An Official LEED Newsletter... Finally!

Just got a newsletter in my inbox that promises "to keep LEED project teams and others who are interested informed and up-to-date on LEED news and updates." And it only took 9 years to happen... progress! Now if we can only convince the USGBC to put something like this on their website... permanently... we'd be in good shape.

LEED Update

Because knowing is half the battle

NOTE: Even if you received this email (it looks like only project administrators got the first automatically), you need to sign up to continue receiving it.

Greenbuild Session Review: v3: How Controls, Contracts, and Coverage Protect LEED and Your Bottom Line

This panel took three lawyers and gave them each a group to represent: the owner, the designers/builders, and the insurers. Each counsel then highlighted the relevant issues that party needs to consider, and the emphasis was on how the new LEEDv3 system in particular affects contracts and risk mitigation measures. After an obligatory introduction to some of the changes in the v3 system that I won't cover here, we heard the following:

Risk is defined for this discussion as "anything that causes the project to not meet expectations, to be delayed, or to cost more than planned.

The Owner

There was a great point right up front that despite how 'old' LEED may be to design professionals at this point, the typical owner has still never heard about it. As a result, architects frequently have to 'sell' the owner on the concept and will either overestimate costs (+15-20% premium) or oversell the benefits, but either way they're frequently misinformed.

Another interesting discussion revolved around the notion that in a down economy, the owner can get away with putting pretty much anything in their contracts (i.e., harsh penalties for missing a LEED deadline) and architects and builders will still sign it because they need the business.

The Architect/Builder

The number one issue is "who is ultimately responsible for achieving the desired LEED certification rating?" Couldn't agree more about this, as the default reaction I've seen is that it's no one. Most advice out there says not to guarantee (or imply a guarantee) everything, and if that's the case then it's seemingly the owner.

What is the definition of substantial completion for a contractor in a LEED project, and how does the typical change? The question was raised and is valid, but we never quite got around to answering it.

A scenario was proposed where a project team 'pads' a project with 5 points over the required (let's say by mandate), and 6 points are missed... who pays? The response was that it's likely to be divided amongst the parties ultimately responsible for the credit.

The Insurer

The focus on the insurance perspective is limited to professional liability and surety. Right off the bat we get the top 5 concerns insurers are facing, which have been verified by surveys though I didn't hear any specific reference to a public study:

1. Guarantee of a certification or performance outcome
2. Communication between design and construction team and the O&M Team
3. Evolving Standard of Care
4. Changing regulations and the need to stay current
5. Material Specification and Substitution

Regarding the guarantee, professional liability does not generally cover these clauses, and if you fail you'll be defending yourself and covering any penalties out of your own pocket. A professional liability coverage is only going to cover the architect's negligent acts, and missing a LEED certification does not necessarily constitute the requisite negligence.

Another "evolving risk" issue that deserves consideration is how the litany of unlicensed specialists (lighting designers, LEED consultants, green roof designers, etc.) are covered under conventional policies. There is some concern on the panel that some insurers won't necessarily cover unlicensed professionals.

Please note I'm not a lawyer and have had to type furiously to report the proceedings as best I can. This is not legal advice and may contain factual errors. Please consult with an attorney about the best way for you to minimize your exposure to these issues but I hope the above was helpful all the same.

LEED Online V3 Executive Status Update

This session featured three big-wigs at the USGBC providing glimpse into the successes and failures of the new LEED-Online version 3 system and where the system is heading in the near future. Interestingly, the overall tone was very apologetic and they really worked to emphasize the continuous improvement taking place behind the scenes. Amazingly, the questions from the crowd were the most complimentary and cordial that I've seen. The crowd really seemed to feel that most of the big problems are behind us. I actually haven't gotten into a v3 project yet, and am curious to hear your thoughts.

These guys care... is what I heard about 20 times during this session


The first LEED-Online system was produced in about 6 months with 10 people on the team to respond to a urgent demand for an online certification system. "We consider LEED-Online 2 to be a success story because it met the mandate for an online system" on a shoestring budget in a very short period of time.

LEEDv2 wasn't scalable, and from the beginning the USGBC knew it would have to be replaced entirely. To date, about $7 million and 100,000 man-hours have been invested in the recently released current system, LEED-Online v3, and it's designed to scale based on LEED growth and allow flexibility for future improvements. 1956 projects are currently registered under v3 with three complete certifications to date. There were also additional features in the new system, including smart forms that automatically populate common figures (e.g. occupancy and square footage figures) and a rating system selection guide for new users... You've heard all this before though, so let's get to the update on how the new system is performing:


"The complaints started rolling in in July and August... I just want to acknowledge that we're not happy with the feedback and the way the system was performing... Thanks to the feedback received, [read: complaints] we're in a much better place today than we were early in the Summer." The number one complaint according to their tracking revolves around form problems and incorrect calculations that result. There were multiple comments requesting feedback, so your complaints do get heard! The feedback button seems to be the primary means of complaints, though the hotlines account for over 500 complaints so far.


There was a great slide about the problems they've faced (I'll see if I can get that posted here), showing a number of problems since the launch that have been resolved (mac access, login problems, a full size credit review page, SOME form calculation errors, etc.) I did get the impression from the panel that the USGBC is really pushing to resolve these problems, and they've spent 64,000 man hours since the launch working on problems. According to their own figures, out of 2336 known issues with the system, all but 154 have been resolved.

The Form Issues

Most issues are resolved through release updates that occur over the weekend to minimize disruptions, but for some credits, notably the EAp2 form for energy efficiency compliance, they have resorted to project by project updates as requested by project teams. They're now going through a process that updates problematic credit forms based on those that have the most impact (i.e. are used by all or most project teams). If a form has not been used yet (i.e. no information has been uploaded), it will be upgraded automatically. If information has been loaded, the USGBC leaves it up to you to decide to upgrade the form, and strongly recommends that you do so. At that point, the USGBC will update it for you over a few days wth no data re-entry required.

Through 2010

The main vision outlined by the USGBC for the near future involves improved usability and performance (including ongoing maintenance), robust help content including integration with LEEDuser (note: LEEDuser is a sponsor of this site, but I promise I would have mentioned it anyway!), and project reporting and metric features that weren't well described. Before opening it up to questions, Mike Opitz declared "I stand before you today with a strong sense of humility and a strong sense of hope."

The Questions

"What's the deal with the lack of offline form work?" The reasoning behind removing that ability largely focuses around how the forms are much more linked to the overall system than in the old system, but they are looking into ways reinstate this functionality in the future. No timeline was offered.

"What guidance are you giving to the review teams about what's appropriate in the mid-review communications and what should be submitted in the formal CIR process?" The response here basically stated that they're not terribly certain about this, and are working on it as they go. I'd suggest just asking whatever you can and let them either answer or reject it.

Greenbuild Session Review: Cx & EM – Value, Cost and Project Integration

This session featured quite a few notable minds (the term “dauntingly prestigious” was used at one point) and featured some telling audience surveys, with a packed crowd (somewhere above 1,000) mostly but not exclusively composed of designers and engineers (many owners/facility managers included in the audience as well).

