Walking Through a Real Life LEED-Homes Project

Well folks, it looks like Real Life LEED finally has some competition, and I couldn't be more excited... Gretchen and Scott Lambert, two architects from Columbia, SC decided not only to pursue LEED-Homes certification as they remodeled their home, but also to blog about the process!

The Lamberts in situ

Hot remodeling action!

This blog is an excellent mix of practical info about the remodel and technical info about the LEED-Homes process. It's the kind of blog I would write if I knew anything about LEED-Homes, which I don't. There's even a running tally of Yes, No, and Maybe points that's updated regularly. The only bad thing is that they're somewhat far into the process already, so you have a lot of reading to do to catch up. Start now!

USGBC Publishes Delay Information: Yay Transparency!

While preparing slides for a LEED training session I'm putting together, I stumbled upon a section of the certification information page that shows review delay estimates that are updated on a weekly basis (scroll down to the "Review Timelines" section). I've reported on this anecdotally in the past (June '08, August '08), but now you can view estimates straight from the USGBC.

As of 01.13.08 they report the following delays:

  • LEED-NC (All Versions): Expect 4 weeks, but there may be a delay up to 6 weeks.
  • LEED-Schools: Expect 4 weeks, but there may be a delay up to 6 weeks.
  • LEED-CI: Expect 5 weeks, but there may be a delay up to 6 weeks.
  • LEED-EB (All Versions): Up to 6 weeks.
  • LEED-CSv2.0 (Full Certification): Expect 4 weeks, but there may be a delay up to 6 weeks.
  • LEED-CSv2.0 (Precertification): Expect 3 weeks, but there may be a delay up to 6 weeks.

Note that these times are delays independent of the 25 business day normal review period. They also pointed out that the "USGBC is currently NOT accepting any requests for expedited reviews", so don't think you can throw money at this problem and fix it.

I would also like to take a moment to voice my support for the fact that the USGBC is providing this information at all. They could try to hide this problem from everyone, but instead they're acting responsibly by making these issues public so you can schedule accordingly.

Have the delays dropped significantly and I haven't noticed? Please share with your peers by leaving a comment!

CSI GreenFormat: Info Good, Functions Bad!

The Construction Specifications Institute decided to endeavor in a difficult project: a materials database for green products called GreenFormat. No one else perfected this concept yet (GreenSpec is the closest), and GreenFormat is no exception to the rule. CSI made some smart moves in developing this database though, and with a few improvements could become a leader in the sector. In any case it's completely FREE to you, which makes it worth at least a try. The fact that that they're passing the buck to the manufacturers will doubtless limit the listing of smaller, regional companies, potentially (but not assuredly) limiting it's breadth in the long run.

CSI GreenFormat

A shiny new toy!

The Good

CSI made a wise choice in deciding not to try to define "green" in any way. Instead, they opted for an approach where they just provide information in an agnostic manner and leave you to your own conclusions. The reporting for each product is extensive... VERY extensive... perhaps even TOO extensive, which is saying something. You'll find info about third party certifications, manufacturing and extraction locations, background info on the manufacturing process, shipping materials, product lifespans, buyback/recycling programs, and a host of other non-environmentally related testing info.

From what I can tell, the database is populating fairly quickly. When I first checked it out about a month ago there weren't many products listed. There's significantly more today, and I suspect this will grow rapidly in the near future. That's the edge a group such as CSI (on EVERY product manufacturers radar already) has over its competition.

The Bad

A single clearinghouse including this level of detail is commendable. Unfortunately manufacturers are permitted to post as much or as little information in their listing as they please. While this entry on Gold Bond Gypsum Board even includes a narrative about efforts the company has made to reduce water and energy use during the manufacturing process, this entry for McElroy Metal roofing panels contains... well nothing.

Data, Data, and more Data

Doesn't that info just pop out into your face???

Equally unfortunate is the user interface. If you want to browse using the MasterFormat numbers, see a list of products in a single category, and learning as much or as little as that manufacturer is willing to share, then you're in luck. If you want to compare product attributes in a single screen, browse by LEED credit, or bookmark/save products to view later, then you're S.O.L. (<- that means you can't do it)

The detailed information is poorly arranged in a big block of text that all pretty much looks the same. In other words, if all you want to do is look at recycled content of a variety of materials you're probably going to be spending a fair amount of time navigating around. As one 4specs discussion board poster put it: "Talk about clunky navigation!"

The Summary

I like data, and I don't like people telling me what to think... For those reasons, you'd think I'd be all over this site. Unfortunately I also spend a fair amount of time on the web, and would like a more intuitive interface and more powerful browsing functions. (NOTE: Before you start emailing me complaining about the piss poor interface and browser functions of THIS site, please consider the fact that the average earnings per hour of work on this site pulls me a whopping $2.87/hour worked... before taxes of course.) I also worry about it's ability to support smaller manufacturers, but only time will tell how that pans out. On the whole I think I'll keep using it though, and the few problems that are there could be fixed. Keep up the good work!

Parking Capacity Problems Solved (LEED credit SS4.4)


Back from break and working on some alternative transportation documentation for Sustainable Sites credit 4.4 - Alternative Transportation, Parking Capacity, I ran into trouble when the link in the reference guide to the Portland, Oregon zoning code (Title 33, Chapter 33.266 to be exact) was dead on arrival... After I found it I thought I would share the link with my faithful readers lest the same problem arise for you: here it is.

Once I solved that problem I ran into the problem of interpreting the code itself. The project I'm working on is a huge general office building in an area with no local zoning requirement for parking.  In that scenario, the LEED-NCv2.2 reference guide refers you to the Portland code mentioned above, or an ITE Parking Generation Study that you have to buy if the Portland code doesn't fit your project well enough.

I would normally regard this site as providing limited parking given the number of full time occupants (4 spaces for every 5 full-time workers), so I was surprised to find we still exceeded the minimum Portland code parking requirement by over 26%! See image below for allowances - "Standard A" is the minimum and "Standard B" is the maximum allowed...

Section of the referenced Portland Code

Section of the applicable Portland zoning code

We're pretty tight on points right now, so I instantly became worried.  The next thing I did was re-read the reference manual and was able to breathe a sigh of relief.  Unlike the normal requirement for option 1 where you are not to exceed the MINIMUM local parking requirements, the alternative method only requires you to meet the already stringent code, essentially only forcing you to provide less than the maximum allowable parking. Looking at it in this light, we were also 26% BELOW the maximum allowable parking, so we fell well within the requirement.

I looked for a CIR to confirm this interpretation, but have been unable to find one. The language seems very clear that you only need to meet the requirements ("Meet the requirements of Portland, Oregon, Zoning Code: Title 33, Chapter 33.266") instead of not exceeding the minimums, but I would love it if someone who has been through this issue before would leave a comment confirming my interpretation!

In other news, after a sizable break for the holidays I've got a good number of post ideas in the pipeline... Check back soon (and frequently) as Real Life LEED blasts into '09!