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.