Energy Modeling

  • “Is energy modeling a necessary cost or mandate of LEED?” 70Y 20M 10N
  • “Is energy modeling too expensive for the outcome delivered?” 10Y 45M 45N
  • “Is the scope of energy modeling commonly understood?” 10Y 30M 60N
  • “There aren't enough energy modelers.” 70Y 20M 10N
  • “Energy modeling is not predictive of building performance.” 60Y 30M 10N
  • “There is no passive thermal modeling available.” 85Y 10M 5N
  • “Energy modeling increases standard of care for the design professional.” 50Y 30M 20N
  • “Energy modeling helps justify investments and convince clients.” 95Y 5M 0N
  • “Energy modeling supports integrated project delivery.” 75Y 20M 5N
  • “Energy modeling supports informed choices.” 90Y 5M 5N
  • “Most tools do not reflect the most innovative system designs.” 80Y 20M 0N

The end result of these survey questions was a discussion loosely focused around the following quote: ”Energy models are not particularly good at determining absolute energy use, but do a good job of comparing scheme A to scheme B.” This comment was quickly followed with a discussion about how we need tools to foster energy prediction. There is a strong need to get a detailed and ACCURATE understanding of the schedule of occupancy and how the building will be operated. Ultimately we have to model human nature (How far into Fall are you going to just leave the windows open instead of using a heater/AC? Is that typical?), and there aren't very good metrics or processes for getting this done.

When asked what the USGBC should due to respond to these issues, there was an excellent comment from the panel that right now all of the training is taking place in practice, and as a result there's no time for people to really explore and understand the software. There needs to be an emphasis on getting this training into the college degree programs where there aren't time (read: money) constraints. How the USGBC can foster this is up in the air. ”All of these comments have a common theme: a lack of consistent methodology.”

Commissioning (Cx)

  • “Cx is a necessary component/mandate of LEED.” 99Y .5M .5N
  • “Is Cx too expensive for the outcome delivered?” 0Y 30M 70N
  • “Is Enhanced Cx too expensive for for the outcome delivered?” 0Y 45M 55N
  • “Is Cx too poorly defined in scope to be properly implemented?” 50Y 0M 50N
  • “Are there too few qualified CxA?” 50Y 30M 20N
  • “There is no uniform certification program” 70Y 20M 10N
  • “Contractors don't understand Cx and as a result overcharge.” 60Y 25M 15N
  • “Costs are not standardized (all over the map).” 80Y 15M 5N
  • “Cx is the only way to ensure HVAC, lighting and other energy systems' installation are operating properly.” 70Y 20M 10N
  • “Cx improves project quality.” 95Y 4M 1N
  • “Cx reduces the liability of the design/construction team.” 50Y 30M 20N
  • “Cx saves the client more money than it costs to perform.” 70Y 25M 5N

”The M&V point is the most important LEED credit with regard to reducing the carbon footprint of a facility. The second most important point is enhanced commissioning.” The justification for this is that you can't improve what you don't track (M&V), and that the enhanced Cx credit requires that the CxA train the owner about how the building is to function. Comments from a CxA on the panel indicated he has found hundreds of overrides in retrocommissioning projects that are the result of a facility manager not understanding how their systems operate.

The other major discussion on this topic revolved around the fact that there's wide variability in the scope when all this is asked for in the RFP is to provide LEED fundamental/enhanced Cx services. Fundamental Cx was seen by commenters to be insufficient, as you're really only asking the CxA to provide the 'middle' of the services. They're brought in too late (no substantial design review) and leave too early (insufficient training and verification).

Keynote Cooldown

R. Fed just told me that there's 28,000 of us in Phoenix right now, and many of us are basking in some cool desert air after a warm 'sprawly' day. Al Gore's due up, to be followed by Sheryl Crow, but I'm really just stoked right now about the fact that I have a beer and a bag of cracker jacks sitting on either side of my computer. Well played, USGBC... well played.

Baller shtiz

Title: View from a crappy camera

Greenbuild Session Review: LCA into LEED

Life cycle analysis (LCA) is something that's been 'almost ready' to integrate into LEED for some time. Many expected it in the LEED v3 rollouts, but that didn't happen. This afternoon session focused on the new LEED LCA pilot credit (a system which I'll cover in more detail later, for now you can read about it straight from the horse's mouth or rely on the few tidbits I gathered below) and then here was a series of questions/comments from the floor. I apologize for the piecemeal summary you're getting below, but there was minimal presentation and too much 'discussion' that didn't really focus on the topic at hand - getting LCA into LEED. Here's what I learned:

The Basics of the LCA Credit

The pilot credit for LCA is available now, and you can read the draft here. As you might have guessed, there are about a billion issues that go into play when defining life cycle impacts of a product, and defining a system that fairly scores individual products and assemblies was/is remarkably difficult.

The current model is based on the use of the Athena Insitute Ecocalculator, largely due to the fact that they have a system ready to go now. You'll input the products used into their system, which determines the impacts (water, energy, pollution, disposal, toxicity, etc.), and the USGBC has assigned weightings to those categories that determine the scores. The ecocalculator uses an assembly system (wall, roof, floor, etc) where you input your assembly type, then the calculator uses a national average of impacts for the materials comprising that assembly to determine the score. I would suggest reading the Athena site directly if you're interested in more detailed info.

From the manufacturer's end, they have to provide specific product data (embodied energy, greenhouse gas impacts) to the Athena Institute, and then that info is folded into the assembly level data. There was substantial concern in the audience about the transparency and consistency of this process, though there are checks within the Athena Institute.

The Pilot System

"The Pilot Credit system is not currently operational at this point. The way we envisioned it is that project teams would have access to these credits and can use it if they want to." Most notably, you would get awarded a point either way even if you don't earn the point provided the documentation and an additional evaluation that the USGBC would use to modify or streamline the credit process.

Right now only the language for each official credit is online, though the USGBC has developed support materials that will be online later. "We want to give everyone as much notice as possible, and as a result we're releasing thngs in stages... Information on the submission process will be up soon".

Next Steps

Assuming the system is figured out and perfect, it's time to consider what this will replace and how it will fit in to the existing Materials and Resources credit structure. According to the panel, the most likely near term solution will be an either/or 'alternative compliance path'. LCA considers multiple attributes of sustainability all at once, where the current MR credit system focuses on single attributes (recycling, regional sourcing, etc.). In other words you can do the LCA and get 5 points (proposed) OR you could follow the existing credits (the proposal is that it will replace MRc1.1, MRc4, and MRc5) but not both. This is similiar to many compliance paths in LEED-Homes today.

Ugh... Questions

Unfortunately, the session involved a bunch of questions that didn't really clarify what it will take to incorporate this into the LEED project (i.e. the stuff you come here to learn about), and involved a series of passive aggressive comments framed as questions. It's surprising to me how much people focus on the wrong in any given system without seeing the bigger picture of creating a PRACTICAL system for measuring and scoring material impact (of course there were notable exceptions, which were already folded into the comments above).

I'm getting a beer, and anyone who saw the web session I moderated can probably understand why! A special thanks to those of you who stuck it out to the end!

Greenbuild Session Review: How the LEED - EB Certification Process Transforms Your Operations...

This panel featured a mix of facility managers and engineering consultants describing some of the issues they have faced both from a design and documentation standpoint and then balanced that with the owner reports of what did or didn't work on the ground. Due to some last minute planning for my presentation later in the day I showed up late, but here's what they shared while I was there:

Water Issues

Retrofitting low-flow flush valves on older toilets failed miserably, to the point where the flush valves had to be replaced. This jibes well with what I've heard about the importance of bowl design on successful flush ratings.

Use of perennials as a means to water use reductions raised neighborhood complaints about appearances when the plants went into their dormant stages. Calculating landscaping baselines was difficult.

Procurement and Waste

"One of the biggest hurdles of material credits is tracking... Trying to corral 100 different people with purchasing power is like herding geese." Standardized tracking spreadsheets and written example vendor documentation is helpful, but the team is still expecting a large data-entry issue at the end of the performance period.

For large organizations with multiple buildings, problems can arise when certain buildings are forced to use (potentially lower quality) sustainable goods (cough... recycled toilet paper... cough cough) and the other buildings do not. Tenants would literally bring the toilet paper from one building and the other and ask why they were being punished.

