit, and then presenting to our group on common mistakes. Clearly this has blog post written all over it, but some of this material may go on Harvard's Green Building Resource instead. We haven't worked out the details yet, but I'm likely to be contributing to both websites as part of my day to day duties. Long time readers may remember a post on that very resource way back in 2008, but if you haven't seen this before you should go right now!

Many thanks and much credit for the start of Real Life LEED should go to staff and management at LS3P... I wouldn't have been able to do begin posting if they didn't have a policy of sharing what they learn with the world, and I learned everything I know about LEED today from projects and coworkers there.

For the next month or so I suspect posting will still be pretty slow as I get settled, so please bear with me... Thanks for reading!

PS - I know some of you expected the Hey Wha Happened guy to be part of this post... you're welcome!

LEED 2012 and the Greenbuild Rating System Development Update

Scott Horst, Senior VP of LEED for USGBC, kicked off this session with what is starting to feel like an obligatory mea culpa about the state of LEED-Online v3 when it was launched, but quickly moved on to say that the current state of the system is strong and that the major bugs have been worked out. The session was led by Horst and included a panel composed of USGBC Staff, Joel Ann Todd (the LEED Steering Committee Chair), and the respective chairs of each of the Technical Advisory Groups for the that are responsible for developing drafts and revisions to LEED rating systems.

Development Cycle Updates

Another thing that came up is the development cycle. The standard draft, public comment, second draft, vote cycle remains for the LEED rating system updates remains, but the USGBC has moved public comment period earlier in this cycle and extended it to hopefully get more complete stakeholder involvement. The new pilot credits are vetted in a "parallel process" over at LEEDuser*, where all comments from users are examined by staff and the committees responsible for their ultimate implementation. To join the discussion, scroll down to the Pilot Credits section on this page, then click a credit and see the discussion about it near the bottom of that page... My understanding is that free registration is all that's required to comment.

As for the schedule, "This isn't an absolute that LEED 2012 will happen in 2012, but it's on a path to be approved on that cycle as of today." You may remember that with the launch of LEED 2009 the USGBC expressed its desire to update LEED on a two-year cycle, and the impression I got from panel comments was that they see a three-year cycle as more realistic. The first public comment period will extend "until the end of the year", with the second pubic comment scheduled to open July 1, 2011, and will be open "until at least August 15, 2011", with the ballot presently scheduled for August 2012. Official schedule information can be found here.

International Update

One of the more interesting tidbits to come out of Horst's comments is an update about the adoption of LEED worldwide. According to Horst, to date 10% of LEED projects by number, roughly 4,000, are registered outside the US, but when you look at registrations by square footage that number jumps to 28% of all projects. The trend is that international projects are growing relative to all projects, with 40% of the registrations by square footage year to date 2010 are outside the US. As a result, the USGBC has created a 19 country "LEED International Roundtable" that is an advisory group to the LEED Steering Committee. This group is part of a larger LEED International Program whose mission is to provide "global consistency, a regional approach, and local outreach and support."

LEED 2012 Update

This update will focus largely on explaining some of the motivation behind the updates for the LEED 2012 systems. Tristan over at BuildingGreen* has already written an excellent overview of the specific changes to the system, and I don't really see any point in recreating what's already available. I would definitely suggest checking that out if you haven't already.

Joel Ann Todd gave an overview of changes in the LEED 2012 system itself. In general there was a strong emphasis on shifting the current system of "relative performance" based credits (e.g. energy models comparing baseline to design case) to a more "absolute performance" based system (i.e. what Henry Gifford wants). Earlier in the session Horst had mentioned that for the first time, LEED projects who have entered into the Building Performance Partnership are getting a report card showing their actual annual energy use and comparing it to what was expected based on their design models.

Integrated Process - This new category is aimed at making sure that the processes used to create LEED projects Joel bluntly stated that "we probably don't have the integrated process credits right yet", so they're very keen to see the comments coming in on the first public draft.

