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!

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