The waste audit was alarming in one facility. Before the LEED-EB process began the facility already had a waste management program, but the audit revealed only a 40% recycling rate. That initiated a series of changes, most notably a removal of disposable cups and extremely small waste bins at the desks (about the size of a big gulp cup). The facility monitor actually used the word 'mutiny' at this point... "Just let them complain for two weeks, and then they get over it and even get happy!" The notion was that the biggest complainers soon become the strongest adopters. Despite early complaints, the recycling rate jumped to over 82% within months and eliminated $52,000 a year in styrofoam cups alone.

Indoor Environmental Quality

"Both projects needed to have outdoor air flow rates adjusted... Almost no one is where they should be. They're either too low or too high." This was a surprise to me and I expect this could have big cost implications for some projects, though exemptions are available IF you can find the original design documents showing that the current system can't be modified as required.

There was some excellent guidance about how to handle the occupant comfort surveys, particularly related to including questions correlating what the occupant was wearing and the activities they perform with thermal comfort. If you have people complaining about the cold but are wearing tank tops in the winter, the appropriate solution is to have them put on a sweater and not adjust the thermostat. Complaints need to be investigated to determine the root cause. There were many instances where investigations found closed or locked dampers that wouldn't have been fixed by simple thermostat changes.

Team Management

Food service representatives are vital to be included in the LEED team, even if they're a contracted organization. Food supply and service touches on everything from energy to water to materials and procurement, yet are often under-represented on the team.

"You're going to hear this over and over again today: Educating your occupants is vital to your project success." For one project there was actually a communications team including the company's marketing and facilities departments dedicated to creating materials that rotated regularly (every two months) pushing green initiatives in the facility.

The VSP facility spent 2,200 staff hours towards their LEED-EB implementation efforts, though savings are substantial and included a 5% reduction in insurance premiums. The NEA facility used an anticipated 2,400 team hours while reporting a 19% energy use reduction in the first year and a 13% annual water savings.

What did I miss?

If you were at this session and thought there were some important notes that I missed, please leave a comment and share with everyone!

Come See Real Life LEED Moderate the Hell Out of This Panel!

Surprise! Through a set of circumstances I'm still not entirely certain about, I've ended up as the replacement moderator for the "BL02: iGreen: How the Web Empowers Designers To Build Sustainably" session at 2:00 PM today in room 121. While I'm terribly underprepared, the panelists are top notch, and all I'm really doing is acting as a conduit between the audience and the speakers anyway. Check it out!

Credded Up

Founder of What? Don't worry about it.

Sunday Funday: Musings from Big Wayne

No real point here, but I couldn't resist...

I tried really hard to track down the company listed, "Second Site Systems" and came up short, but I think they now operate under the CU-Phosco Lighting brand. Clearly they craft only finest quality product.

via Annietown.

LEED Charrette Planning Guide

My firm has a new LEED project that I've been asked to help plan a startup charrette, a first for me (though I've participated in a few others). After noticing google mostly just references you to firms providing LEED charrette facilitation services, I thought it would be helpful to compile a list of resources that I found useful in my planning. ...A boring post to be sure, but a necessary one all the same. If you have no idea what I'm talking about right now, I recommend starting with this EDC article that serves as a great intro to the concept.

Charrette Fight

Spontaneous outbreaks of violence are generally a good sign that you've lost control of your charrette

By far the most comprehensive and useful resource I've seen is the Whole Building Design Guide's resource page for charrettes, which led me to a free copy of the NREL's 116 page Handbook for Planning and Conducting Charrettes for High Performance Projects. Between these two resources you can probably figure out 99% of what you'll need to do.

Case Studies and Sample Agendas

  • The Net-Zero Commercial Buildings Initiative of the Building Technology Program from the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Group at the US Department of Energy's (would love to see an org chart on these guys if you know where to find one) page on charrettes lists presentations and 4-5 case study reports on notable sustainable projects.
  • USGBC 1/2 Day Eco-Charrette- This seems like a very good template... introduce the benefits, develop a vision and strategies, and then tally up the LEED points at the end. Most everything I've seen has said the LEED checklist itself can be a poor crutch if pulled out too early. If you can pull it off, I think it's best to get the owner to forget about points and certification levels entirely and just worry about doing what's best for the project.
  • Oregon Sustainability Center- On the other end of the spectrum, this WEEK LONG planning/design charrette includes numerous in-depth group breakouts, presentations, and even a 'blog launch' to help document the process as it continues through construction. I would also highly recommend that blog for anyone planning a living building, or just looking for activities to help facilitate brainstorming. There is a HUGE amount of meat covering why the building design has developed into what it is today. Also, anyone looking for visualization photos won't be disappointed either.

A quick plug for the fine folks at Delta

This has absolutely nothing to do with the content above, but I crafted this post using my laptop and free (trial) in-flight wifi!!! I'm somewhere over Oklahoma the first leg of my Greenbuild supertrip as we speak...

Straight ballin'

Yay netbooks!

Phoenix or Bust - The Unofficial 2009 Greenbuild Planning Guide

I'll be leaving on Friday for a whirlwind tour of the west coast and whatever you would call the Arizona/Nevada region (the Census calls it West-Mountain Division?). By Tuesday of next week, I'll be at GREENBUILD in Phoenix, and will be blogging as fast as I can on the frustratingly small keyboard of my new netbook (expect more typos than normal)... I thought I'd give you dear readers my thoughts on what to attend, and I'd love to see some comments from locals about places I need to see in San Diego, Las Vegas, and of course Phoenix.

The Sights

Frankly, I don't know jack about Phoenix, so if you're looking for sightseeing and or dining options I'm not the guy you want to be talking to... Greensource was smart enough to ask a bunch of locals, mostly architects (including one guy who eschews the "III" suffix at the end of his name in favor of a "3"... I sincerely hope to meet Mr. DeBartolo, 3 during my travels), though those of you who don't wear black all the time can see the thoughts of a community organizer and ArchRecord Editor. In general there seems to be enough fodder and pretty pictures on that sight to allow me to skip any further research on this subject.

Fear and Loathing in Phoenix

Fear and Loathing in Phoenix... Vegas happens after

If you haven't booked a hotel yet... good luck! There's nothing left that I could find within walking distance of the convention center, but I was able to find a few hotels near the new light rail line.

The Sessions

So... I've finally registered for my sessions at Greenbuild (note: some things are already at the wait-list stage... do it today if you haven't already!), and I have to admit that I'm a little disappointed to see that everything except for the master speaker sessions and specialty updates are panel discussions... There's a time and a place for those, but I wish a few of these session topics would go into the depth and detail that only a single speaker or more formal lecture can deliver. In any case, there's clearly boatloads of talent worth seeing.

Official schedule info can be found here. In general, you have the option for paying for tours or workshops in place of the sessions included in your registration, and everything I'm going to discuss focuses on the 'free' sessions. Here's my schedule and other sessions I'd like to see if I could be two (or in some cases four) places at once. Sessions in bold are the ones I plan to attend.


I get to Phoenix in the late evening, but those around earlier may want to head to the Expo Hall grand opening that starts at 5:30 after checking in. After that there's a party from the folks at GreenGuard that starts at 8:00 off-site at a pub called Coach and Willies, but I'm not sure if that's invite-only or open to the public... the evite I got wasn't exactly clear.