Performance - The other new category is actually at the 'end' of the rating system, and the goal is to create a framework that ensures project teams and owners are indeed measuring the performance of their facilities after construction is complete. In the commissioning prerequisite, there is now a requirement for building envelope commissioning that was not required before.

Location and Transportation and Sustainable Sites - For the most part, the former Sustainable Sites category was divided into two groups, with the Location and Transportation category dealing more with urban integration and connectivity and the SS category focusing on site level engineering issues. This was done to reflect a growing emphasis at the USGBC on "overall community performance" instead of only building level design. They're also working to move from a "binary" point awards (i.e. Alternative transportation access is a yes/no style credit in 2009 worth 4 points, while the new system is moving towards a gradient system similar to how points are awarded for EAc1, Optimize Energy Performance). On the Sustainable Sites side, they're trying to move towards an emphasis on restoration or regeneration.

Water Efficiency - "What we realized is that plumbing and landscaping systems are not the only things using water." Metering and sub-metering are getting a stronger emphasis as a result, as well as a more in depth analysis of process water and cooling towers.

Energy and Atmosphere - "We're really trying to end this process of doing energy models at the end of the project to verify LEED credits... it's really not why you do modeling." Couldn't agree more with this, as it doesn't benefit the project unless these models are created early enough to affect the project. Also, a lot of the credits for commissioning and measurement and verification have shifted into the Performance category. The emphasis on absolute measurement was also restated. On the LEED-EB O+M side, efficiency credits have been restructured to allow projects that show significant improvement to earn points, as opposed to the current system where points are based on performance compared to other buildings. This will allow projects that are starting with really poor performance to potentially qualify as long as they make big strides, which should presumably open up the system to projects that may not have been able to get certified in the past.

Materials and Resources - There was some concern that a few credits were being achieved by too many projects, and that others weren't being used at all. These are what drove the majority of changes to the MR categories, with credits that were being achieved too much becoming more stringent and those not being achieved becoming easier to support increased market adoption. A life cycle approach is starting to make it's way into the system, but there was a need to separate interior finishes from structural components as the "big, heavy" structural materials would overwhelm any consideration of the interior choices.

Indoor Environmental Quality - The majority of the discussion on these changes revolved around the addition of an acoustics credit to LEED-NC projects and the consolidation and expansion of the Low-Emitting Materials credits. They adjusted the standard to be consistent with language in ASHRAE 189.1, which is certainly a good idea.

Innovation in Design - The only major announcement here is that the ID point for having a LEED AP on the project will now require the appropriate LEED AP specialty (e.g. to get the point for LEED-NC, LEED-CS or LEED-Schools you will need to have a LEED AP BD+C specialty). Legacy LEED APs without a specialty will maintain that credential for the rest of their lives, but it's no longer going to help them earn a point under the ID credit.

LEED Systems On the Horizon

One of the panelists covered sector-based LEED rating systems that are on the horizon. I don't have timelines for any of these and suspect they are at a minimum of a year to multiple years away. New systems on the horizon include:

  • LEED-EB for Schools
  • LEED-EB for Retail
  • LEED-Homes for Mid-Rise
  • LEED (NC/CI?) for Hospitality
  • LEED (NC/CI?) for Warehouses
  • LEED (NC/CI?) for Data Centers

Normally I would here request comments about your thoughts on these developments, but since the LEED draft is open for comment I'll instead direct you there.

*FULL DISCLOSURE - LEEDuser and BuildingGreen are a sponsor of this site.

LEED Automation Allows Third Party Companies to Integrate Directly With LEED Online

Though largely overshadowed in press by the hubbub around the Center for Green Schools launch, in my opinion the biggest news for practicing LEED APs is the relatively obscure technical development of a platform for third party companies to integrate directly with LEED-Online. The USGBC is calling it LEED Automation (official press release here), and it will hopefully result in an exponential increase in innovation in the way LEED projects are documented. After "$10 million in total investment in LEED-Online" (Chris Smith, COO of USGBC's words), many users still find it a frustrating tool (my words). "From the very start, LEED-Online was never intended to be a USGBC tool... It was intended to be a plug-and-play platform for others to build on." (Chris Smith again).

