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 core.form-ula.com



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.

Tomorrow (Friday, June 26th) Last Day to Register LEED v2 Projects

Just a friendly reminder... If you don't do it by tomorrow all registrations must be v3 editions (LEED 2009).

The Final Countdown

It's the Fi-nal Count-down!!!

I've heard reports of problems logging into the GBCI website earlier this week, but after checking a few minutes ago they appear to be resolved right now. I'd still recommend getting the project registration on the books today if possible.

Schinnerer: LEED AP = Higher Standard of Care

A colleague just forwarded me the Victor O. Schinnerer & Company, Inc.'s Guidelines for Improving Practice. This insurance company frequently provides educational services for its clients and others, and the "LEED Accredited Professional Program Changes Risk Profiles" article on page four made the following statement in no uncertain terms:

"Members of the upgraded LEED AP+ program now will face a higher standard of care for their services."

This is the first instance where I've seen the higher standard of care argument placed with no qualifiers such as 'maybe' or 'will soon face', which is particularly troubling considering it's coming from a company who could potential profit from such a statement being true. I'm not a lawyer, but I always understood that standard of care was determined by industry norms and generally worked out in court, not by declaration.

Conflict of Interest?

Mo' Money, Mo' Money, Mo' Money

It seems like by publishing such material, Schinnerer is providing evidence in a future case that a lawyer could point to, reinforcing their own statement and need for the insurance. Oh no... I just realized by the act of writing this blog post I may be feeding the vicious cycle. Please forgive me future APs in lawsuits!

Much less troubling and more useful is the article on page five that features sample contract language for "When Owner Wants the Design to Meet Specific Sustainability Criteria" that essentially says "Hey Mr. Owner, I'm going to design you a kick ass building, but it may require me to need to use new materials that may not have a long track record. We'll let you know about that if it happens, but if you run into trouble down the road it ain't our fault."

The second contract issue it helps you resolve is "When Owner Wants Third-Party Certification of Sustainability". That goes something like "Hey Mr. Owner, I hear you want LEED, but I'm not the only one involved in making that happen. We'll take care of it as we can, but you can't sue me for not getting that platinum plaque you asked for unless it's my fault alone."

I'd recommend checking reading these articles on your own, and would appreciate some comments about all this from you lawyerly types (Chris? Stephen? Others?).

LEED Commissioning Comparisons

When helping a client prepare packages for a grant they are pursuing, they needed to know how LEED-EB and LEED-CI differed with respect to commissioning (Cx) requirements. A quick search yielded a helpful, plain spoken article, with even more helpful comparison charts (1, 2, 3, 4), in a February edition of Heating, Piping, and Air Conditioning (HPAC) Engineering magazine. The charts show fundamental Cx requirements, enhanced Cx requirements, and scope by system, comparing all major LEEDv2 systems and even pulling requirements from the pilot versions of LEED-CI for Retail and LEED-Healthcare. I'm not aware of any major changes among Cx requirements for LEED 2009 editions of these systems, so everything should still largely apply.

Scope it up

A completely legible comparison of the scope of Cx for each system

I haven't had much opportunity to peruse their website in too much detail, but their Popular Articles section seems to be filled with practical info that I'm going to refer to in the future. Well done!

Vanishing LEED 2009 Minimum Program Requirement?

UPDATE - 06.12.09 - This issue has largely been resolved... details at end of post.

When I spent all day going through the new LEED 2009 Building Design & Construction reference guide and reporting about the changes, one thing that I noticed was a portion of the Minimum Program Requirements (MPR) referencing that "Registration and Certification Activity Must Comply with Reasonable Timetables and Rating System Sunset Dates". Here's what I said on this subject:

"[This requirement] basically states that if a LEED 2009 project is inactive for 4 years, the GBCI reserves the right to cancel the registration, that all paperwork must be finished within 6 years of the retirement of the system (i.e. 2017 for the LEED 2009 system), and that certification must be complete within 2 years of project occupancy."

Just a day or so ago I had one of my coworkers ask about these requirements in regards to a new project that's got a long time frame, saying he couldn't find that clause anywhere. The MPRs aren't in the reference guides, as they're listed in the free PDF rating systems (see LEED-NC 2009 here). I went back to check (see pages XVI - XVII) and sure enough no such clause is listed???

I know I didn't just invent these requirements out of thin air, but I'm a little troubled at the thought that these requirements and the rating systems themselves are getting tweaked without any notice. No release dates are listed on these documents (that I can find at least), and I'm now curious about how many versions have been updated over time. Unfortunately I didn't save a copy of the rating system on that day, so the only 'proof' I have is the earlier post linked to above. There is also reference to a "LEED 2009 MPR Supplemental Guidance" that I have yet to be able to find which may clear this up.

Has anyone else noticed this or have a copy of the older edition of the rating system? Please let me know I'm not crazy by leaving a comment.

UPDATE - 06.12.09

Thanks to many readers who quite quickly left comments and forwarded documents, this seems to have already been cleared up! There are in fact different editions of the rating system documents. Thanks to Chris Collins of McKenney's Mechanical Contractors and Engineers, you can view the older version of the LEED-EB 2009 rating system here, showing 8 minimum program requirements including the one about sunset dates. The current version with only 7 requirements can be downloaded from the USGBC here.

Furthermore, the requirement still exists according to various readers in the comments section. From what I can tell, the USGBC decided to remove this language from the MPR in favor of having you sign off on the dates as part of registering a project. The language is buried in the legal mumbo-jumbo section (that's an official legal term). See comments for details.