  • BROWN SERIES - 8:30-10:00AM
    • BR12: How the LEED-EB Certification Process Transforms Your Operations and Engages People
      • I don't know about you, but our firm has seen a very elevated interest in LEED-EB certification lately, and I'm looking to bone up on the subject.
    • BR08: Re-membering: The Patterns of Living Systems Design
      • I haven't personally met Dayna Baumeister of the Biomimicry Guild, but I've read her boss' book and am familiar enough with their work to know it should be an interesting session. When you consider Bill Reid of Integrative Design Collaborative is also on the panel (saw an excellent presentation by him at a local conference), this is sure to be a great discussion.
    • BR10: Bringing Green to Main Street: Demystifying and Managing the Risks of Green Building
      • I'm recommending this session solely on the strength of a presentation I saw Kimberly Pexton give to our offices about a year ago... she clearly understood how to get LEED done on the ground. She is the Director of Sustainable Construction for Hitt Contracting, a large general contractor with a broad range of LEED experience.
    • There is only one session offered at this time, the "Executive Roundtable", and I'm going to have to miss at least part of it due to prior plans, but this seems like a very interesting session featuring none other then R.Fed himself with a distinguished panel of Fortune 500 Presidents, COOs, and Senior VPs.
  • SPECIALTY UPDATES - 12:30-1:30PM
    • The Specialty Update series are the sessions that are probably going to be boring but the most useful as far as your day to day job as a LEED AP is concerned (Today's topics: Earning and Maintaining LEED Credentials, LEED for Retail Practical Strategies, The Evolving Recognition of Certified Wood Products, etc.). I could also suspect, but can't confirm, that many of these sessions will be available online after the conference is over. I'm unfortunately going to miss the Wednesday updates, but will work to get the most important announcements back to you after the fact.
  • BLUE SERIES - 2:00-3:30PM
    • BL02: iGreen: How the Web Empowers Designers to Build Sustainably
    • BL09: Zero Energy Buildings: Case Studies in Accessible Technologies for a More Sustainable Main Street
      • Though I'm punching myself for reverting to this worn out cliche, Net Zero is the new LEED, and it can't hurt to see what's available today to make it happen.
    • BL10: Risk Management and LEED
      • A group of lawyers in a room discussing pitfalls of LEED and how to avoid them. It's been done before and it will be done again, but I haven't been to one of these yet where I didn't learn something that could (or possibly already has) keep me out of a lawsuit. Also, most lawyers I've met are funny.
  • GREEN SERIES - 4:00-5:30PM
    • GR01: LCA Into LEED, The Objective Behind the LCA Pilot Credit and a Roundtable Session to Help Advance the LEED LCA Credit Calculator
      • Frankly, I'm doing this one for you guys... Even the title sounds tedious! The pilot credit library is new to me, and I hope to be able to fill in the blanks to you once this session is over. It also appears that the USGBC will be listening to attendees about how to make this process go smoothly, so hopefully I'll be able to make a difference, however small, for the better here.
    • GR13: Indoor Environmental Quality and Human Health - The Vital Connections
      • I think we undersell the value of IEQ improvements in general, and I hope this session would help arm you with more data to support these efforts.
  • KEYNOTE - 6:00-9:00PM
    • Al Gore, Sheryl Crow, and all that jazz... if you've somehow missed the announcement about this one I'm not sure where you've been


  • RED SERIES - 8:30-10:00AM
    • RD05: Big Government, Big Results, Big Opportunities
      • Go where the work is, right?
    • RD13: Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) for Higher Eduction
      • I haven't heard of this yet, and though the name sounds an awful lot like the DoD's SPiRit rating system (good riddance!), the website indicates it's more of a system for tracking building performance AFTER construction, which is never a bad idea. I'm not sure what to expect from this, but I must admit I'm curious.
    • There is only one session offered at this time, "Cx & EM - Value, Cost and Project Integration". I'm not terribly sure what to expect here, but you will struggle to find a more accomplished panel in the whole conference. My personal fave is Vivian Loftness of Carnegie Mellon, who is probably the person I would like to meet most at this conference...
  • SPECIALTY UPDATES - 12:30-1:30PM
    • I'll be able to make this round of updates, and I've chosen "SU17, LEED Online V3: Executive Status Update" to attend because of their promise to describe "user experience with it to date, and USGBC's resolution of challenges that have arisen since go-live." Let's only hope Mr. Opitz isn't too mad at me for not publishing an interview he was kind enough to offer me! Sorry about that (seriously)!
  • ORANGE SERIES - 2:00-3:00PM
    • OR01: Benchmarking Strategies to Analyze Building Performance, Reduce Costs, Save Energy, and Improve Sustainability Best Practices
      • Benchmarking is something near and dear to my heart, as I hope to get a comprehensive post-occupancy assessment program off the ground at work in the next few months.
    • OR11: Bridging the Gap Between Design and Performance: Experience from Leading Low Carbon Communities
    • OR16: Sustainable Valuation: When Going Green Makes Cents
      • I probably would have avoided the "Makes Cents" reference personally, but you can't argue with the value of the topic... Having Tom Paladino on the panel means you're getting one of the most knowledgeable sustainable valuation experts in front of you to tell you about it, too.
  • YELLOW SERIES - 4:00-5:30PM
    • YL01: Maintaining the Momentum with V3: How Controls, Contracts, and Proper Coverage Protect LEED and Your Bottom Line
      • Another lawyer panel, but since I couldn't make the first one I've decided to go with this one. I'm curious about the specific tie to LEED v3, and interested to hear if there's any specific legal implications tied to the new system.
    • YL13: Innovative Water Solutions for Schools
      • This is another instance of me recommending a session based on the merit of a speaker I've seen before and was extremely impressed with. Mike Nicklas of Innovative Design tends to rigorously measure the performance of the systems he designs, and I have little doubt that his recommendations will be effective.
    • YL16: Delivering Green to Hotel Guests: Incorporating LEED Into Hospitality Brand Standards & Operations
      • Hotels are a tricky animal when you consider that the owners are generally very (sometimes obsessively) concerned with the perceptions of the guests. What you can push on an employee (say, low flow sinks) might not fly in a hotel, and I'm curious to hear how they resolve these situations.
    • I wish I had the resources to throw all you readers a big, all expenses paid party, but let's be honest... it's just not happening. Thursday night is open for me though, and if someone local could recommend a good bar (within walking distance of course) for a bunch or RLL'ers to meetup informally I'll put up a separate post letting everyone know and we'll see what happens... To be honest, I've only met one person who's read my blog outside of South Carolina in person!


  • PURPLE SERIES - 8:30-10:00AM
    • PL01: Case Study: Assessing Green Building Performance
      • Again, I'm a little obsessed right now with post-occupancy assessments, and I'm really looking to learn how to do them right. I can't imagine two better tutors than Vivian Loftness and Kim Fowler, a PNNL researcher involved in developing a common metric to help build a much needed database of performance outcomes that could be compared across building types.

The Summary

Yeah... There's some stuff going off Friday afternoon and Saturday, but I'm going to be in VEGAS... dolla, dolla bill, y'all!!! I have no clue how many readers will be out there, but feel free to say hey if you see me... That's me on the left, though as that's a work profile photo I'll likely look much more comfortable and have less hair...

LEED-Homes First Impressions... FREAKIN LOVE IT!

The firm I work at has been involved in an affordable housing project seeking LEED-Homes certification for a few months now, and until this morning I was largely uninvolved. Today though I was asked to run through the checklist and start to figure out who does what. Here's what I've learned so far:

  • The LEED-Homes certification process is infinitely more user friendly than the other LEED systems. Instead of a mysterious review team located somewhere in communist Berlin, you can actually pick up a phone to work through documentation issues with your provider!
  • LEED-Homes is remarkably straightforward. It's clear cut, prescriptive, and most anyone can understand the requirements without a PhD in LEEDology. I understand that homes have much more consistent issues than commercial projects that makes this possible, but that doesn't make it any less nice.
  • There seems to be a great balance of design justification and in the field performance verification. I may find that as we enter into the construction phase that I may learn to hate LEED-Homes for the same reason, but we have a quality team and I don't expect that to be the case. Having a HERS rater evaluate the building as constructed in theory sounds like a much simpler way of determining relative energy performance over ASHRAE modeling.
happy about LEED

Where would this blog be without marginally related photos?

ps... the bacon represents LEED-Homes, and I'm the cat.