Now think about how the open iPhone and Android app markets make their phones far more useful than Apple or Google could do on their own. That is the goal of LEED Automation in a nutshell. Mike Opitz indicated that they ultimately wish to open a "USGBC App store"... In his words "The world of LEED execution just got faster, cheaper, and easier."

Where Does It Stand Today?

I'm going to profile a few projects that were used as case studies of what can be done with the data and integration capabilities that are now available.

Lorax Pro - This is a 'virtual LEED consultant' that has already been around for awhile, and one I've been meaning to profile for some time (sorry... still doing this in my spare time!). In a nutshell it's a tool to organize, schedule, and assign work to the various parties in more detail than offered by LEED-Online (e.g. your project is mapped on Google and can automatically calculate things like access to transit and community connectivity at the click of a button). Again, this has already been around for awhile, but the news here is that now their online software can translate your work DIRECTLY into LEED-Online without having to force you to pull everything down manually and re-enter data. Taken to the extreme, you could potentially mean that you'd never have to work directly in LEED-Online again!

O+M Track - Green Building Services is a consulting company has developed a tool that will be extremely helpful for those pursuing LEED-EB O+M. Basically this is a management tool for your performance periods, where a facilities manager is provided with scheduled tasks to ensure they are keeping all of their ongoing performance measurements for the life of the building, greatly facilitating recertification efforts that are needed to be performed every five years. Again, the news here is that work entered into their system can be directly loaded into your LEED-Online project, helping to reduce the overhead and costs associated with compliance.

Building Dashboard - This is a web-based software developed by Lucid Design Group that allows real-time updates of a building's performance along various metrics, largely centered around utilities. Other vendors offer similar services, and it was unclear from their presentation how this will affect those working on LEED projects today. On the other hand, if they work out directly updating these results into a LEED-EB certification/recertification similar to the GBS tool, it could mean huge reductions in overhead for those pursuing such projects.

WorkFlow Pro - is a service from GreenWizard.com that harnesses the wealth of material data embedded in their system and allows the population of those onerous MR credit templates if you build a project in their system, making the lives of specifiers and contractors that much easier.

Green Building Information Gateway - This is a pilot project led by Dr. Chris Pyke, VP of Research for USGBC in conjunction with ESRI. It is a comprehensive map of LEED projects in Chicago, but it contains a wealth of additional layers that is pulled directly from a stream of data that the USGBC is now making public. The information from any specific project is compared live against the performance of every building in the set. Basically this is a benchmarking tool designed to allow designers to show their clients how their design might stack up against others in the area. There's even a trend tool that allows you to view this data over time. It's based on a post-certification data stream, so it's applicability to those working on current projects likely won't be huge, but it could be very helpful for banks and others trying to make a business case or valuation assumptions measuring the impact of LEED certification or even individual LEED credits.

What's On the Horizon?

It's hard for me to explain how huge the potential of this. I see Trane Trace and other energy modeling software allowing direct uploads of model results into LEED without the very significant data entry headache that exists now. Revit could directly upload daylighting calculations without the architect ever having to open up a credit calculator.

Mike Opitz indicated that there's still kinks that need to be worked out, specifically citing energy modelling. At the core, there is the issue of standardizing data exchange protocols to ensure that everything is accurate, and not just easy. As energy modeling is so critical to the performance of a building, they cannot sacrifice

So What's the Catch

Well... all this innovation does not come free. In the same way that there are paid apps on the iPhone and Android marketplaces, some of the case studies above have subscription fees or other charges that will be in addition to what you're paying the GBCI for certification fees. Don't want to pay extra? You're welcome to stay with the current LEED Online, but I suspect that many firms will find that the productivity gains of these tools will far exceed the costs.

As this market get's more sophisticated, I suspect we'll see a profusion of micro-tools that may be ad supported and offered for free, but time will tell whether the development process is easy enough for such small scale tools to be worth their development costs.

