While Part 1 of this soon to be made-for-tv mini-series (I've got even money on actor Martin Donovan playing USGBC founding chairman Rick Fedrizzi) focused on money, today we're going to look at how your decision to certify buildings together or separately may affect your the time it takes you to complete the documentation. Unfortunately, that is going to require a little more learning about the three systems the AGMBC uses to organize multiple buildings projects.
I've been working on two large LEED projects that each contain multiple buildings. On one we decided to certify each building independently, on the other we're working on certifying a group of buildings under a single certification. In theory, the guide should be able to save us money (on certifications) and time (which is money). In practice I haven't noticed too many benefits to the recommendations in the guide. I'm going to point out where I've seen it help and parts I throw out the door.
When discussing paperwork it's important to remember that the application guide is only a guide, and you can at your discretion flip between the requirements of the guide and those of a regular LEED-NC project. Page 6 of the AGMBC clearly states that "Credit requirement alternatives in this Application Guide may be used instead of the regular LEED-NC requirements, but are not mandatory as they may not apply in all situations."
Certifying a Single Building in a Campus or Master Planned Development
This essentially allows you to include master plan elements that may be off-site in your documentation. On one of our projects, our stormwater is handled in a retention pond within the development, even though it's not technically on our "site". We've also accounted for shared parking garages and light trespass issues by including the larger site. The guidance here is almost universally helpful, as you can pretty much throw out any problems you previously had regarding shared amenities.
Certifying Multiple Buildings in One Phase of a Project
This path causes some problems. The goal here is to allow for shared site amenities as above, but there's also guidance about where you can average savings across buildings. The main problem here is that for many points each building must meet the requirements individually or ALL do not earn the point. I've tried this once and haven't been impressed with the results. Remember, you can always gain the bonuses of the first system for shared amenities and certify each building individually.
One development that we tried this on we lost the (EQc8.1) daylight credit due to one building while the rest had ample lighting. Another place you can have problems is (EQc4) Low-Emitting Materials credits. Here's a list of credits where one building missing the credit will void the entire project. Given the long list, I'm sure at least one will trip you up:
- SSc1, Site Selection
- SSc2, Development Density & Community Connectivity
- SSc5.1, Site Development - Protect or Restore Habitat (Greenfield sites only)
- EAp1, Fundamental Commissioning
- EAp2, Minimum Energy Performance
- EAp3, Fundamental Refrigerant Management
- EAc3, Enhanced Commissioning
- EAc4, Enhanced Refrigerant Management
- EAc5, Measurement and Verification
- EQp1, Minimum IAQ Performance
- EQp2, Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) Control
- EQc1, Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Monitoring
- EQc2, Increased Ventilation
- EQc3, Construction IAQ Management Plan
- EQc4, Low-Emitting Materials
- EQc5, Indoor Chemical & Pollutant Source Control
- EQc6: Controllability of Systems
- EQc7, Thermal Comfort
- EQc8, Daylight and Views
Conversely, the averaging of some credits can allow single buildings that may not achieve a credit to comply within the group. This is mostly where you would expect (energy and water use, shared site amenities like bike racks and showers, parking requirements, MR3-7 credits, etc.) so I won't waste your time with a full list. There is guidance on how to weight each calculation across buildings as well. The biggest savings will likely come from not needing showers (for bikers) in all buildings.
Certifying Similar Buildings to a Set of Sustainable Standards
Think design "prototypes"... architect kryptonite! This makes a lot of sense if you're a Wachovia or Starbucks and want to build a bunch of cookie-cutter buildings. You're allowed to designate a set of "prototype" credits that will be applied equally to all buildings. The first building's credits will be carefully scrutinized, but then you don't have fill out all the paperwork for subsequent buildings on the prototype credits. Sounds great, but then you find out they will audit a few of these credits each time, so you still need to collect all those materials invoices!
I haven't worked on a project like this yet, but if the buildings are really similar, you can likely save a good deal of time. If the floor plan is the same you can avoid daylight and views calcs, which are some of the most time-consuming. The more design freedom you have the less sense this makes.
Ultimately, any time you're working in one of the three systems you're going to need the application guide. My limited experience with certifying multiple buildings together has left me recommending certifying them independently, but sometimes the certification cost savings can't be ignored. Either way, you need be clear about how the "reasonable project boundary" is going to be setup with civil engineers, landscapers, the architect, and whoever's designing the site lighting.
It seems silly, but be aware 1 certification = 1 plaque, regardless of how many buildings are involved. USGBC won't fork up another one, even if you try to buy them off. If the client is interested in marketing a LEED facility, this might be an issue!
As always, please leave your experiences with certifying multiple buildings in the comments section. I'm sure someone will point out a few mistakes by the end of the week, so check back later for corrections!