Now, it's important to understand that our consultants and review team have already done a significant amount of work coordinating the design already, but from a pure documentation standpoint I can't get over how user-friendly this process is. Thanks for indulging my raves... I don't gush very often, but we need to figure out how to make the other LEED systems this simple to use while maintaining their rigor. I don't have an answer for that, but given the litany of issues I've faced recently surrounding project boundaries, I can say for sure a quick call to the review team would likely solve hours worth of headaches. Get on it guys!

Proving LEED Works: Productivity Gains in LEED/Energy Star Buildings

At work I'm frequently tasked with providing empirical support for sustainable design strategies for clients who may be on the fence or don't really understand what this LEED thing is all about. Over the next few months I'm going to be providing what I've found to be some of the most convincing arguments. Today we begin with an excellent new study out of California (go figure)...

A joint CBRE and University of San Diego study examining the impact of LEED and Energy Star buildings on occupant productivity provides an excellent argument for sustainable design that a CEO could understand that isn't based on expected utility savings... a rare study indeed! Even more interesting, the study provides a strong argument for a more comprehensive concept of sustainability, one including indoor environmental quality efforts in particular, by showing how LEED projects far surpass Energy Star buildings with regard to reduced absenteeism.

Summarizing the Old

Documentation of the economic benefits of indoor environmental quality measures have been few and far between, and the best part of this study is that it does an excellent job of succinctly laying out what previous research has already determined:

  • Temperature: "The highest productivity is at temperature of around 22 degrees C (71.6 degrees F)..." (page 9)
  • Indoor Air Quality: "It has now been shown beyond reasonable doubt that poor indoor air quality in buildings can decrease productivity in addition to causing visitors to express dissatisfaction... The size of the effect on most aspects of office work performance appears to be as high as 6 - 9%, the higher value being obtained in field validation studies." (page 9)

Exposing the New

What CBRE and USD added to this investigation is a survey of 154 buildings holding over 2,000 tenants in office environments spread across the nation. 99.5% of respondents reported equal or increased productivity in LEED or Energy Star labeled environments, and 90% reported equal or reduced absenteeism. Here is the quote that I found most interesting:

“The 10% that reported more sick time after moving were in Energy Star-labeled buildings and not LEED certified. It appears that they suffer what often happens to new buildings when ventilation systems are not kept clean or VOCs are not eliminated from new construction materials and finishes… we should emphasize that these are not LEED buildings.”

The bottom line: if you want to harness all of the benefits of a sustainable building, you cannot focus on energy efficiency alone! So just what are those benefits from an economic standpoint?

Mo' Money, Mo' Money, Mo' Money! (see page 17)

Of those reporting increased productivity, the average productivity increase was 4.88%, resulting in an annual benefit of $5,204 per worker. When considering LEED only buildings, the average impact was 5.24% ($5,588).

via BEPI

Ergonomics Innovation in Design (IDc1) Point

The other day I stumbled upon a wonderful database of ergonomic information from Cornell while looking into some workstation design issues. One of their resources is a description of the requirements to achieve an Innovation in Design (IDc1) credit (or Innovation in Operations credit (IOc1) for LEED-EB) for good ergonomic design.

Get the Doctor!

LEED AP Sez I Need a Backiotomy!

Included on the Cornell page are a worksheet and a survey based on supplementary guidance from the USGBC describing an approved method for achieving this point. Really though all that is required is "the development and implementation of “a comprehensive ergonomics strategy that will have a positive impact on human health and comfort when performing daily activity for at least 75% of Full Time Equivalent building users”. See the Cornell page for more guidance.

Only 1.6% of Legacy LEED AP's Have Opted Into New Credentialling Program

So I was browsing through the GBCI's LEED AP directory the other day and noticed how few LEED AP's had a specialty listed next to their status. It's been exactly 7 weeks and one day since 'legacy' LEED AP's were able to upgrade to the new credentialing maintenance program (see my questions and concerns about the benefits of such a move here), and I thought it would be interesting to figure out how many have made the plunge into the new credentialing system. After running some numbers I've estimated that less than 1.6% of legacy LEED APs have moved into the new program.


Maytag Man Considering Whether Clients Will Notice LEED-AP Appliance Operations + Maintenance Specialty

If we keep up at this rate (roughly .8%/month), less than 20% will have opted in by the start of the next credentialing cycle two years from the start of the program. I suspect that many of you, like myself, are simply holding out to get a better feel for the new program as the USGBC/GBCI figures it out themselves. The alternatives are that (a) many people have no intention of switching over or (b) that people just haven't been paying attention. I don't really have any frame of reference for all this, but it seems like a slow uptake to me.

The Numbers Behind the Number

This is an incredibly boring explanation of the numbers, and I would suggest not reading them for that reason. At the same time, I get very frustrated when people make claims and show no data to back it up. As of 6:00 pm EST, 09.22.09, the GBCI directory listed the following:

  • Everyone (GA, AP, and AP w/ Specialties) - 122,527
    • Note that placement on this list is voluntary, and I've seen total AP's listed at 131,655 in a 09.09.09 email from the USGBC. My numbers just use GBCI published AP's, which should be a reasonable proxy for AP's at large.
  • LEED APs without specialty - 121,271
    • This number seems to include all previous LEED APs and those who have upgraded to the new system (i.e. those that now have a specialty as well). When you upgrade, the directory appears to list both your 'conventional' LEED AP designation as well as the specialty separately. I did not see anyone on this list with a LEED GA certification (implying they took the tests instead of just opting in). In other words, if we take this number and subtract only those with a specialty, we should get LEED APs who haven't upgraded, but I haven't found a sure way to separate this out.
  • LEED APs with specialty + LEED Green Associates - 3,156
  • LEED APs with specialty 'only' - 2,018
    • Presumably this would include both people who have taken the new tests and those that opted in. The figure for converts I've chosen simply takes this number and divides it by the the 122,527 'everyone' number above (1.64% conversion).
  • LEED Green Associates - 1,163
    • This should only be possible from taking the exam itself, but I've seen a few names that also listed the regular "LEED AP" designation as well, which is strange in that there doesn't seem to be any reason to take the GA test if you could just opt into the higher specialty??? Interestingly, 1163 + 2018 = 3181. Since a search looking for people with either designation yields 3156 hits, it suggests that there is only an overlap of 25 people (3181-3156=25), suggesting only 25 have so far passed both the LEED GA and a LEED specialty exam.

    You probably noticed all the assumptions above, and the directory left me with more than a little confusion since I couldn't separate out certain classes entirely. I put in an email to the USGBC for an official number, though I did so with hardly any advance notice. If I receive official numbers I'll be sure to post them, but it's clear that it's highly unlikely that more than 1.6% of legacy LEED AP's have opted into the new system.

New LEED MRc7, Certified Wood Credit Fair But Complex


How I Learned to Accept a Change from Simple Imperfection to Torturous Accuracy

Yesterday the USGBC released the 2nd draft of the proposal for a new MRc7, Certified Wood credit for LEED-NC, LEED-Schools, LEED-CI, LEED-CS, and LEED-EBOM. You may remember that this was ultimately spurred by the lumber industry's complaints about how their own certification label, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), was unfairly excluded from the LEED credit which only recognized the Forest Stewardship Council's (FSC) more rigorous requirements. You can view the results of a report comparing various lumber certification schemes here. The new proposal is lengthy enough that I thought a summary here, with some commentary, might be useful to you guys.

More Complexity Please

As a result the USGBC's consensus-based process for developing new standards has developed a more inclusive and equitable standard for ranking the standards called the USGBC Forest Certification Benchmark. The new approach is a sort of LEED system within LEED where if a particular forest certification standard complies with over 48 prerequisites and more than 40% of the 32 voluntary credits (sound familiar?), you may attribute the cost of those products towards your "certified wood" percentage needed to earn credit MRc7.