I'm sorry to the other companies that demo'd their automation innovations that I did not include here... I can only type so fast! If you have a new product that harnesses this technology please don't hesitate to let me know, as this blog is all about providing readers with tools that will make their live's easier.

*FULL DISCLOSURE - GreenWizard.com is a sponsor of this site.

Linking Design to Healthcare Outcomes

This is a session review of the presentation from Amy Keller, M.Arch, EDAC and Anjali Joseph, Ph.D, EDAC, who are researchers with the Center for Health Design. Operating under a USGBC research grant, they have identified common metrics, developed a standard for collection, and then set out to develop industry benchmarks to establish a link between (surprise!) healthcare facility designs and their resulting impact on patients. We frequently focus on the economic return on investment when advocating for sustainable design, but this session supports the notion that benefits to human health and well-being can also be a powerful argument to convince skeptical clients to build sustainably.

Click the image to access the Ripple Database

Ultimately, all of their findings are housed in the Ripple Database, which is an open, freely accessible data sharing website that serves two primary functions. The first is to provide users with access to the studies so far. The second is to allow you to compare the differences in outcomes from two facilities with different design characteristics. From their explanations of individual case studies featured on the site I also learned that there is such a thing as the "Jersey Shore University Medical Center"... seriously, and a recent redesign reported very positive patient outcomes.

By the researchers own admission, the utility of the site is limited have due to a small set of data entry to work from (five facilities so far), buIt this is a new project and the information can only improve over time. The website hasn't even officially launched (planned for "first quarter 2011"), but you can go to the beta site now. Even in it's current state, investigating specific strategies yields an impressive wealth of outcomes at the case study level, and from there you can view abstracts of other peer reviewed research that further informs your efforts.

I'm personally extremely excited about this project, and would love to see it extended to other market sectors as well. I would strongly encourage anyone involved in healthcare facility design and construction to talk with their clients about the need to share their outcomes for the betterment of the industry at large. Get your projects in there ASAP!

Greenbuild 2010 Is Here!

Well folks, Greenbuild is officially underway, as the opening plenary just wrapped up in McCormick Place! Not having been to Chicago since I was quite young, I'm already enamored with this city and can't wait to explore it over the course of this week.

Lake Michigan

No photography inside the plenary, so enjoy a view of Lake Michigan instead!

The Opening Plenary

Right off the bat R. Fed led off with some impressive stats. I'm sure many of you have seen the headlines about LEED certified space crossing the 1,000,000,000 sf mark, but what I consider more impressive is the announcement that the GBCI is certifying 1,000,000 sf a DAY, meaning that it will take less than three years to get the next billion. It's an amazing growth curve that we all should be proud of.

After that, Colin Powell told the story of the LEED Platinum General Colin Powell Apartments recently built in the South Bronx, and then moved on to his investments in the company that created the Bloom Box, a fuel cell that's received a great deal of attention and has the potential to decentralize power production across the world. He then launched into what I suspect is his more traditional keynote speech, which only loosely related to sustainable design and construction. It was a great talk, but I'm not going to go into great detail.

I was about to walk out to head o the expo hall when they announced that Mary Matalin and James Carville were introduced, and of course I couldn't pass on the opportunity to hear the Ragin' Cajun* in person. Unfortunately their discussion on the current state of politics only confirmed that neither party really has any solid vision for the future, though Carville's trademark humor and perspective were interesting all the same.

Overall it was a fairly tame opening, but as my only frame of reference was the giant party of last year's opening in Phoenix it's probably not a fair comparison. As I write this from the Spertus Institute waiting for the Executive Leadership luncheon to begin, and am looking forward to the LEED Automation session taking place this afternoon... I suspect that is likely to have the biggest impact on your day to day work in the coming years, and will be sure to cover that in depth soon after it closes.

*If you haven't seen Bill Hader do his Carville impression on SNL you must click on that link! For those more politically inclined don't write me off as a buffoon just yet, I've been a Carville fan and follower ever since I watched excellent documentary The War Room nearly a decade ago...