LEED VOC Requirements for Firestopping

You may notice a trend in posts right now, as I'm on a bit of a VOC kick at the moment. (See indoor environmental quality (EQc4) posts on primers, phenol formaldehyde, and the interior/exterior issue.) The VOC requirements are quite vague, as good standard definitions of each category are hard for many products. Today I was asked to look at what VOC requirements there are for firestopping sealants. Though I don't have a definitive answer (<- this can't be stressed enough), after talking to a few people I feel like we're on the right track.

OSI Green Series Firestopping

I started looking for the VOC limit by searching through the CIR's to no avail. The project manager and I discussed and figured the best definition was "Architectural Sealant", yielding a upper VOC limit of 250 g/l. After looking online I noticed Grace has a great LEED summary of their Flamesafe products. The sheet didn't indicate what category they were listed as, but after talking to Craig Boucher, LEED AP I learned they also assumed that "architectural sealant" was the best category for the putty and silicone products. For the sprays they assumed that it would need to qualify as a non-flat paint under EQc4.2.

In any case none of the Flamesafe products are above 50 g/l total content, and Craig indicated that the products were already around those levels before they needed to be marketed as "green". Interestingly the OSI "green series" products listed above have a higher VOC level (listed at 55 g/l on Green Depot) than the "standard" product from Grace.

As I said before I think I'm right but can't be sure without your help (or dropping $220 on an official CIR). Please let us all know if you can add some certainty to this post by leaving a comment... Your help will be much appreciated!

Helpful Tool from USGBC

I don't know if most of you get this, but I've been impressed with the recent group of emails from the USGBC titled "USGBC Update". The most recent email (pictured below) actually provided some practical info regarding changes to LEED including the fact that LEED-EB 2.0 registrations end Thursday and a clarification that residential projects 1-3 stories in height must use LEED-Homes and not LEED-NC.

You can sign up for these updates for free if you do not get them already, but you must be registered with www.usgbc.org to do so. Registration for this and other emails can be done here. What would be even better is an RSS feed of USGBC updates on LEED specifically, but I'm not aware of any such resource. If I'm wrong please let me know by leaving a comment.

LEED VOC Requirements for Interior and Exterior Paints

Exterior Paints

Exterior paints and finishes are NOT covered in the requirements of EQc4, Low-Emitting Materials. That is to say, you could technically coat the building in a toxic 5000 g/l stew if you were so inclined. This is a small issue that many of you may already know about, but I remember back in the day I didn't catch the distinction and just received an email question about it earlier today. The reasoning is fairly obvious if you think about it, as exterior paints aren't really going to affect indoor air quality.

Quiz: Are these ladies LEED compliant?

No Interior Paints Used?

The question the reader brought up is whether you can earn the credit if no paints are being installed indoors. This is pretty common on Core and Shell projects, and I wasn't (and am still not) 100% sure about this. My thought is that you're still meeting the intent of the credit by not introducing unecessary coatings with harmful effect.

I did notice reading the CS Reference Guide (June 06 edition) that there is an exemplary performance point available for requiring and enforcing "compliance with the suite of EAc4 [note: I'm assuming this is a typo that should be EQc4] credits for 100% of the tenant spaces". Frequently in CS you're allowed to substitute lease restrictions instead of actually complying with the credit requirements when the requirements of the credit are not in your scope of work.

I've listed my thoughts on the lack of interior paints in a CS project issue, but I'm not certain of anything I've posted about it. Anyone who could help clarify these issues would be extremely helpful! Please share your experience by posting a comment!

Jump to earlier post on how primers fit into the VOC limits.

Energy Modeling: Structure, Strengths and Loopholes

RealLifeLEED is (sadly) back from his glorious vacation, but is happy to continue bringing the best in obscure LEED resources to you hardcore in-the-trenches AP's. Today I'm letting you know about an interesting article written by PhD and ASHRAE Fellow Stephen Kavanaugh about the strengths and loopholes associated with energy modeling, specifically related to ASHRAE 90.1:

Rating High Performance Buildings: What Architects and Owners Should Know

This article brings up a good point about the ASHRAE model, specifically that it won't necessarily be a good representation of the actual energy use! Kavanaugh cites a study that found LEED building's modeled and actual energy use differed by an average of 62%!!! The small graph on the page indicates that it's a roughly 50/50 split between over and underestimations.

It's important to understand what is included in the energy model, and how you shouldn't guarantee the client anything about reduced electricity bills. Though the building is modeled to have low energy use, an owner with a penchant for ice-cold workspaces or a retailer who loves open front doors could ruin the best intentions of your designs.

I personally had little knowledge about what's included in the models until I took a VERY useful USGBC half-day workshop entitled "Understanding Energy Modeling in LEED for New Construction Projects". It was amazing to me how quickly you can use free modeling programs to setup a rough baseline building and play with different features and conservation measures to see where you stack up. The final model will need to be completed by someone who knows what they're doing, but early simulations can provide some interesting insights for amatuers.

Energy modeling problems or helpful hints? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment!

Sailing - The Sustainable Vacation

So... Real Life LEED is about to take a vacation, both online and in real life! I'm headed down to the Bahamas for Regatta Time in Abaco and yes I know you're jealous... You voyeurs can track where I'm at courtesy of IBoatTrack.

Me and the crew... word

I'll be back sometime around mid-July, assuming good winds and no hurricanes...