Sample Benchmark Requirements

A sample from page 10 of the benchmark requirements

The more a particular scheme complies with with the voluntary requirements, the greater the relative value of that product you may contribute to hitting your 50% (based on cost) certified wood threshold needed to earn the credit (click here for the new LEED-NC credit draft for yourself):


Really compliant schemes now are worth 3x as they actually cost

This may all sound a bit ridiculous, but to be fair, the requirements themselves all seem make good sense and is necessary to thwart claims that the USGBC is in the back pocket of any particular certification body. By establishing a standard for standards, the USGBC can simply point out the deficiencies of any particular standard instead of (seemingly) arbitrarily accepting or rejecting individual groups. I'm by no means a sustainable forestry expert, but given the 1,800 comments received on the first draft I'd be amazed if anything substantial slipped through the cracks.

Please Follow Through With This!

"Building project teams will not be required to determine if a particular forest certification scheme meets the Benchmark’s requirements." So says the executive summary of the proposal, and I can't stress enough how important it is that the USGBC make it extremely easy for LEED APs to find out the status of one certification system over another. If I had it my way, I would only review certification schemes every two years and list all accepted schemes in the reference guide. If it's not in there tough luck, there's always LEED 2011. It's extremely important that I don't need to become an expert on the shifting forest certification system policy... All the USGBC has released on this end of the revisions is the Forest Certification Benchmark Conformance Assessment Process draft, which is a little light on details.

At a minimum, the USGBC should clearly indicate where to find a COMPLETE list of the current status of any particular forest certification system on the USGBC website, preferably on a URL that never changes. This website should be listed not just in the reference guide but also in the rating system itself.

Will my project be affected?

Though the new standard will only be required if you register a project after the date the credit is accepted (still a ways off). Once accepted though, you are permitted to use the new option in existing projects (v2009 or earlier) as an alternative compliance option.

Last Chance to Change

If you're vehemently opposed to this new system or you have some thoughts on how to improve it, you have until October 15th, 2009 to make your voice heard. Anyone can comment, not just USGBC members, but when it comes up for vote it's members only. I'm also curious to hear your thoughts hear, so please share your thoughts by leaving a comment!

Just noticed this is the 100th post!

...and we're off!!!

Real Life LEED has promised to be a blog for the LEED AP, by a LEED AP (FLAP-BLAP 4 txtrs). For this reason, I've made a policy of not pointing out every new project that earns certification, but please forgive me for announcing that I've officially sent off the first LEED project I've worked on from start to finish to the GBCI for a combined design and construction review! I'm sure that's when most LEED AP's celebrate anyway... We're expecting Gold, so wish us luck, though I've got a number of buffer points saying you won't need to!

I love the smell of green checkmarks in the morning!

I've worked on other projects in a limited role, and have sent off others for reviews, but this is the first one where my name is on the top line of all of my firm's credit submittals. Once the reviews come back, there will be a number of posts discussing some of the issues we faced in design and construction, what I learned corralling paperwork, an update on where the GBCI is falling with review delays, and proper recognition of all involved (my involvement was pretty much limited to LEED paperwork and coordination)!

Coincidently, this project was most of my test-prep for the LEEDv2.2 exam... It was registered originally as a LEED-NCv2.1 project. I was tasked with going credit by credit to determine which would shine more favorably on this particular project, a task that required me reading the reference guides for both 2.1 and 2.2 and writing summaries of the differences. That, along with the online USGBC class was pretty much what comprised my studying for the test.

In Other News

...I've once again slipped into my typical summer non-posting ways! That will change in the next few weeks as I profile some user issues with the new LEED-Online, start planning for my first Greenbuild trip, and update recommendations on how to study for the new v3 series LEED AP exams... if the USGBC's official guides would ever come out (supposedly available October 09... it was September a few weeks ago and "Summer 09" a few months ago). Stay tuned!

SRI Values for Copper Roofing - Old vs. New

A former classmate of mine who is working on a LEED renovation project for Meadors Inc., contacted me recently with two questions. What’s the SRI for copper, and for materials that patina over time do you submit the original SRI value or the aged SRI value for SSc7.2 Heat Island Effect, Roof? I didn't know the answer to either question, but after searching I was able to track down Paul Berdahl of the the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Heat Island Group, who was kind enough to offer to run tests on a few samples of various ages. You can see how quickly the patina changes in the photo below, where the most recently installed roof is in the background:

Copper Roof Installation - Broad Street, Charleston, SC

Photo Credit: Meadors, Inc.

The results for the samples are as you might expect; the copper has a high SRI when new but quickly loses reflectivity as it patinas with time. Strangely when it gets really old it starts to climb up in SRI value again, though not enough to put you in compliance with LEED's requirements. Here's a table of the results:

DescriptionAppearanceSRISolar ReflectanceThermal Emittance
NewBright Copper690.7580.045
2 Weeks OldBright Copper w/ Slight Smudges620.7290.028
Approx. 1 Year OldBrown w/ Green Flecks20.1760.642
Approx. 5 Years OldBrown40.1900.654
50-75 Years OldBrown w/ Light Green Spots and Streaks140.2450.688

Use the above figures at your own risk (this is in no way an 'official' USGBC accepted set of SRI values), but reason would dictate that most copper roofs would have the same characteristics. The question still remains about which value to use, and that is open to some interpretation.

Credit interpretation rulings for SSc7.2 yielded no inquiries about materials that have a non-stable SRI value. Although this is simple conjecture, given the rapid deterioration in SRI for copper (non-compliant within a year, likely much sooner), I would suggest that this product is not in compliance with the intent of the credit which is to reduce heat islands. Clearly for the majority of the life of the copper roof will help foster heat island issues and not reduce them.

What if there are products that deteriorate more slowly, or even become more reflective over time? If I were to write my own credit interpretation request on the subject, I would propose developing a sort of weighted SRI over the course of the expected life of the product, likely a difficult task. What I mean in simple terms is that if we had a product expected to last ten years with an initial SRI of 100 and an SRI of 0 on year ten then the 'weighted' SRI would be 50 assuming a linear decline (90 after one year, 80 after two, etc.). A product such as copper that has some crazy parabolic arc would probably require an excel spreadsheet (or graphing calculator) to determine the lifetime average, but clearly the number for copper would be so low that it's probably not worth the effort. If you've already been through this situation and gotten an official ruling PLEASE share by leaving a comment!

This post wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for the nice folks at Meadors Inc. agreeing to share the results of these tests with all of you and the guys at LBL for doing the testing in the first place. The projects that spurred this post are two historic renovations in the epicenter of Charleston, SC's historic district, 93 Broad St. and 97 Broad St., hence their restriction to use appropriate copper roofing products. You can view galleries of the projects at the links above. Many thanks!

Commissioning Agent Guarantees LEED Certification


How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Blow Up My Market Share

Yesterday afternoon I received a newsletter from Energy Ace, a commissioning and LEED services firm out of Atlanta, with the headline "LEED Certification, or Your Money Back". Unnecessary comma's aside I found this to be a rather startling claim. Reading further into the release you can actually see the word "guarantee" (gasp!)... Full press release available here. How it works:

"clients must allow Energy Ace to oversee LEED administration, fundamental commissioning and energy modeling for each project -- services that the company provides in-house. After signing a standard service contract, Energy Ace would conduct LEED charettes -- the project phase where sustainability measures are mapped out -- and at that point, if everything looks good and team members are cooperative, the contract would be amended to guarantee certification. If a project misses its LEED target level (like Silver or Gold) or fails to earn certification altogether, Energy Ace would refund its LEED administration fee, which is between 30 percent and 45 percent of its total fees..."

First Take: Pros and Cons

On the pro side, theoretically their market share will increase (probably as much for being the first to offer it as for the peace of mind it will give owners... BD&C already scooped this, and you're reading it here). In addition to new clients, one of the clauses is that their firm must perform what is essentially their full suite of LEED related services instead of just CxA, LEED coordination, or modeling. This additional control helps both their bottom line and their ability to ensure that the project is moving along the right track. Also, by ensuring that at least the first phase of design and analysis has taken place, they have the ability to walk away from the promise if things don't look so good. Figuring out where to draw the line is likely going to be an interesting exercise!


Not having seen the contract itself, I suspect (but can't confirm) that there is a clause in this guarantee that limits possible compensation for a missed target to the "LEED adminstration fee, which is between 30 percent and 45 percent of total fees" ONLY. In other words, this guarantee could potentially limit the owner's maximum compensation for a botched certification to the portion of the fee agreed upon. In a situation where missing certification could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost incentives and countless other damages, does this contract actually serve to insulate Energy Ace from paying for these damages? Will owners see the "guarantee" and sign away their rights, or will they recognize it and demand no such clause be included? Again I should point out that I'm only working from a press release here and have no idea about the specifics of the contract. I certainly don't mean to imply that Energy Ace is actively gaming their clients!

The other big issue here is what does this mean for the other parties involved? Does a guarantee from one party, specifically an administrator who is responsible for overseeing and coordinating the LEED documentation process overall, in any way reduce the liability of the architect, engineers, or contractors involved in the project? I suspect not... Due to the fact that the owner may have signed away his right to collect damages beyond the fee from Energy Ace (again... speculation) they may pursue the other parties with additional vigor.

Obviously Energy Ace would not have the ability to really guarantee the certification unless they agreed to offer true design-build service with complete control over every aspect of design, engineering, and construction. No matter their efforts, a mistake from the contractor on SSp1, Construction Activity Pollution Prevention would mean that regardless of the efforts of the LEED administrator, the project would not achieve certification. This firm has worked on nearly 100 LEED projects to date, and I suspect that they're banking on the fact that as an industry we're over-concerned with missing LEED certification targets, an opinion that I'm increasingly leaning towards. Though there will doubtless be projects that miss their mark, my guess is that over the next few years the volume of these projects will be much smaller than many suspect.

If a project doesn't achieve the certification levels the owner desires they're liable to sue everyone anyway, regardless of what the contract says about guarantees. On the other hand claims that would normally be defended by an insurer may now be void, and the company may have to defend itself. I think it goes without saying that such a claim raises the standard of care, probably beyond what an insurance company is willing to tolerate.

Risk Management at it's best!

Is This Wise?

My guess is that the long term result of this for the company will be that yes, they may have to pay back a few fees over the years, but the marketing benefit and requirement for full services will more than offset the loss. At the end of the day I'm still on the fence about whether or not this is a good idea overall. I'm very interested to hear reader comments on this... please don't disappoint!

LEED Platinum Renovation Publishes Full Set of Documentation!

Thanks to a heads-up from Wes Sullens of StopWaste.Org, Real Life LEED is happy to announce another full set LEED NCv2.2 documentation is available online! To see links to other complete sets of documentation just click here.

1537 Webster - StopWaste.Org

Alternate Headline: StopWaste Stops Waste - Mission Accomplished!

Perhaps equally helpful is a well prepared case study that explains some of the process lessons learned and describes the systems used (they even capture the rainwater falling on the solar panels!)... There's also a great online dashboard showing updated utility use and PV generation statistics for the facility.

The only very small issue I have is that on the 6th page they claim that "As of December 2007, we are proud to announce that we're... the first LEED-NCv2.2 Platinum renovation project in the entire nation." Sorry guys, but that honor goes to my hometown outfitter shop Half-Moon Outfitters, who announced their achievement of a LEED-NCv2.2 Platinum Certification on July 16th, 2007. They took an old Piggly Wiggly turned auto-repair shop and turned that into a super-efficient distribution warehouse, maintaining pretty much all the structure.

Though I had to point that out, I don't mean to detract from the accomplishment, and as I'm sure most of you will agree about feeling grateful for these guys helping to make LEED a little easier by sharing their work. Thanks!

Know of a some project documentation online that I may have missed? Please let us know by sharing a comment... it's the only reason I found out about this, so please help out!

Do Legacy LEED APs Really Benefit By Upgrading to the 2009 System?

I'm assuming most of you received the email announcement on Tuesday from the GBCI announcing that the new credentialling maintenance program that everyone is so excited about is launching next Monday, August 3rd. Basically this means that v3 LEED APs (and Green Associates) are on the clock for their 30 (or 15) hours of continuing education starting then. For LEED APs accredited under the v2 systems, you have three options:

  • "Become a LEED AP with specialty by passing one of the new specialty examinations; only the specialty part of the exam will be required if testing during your enrollment window. When applying for the exam you will need to sign the disciplinary policy and agree to Credentialing Maintenance Program (CMP). Once you have passed the exam, you mayl use one of the new specialty designations (O&M, BD&C, ID&C) after your name.
  • Become a LEED AP with specialty by enrolling in the new tiered system—i.e. agreeing to the CMP and signing the disciplinary policy—and completing prescriptive CMP for the initial 2-year reporting period. Once you have enrolled, you will use one of the new specialty designations (O&M, BD&C, ID&C) after your name. Enrollment must occur before during your enrollment window.
  • Do nothing; you will be designated a LEED AP without specialty in the LEED Professional Directory."

For the 115,000 or so (haven't seen official reports on final v2 accreditation numbers yet... but I saw this number in a recent article) of you accredited under the v2 sessions I ask the following: Do you really need to go through the trouble of upgrading?

Previous descriptions of what would happen to 'legacy LEED APs' not enrolling in the new system stated that they would be listed under some sort of 'inactive' status, though that doesn't really seem to be the case anymore. From what I can tell, the only consequence from not switching to the new system is that you won't be able to list a "specialty" after the LEED AP on your business card.

Nothing I've read in that original email or the GBCI site indicates that anything else changes - you'll still be listed on the directory and presumably will still be able to claim the IDc2 point for being a LEED AP. I haven't been able to confirm that last point about the IDc2 point, but I've seen nothing stating it's not true either.

By holding onto your non-specialized v2 LEED AP status I see the following benefits:

  • You don't have to pay the GBCI $50 every two years.
  • You don't have to deal with 30 hours of continuing education every two years.
  • You can tell clients you're accreditation is old school, and all these noob suckas ain't got no game no how. Yet you can still claim that you passed an exam in the associated NC, CS, or EB anyway, but can't put it on your card as a 'specialty'.
Old School Chucks

Kickin' it Old School

Maybe I'm crazy, but I'm not going to rush into switching into the new system any time soon. You've got two years to decide anyway, so it seems prudent to see how these things are going to shake out over the next few months before taking on anything more than you have to.

The above is all essentially based on the email I mentioned and FAQ for "LEED APs Without Specialty and Enrollment". It's entirely possible that I may be incorrect about the repercussions of staying a LEED AP under the old system, but I promise to update this post if I find anything to be incorrect. I've seen somewhat conflicting information (see chart) related to costs to remain a Legacy LEED AP out of Building Green, but that's a few months old... Reading this enrollment guide from the GBCI leads me to believe you must pay for enrollment in the maintenance program, not necessarily to keep your existing title.

What do you think about this? Also, any clarification would be appreciated... Please let us know by leaving a comment!

Deconstruction Costs Revealed (aka Sustainable Demolition)

Real Life LEED is back! Hope the withdrawal wasn't too harsh. I'm looking forward to relieving some of what I'm calling 'killer post constipation' (AKA my post ideas backlog... sorry for the mental image), so be sure to come back soon!

A colleague of mine is working on a LEED project where an existing building on site has been determined not worthy of renovation and is slated to be demolished. Being the good environmental stewards we are (and having a desire not to ruin chances of earning MRc2, Construction Waste Management later on), I was tasked with searching for information about the relative costs and considerations between conventional demolition and the more sustainable deconstruction process.

Oscar Hates Deconstruction

Not a deconstruction fan


As reported in a Northeastern study discussed further below, the three primary drivers of the costs and returns on a deconstruction project are (1) labor costs, (2) disposal costs, and (3) the resale or donation value of the salvaged materials. An excellent article out of Remodeling magazine unfortunately determined that "there is no rule of thumb or average square footage cost", as there are too many variables to really make this useful. From articles I've seen across the interwebs, deconstruction premiums can range from a first cost savings to a 200% increase (see the case study on the last page of the Remodeling article), but these premiums are frequently offset by material values. I've seen enough figures citing a 15-30% premium (before salvaged material sales) over conventional demolition costs to feel comfortable giving that figure to a client, with huge non-committal caveats of course.

Commercial Cost Examples

The only commercial cost info I could find was a case study by a Canadian company called Pacific Labour Demolition. On a 6,800 sf office/warehouse building, deconstruction costs showed a 20.9% ($2,128) premium over standard demolition, but that was more than offset by the retail value of the salvaged material at $3,046.

Residential Cost Examples

A recent study out of Northeastern University determined that, at least for residential projects in Massachusetts, "deconstruction costs could be 17-25% higher than demolition costs." For those of you living in Massachusetts and focusing on residential construction, it may be worth shelling out the $31.50 for the full report as it goes on to "identif[y] and rank the parameters affecting these costs."

A study out of the EPA in 1997 (cited here) "estimated the total cost of deconstruction for a 2,000-square foot residence at between $4.50 and $5.40 per square foot, compared to a cost of $3.50 to $5.00 for standard demolition."


In the project my colleague asked about, there is plenty of time to tear down the building before the new one goes up, but it's important to note that it can take substantially more time to deconstruct a building carefully than demolish it with a bulldozer. My friends at the Sustainable Warehouse indicate that "a full [residential] deconstruction project can range from 10-21 days on average, and involves a crew of 2-4 persons." A typical demolition of this scale could be handled in a day or two.

The Non-Profit Model

Everything I knew about deconstruction prior to today's research came from Rebecca O'Brien of The Sustainable Warehouse in Charleston, SC. Since her company is a 501(c)3 non-profit, increased labor costs are offset by tax deductions based on the value of the materials donated to her company. From what I can tell, the non-profit model is common across the nation, though not everywhere. This makes a lot of sense for private owners, as it doesn't require actually selling or reusing materials to recoup costs. Estimated values of products tend to be higher than actual sales prices, meaning a higher tax deduction. This model falls apart if your client is a public entity or someone without any tax liabilities however.

Waste Management Databases

Though I haven't looked, there is probably a similar local index for your state... I suggest googling 'YOUR.STATE waste management database' and seeing what pops up. The SC database is far more inclusive than the national ones above.

Did I miss anything? Let everyone know by leaving a comment!

This is just to say...

by Real Life LEED

I have not
for weeks

and you
are probably
some help

Forgive me
the summer is
and hot

LEED can
go outside

via WCW

This probably sounds familiar to those loyal fans of This American Life... Much to come in the next few weeks, but I'm on a semi-official hiatus for the moment.

4 Emerging LEED Sites Worth Visiting

I'm very happy to announce that Real Life LEED is starting to get some serious competition on the interwebs. When I started this site about a year and half ago, all I could find were sites that would talk about the latest LEED projects or new green products. There was very little in the way of practical materials beyond the LEED reference guides, and we all know how complete those are...

In the past few weeks I've been contacted about and stumbled upon some very promising new players, and I suspect you'll find them useful. Without further ado...

LEED Visual

LEED Visual is a site based on the premise that the complex requirements of the LEED system could be better explained and understood through intuitive, diagrammatic graphics. This is a great concept, and I found some credit explanations particularly effective (e.g. the graphic explaining that you need to build above 5' above the 100 year flood plane for SSc1, Site Selection is instantly understandable, while whenever I try to explain this in classes someone inevitably asks a question about 5' below the the line...). Unfortunately, the site seems too basic at times, and there's nothing here (yet) that you couldn't otherwise find in the basic rating system documents. Also, at least one page features info that's misleading at best and wrong at worst (e.g. on the page for SSc4.1, Alternative Transporation, Public Transporation Access, the graphics suggest you're looking for stops within a half or quarter mile radius of the site, when it's actually based on walking distances).

First Take

I really like the feel of the site, and there's obviously other features (e.g a forum) that are not yet in place. Only LEED-NC seems to be supported, and there's nothing indicating that will chang. The interface is also pretty poor. You have to select credits based on their numbers without further descriptions, and since the site is in flash you can't easily bookmark or forward specific pages. I think this site as is will greatly help those studying for the LEED exam (at least the LEED BD&C version), though I suspect average reader of this site might not find anything new. I'm taking a wait and see approach for now. via


LEEDuser is currently in beta and is being developed by the fine folks over at BuildingGreen. The basic goal is to move beyond the reference guide to provide support for LEED AP's, including samples documents and templates (e.g. OPR and BOD templates for EAp1, Fundamental Commissioning). If they did nothing other than provide those templates it would be worthwhile, though the site aims to go much further by using seasoned professionals to provide practical explanations of how to actual go about finishing the credits.

Though they plan on charging a membership fee in the future, for a limited time the site is open to all. Right now only selected credits are released, though ultimately the site is designed to support all major systems, integrate with their GreenSpec product directory, and provide a "strategies" section featuring topics such as green roofs and porous paving.

First Take

If you've been a long time reader of this site you might remember that I think these guys are top-notch, and what I've seen on the site so far gives me no reason to expect anything less from LEEDuser. It's certainly not perfect (the "Getting It Done" section in each credit could be better organized), but the fact that there even is a "Getting it Done" section lends support to the fact that they're on the track.


GreenSource Green Building Project Database

The profiles on the Green Building Project Database from GreenSource are similar to sister publication ArchRecord's Building Types Study database, but for LEED projects. Each project features photos, total costs, climate data, product info, a magazine-style narrative (go figure), and frequently a bunch of snarky, whiny comments from perfectionist architects and designers near the bottom.

First Take

Honestly there's not a whole lot that's new here (see similar EERE database), but it's always nice to have more projects to choose from. My favorite aspect of the site is are the multitude of browsing bars along the left side of the screen that are organized through conventional topics such as project size and building type and more interesting categories like annual purchased energy, carbon footprint, and climate zones. Maybe not worth checking out right away, but definitely a good place to visit when looking for ideas.


High Performing Buildings

This last site is better as a magazine than an interesting website. High Performing Buildings is an official ASHRAE publication and the website version is pretty much what you'd expect from a bunch of engineers: clunky, with a confusing interface, but featuring rock solid content. One of these issues landed on my desk a few months ago, and I've since subscribed (free to the trade). Most of the articles are in-depth profiles of a high-efficiency system installation or building component. There's nothing really specific about LEED here, but as someone trained as an architect I appreciate the easy to understand descriptions of complex mechanical and electrical systems.

First Take

I've been impressed with the features and writing here and look forward to more in the future. The website is kind of pathetic, but that's not really the point. Since this quarterly publication was first released last year, it's not like to it's too difficult to find an older article anyway. The magazine is well put together, and even though it's probably not the most eco-friendly thing to recommend I would suggest sticking with the hard copy.

Aware of a good resource I missed? Share with your friends by leaving a comment.