LEED 2012 and the Greenbuild Rating System Development Update

Scott Horst, Senior VP of LEED for USGBC, kicked off this session with what is starting to feel like an obligatory mea culpa about the state of LEED-Online v3 when it was launched, but quickly moved on to say that the current state of the system is strong and that the major bugs have been worked out. The session was led by Horst and included a panel composed of USGBC Staff, Joel Ann Todd (the LEED Steering Committee Chair), and the respective chairs of each of the Technical Advisory Groups for the that are responsible for developing drafts and revisions to LEED rating systems.

Development Cycle Updates

Another thing that came up is the development cycle. The standard draft, public comment, second draft, vote cycle remains for the LEED rating system updates remains, but the USGBC has moved public comment period earlier in this cycle and extended it to hopefully get more complete stakeholder involvement. The new pilot credits are vetted in a "parallel process" over at LEEDuser*, where all comments from users are examined by staff and the committees responsible for their ultimate implementation. To join the discussion, scroll down to the Pilot Credits section on this page, then click a credit and see the discussion about it near the bottom of that page... My understanding is that free registration is all that's required to comment.

As for the schedule, "This isn't an absolute that LEED 2012 will happen in 2012, but it's on a path to be approved on that cycle as of today." You may remember that with the launch of LEED 2009 the USGBC expressed its desire to update LEED on a two-year cycle, and the impression I got from panel comments was that they see a three-year cycle as more realistic. The first public comment period will extend "until the end of the year", with the second pubic comment scheduled to open July 1, 2011, and will be open "until at least August 15, 2011", with the ballot presently scheduled for August 2012. Official schedule information can be found here.

International Update

One of the more interesting tidbits to come out of Horst's comments is an update about the adoption of LEED worldwide. According to Horst, to date 10% of LEED projects by number, roughly 4,000, are registered outside the US, but when you look at registrations by square footage that number jumps to 28% of all projects. The trend is that international projects are growing relative to all projects, with 40% of the registrations by square footage year to date 2010 are outside the US. As a result, the USGBC has created a 19 country "LEED International Roundtable" that is an advisory group to the LEED Steering Committee. This group is part of a larger LEED International Program whose mission is to provide "global consistency, a regional approach, and local outreach and support."

LEED 2012 Update

This update will focus largely on explaining some of the motivation behind the updates for the LEED 2012 systems. Tristan over at BuildingGreen* has already written an excellent overview of the specific changes to the system, and I don't really see any point in recreating what's already available. I would definitely suggest checking that out if you haven't already.

Joel Ann Todd gave an overview of changes in the LEED 2012 system itself. In general there was a strong emphasis on shifting the current system of "relative performance" based credits (e.g. energy models comparing baseline to design case) to a more "absolute performance" based system (i.e. what Henry Gifford wants). Earlier in the session Horst had mentioned that for the first time, LEED projects who have entered into the Building Performance Partnership are getting a report card showing their actual annual energy use and comparing it to what was expected based on their design models.

Integrated Process - This new category is aimed at making sure that the processes used to create LEED projects Joel bluntly stated that "we probably don't have the integrated process credits right yet", so they're very keen to see the comments coming in on the first public draft.

Performance - The other new category is actually at the 'end' of the rating system, and the goal is to create a framework that ensures project teams and owners are indeed measuring the performance of their facilities after construction is complete. In the commissioning prerequisite, there is now a requirement for building envelope commissioning that was not required before.

Location and Transportation and Sustainable Sites - For the most part, the former Sustainable Sites category was divided into two groups, with the Location and Transportation category dealing more with urban integration and connectivity and the SS category focusing on site level engineering issues. This was done to reflect a growing emphasis at the USGBC on "overall community performance" instead of only building level design. They're also working to move from a "binary" point awards (i.e. Alternative transportation access is a yes/no style credit in 2009 worth 4 points, while the new system is moving towards a gradient system similar to how points are awarded for EAc1, Optimize Energy Performance). On the Sustainable Sites side, they're trying to move towards an emphasis on restoration or regeneration.

Water Efficiency - "What we realized is that plumbing and landscaping systems are not the only things using water." Metering and sub-metering are getting a stronger emphasis as a result, as well as a more in depth analysis of process water and cooling towers.

Energy and Atmosphere - "We're really trying to end this process of doing energy models at the end of the project to verify LEED credits... it's really not why you do modeling." Couldn't agree more with this, as it doesn't benefit the project unless these models are created early enough to affect the project. Also, a lot of the credits for commissioning and measurement and verification have shifted into the Performance category. The emphasis on absolute measurement was also restated. On the LEED-EB O+M side, efficiency credits have been restructured to allow projects that show significant improvement to earn points, as opposed to the current system where points are based on performance compared to other buildings. This will allow projects that are starting with really poor performance to potentially qualify as long as they make big strides, which should presumably open up the system to projects that may not have been able to get certified in the past.

Materials and Resources - There was some concern that a few credits were being achieved by too many projects, and that others weren't being used at all. These are what drove the majority of changes to the MR categories, with credits that were being achieved too much becoming more stringent and those not being achieved becoming easier to support increased market adoption. A life cycle approach is starting to make it's way into the system, but there was a need to separate interior finishes from structural components as the "big, heavy" structural materials would overwhelm any consideration of the interior choices.

Indoor Environmental Quality - The majority of the discussion on these changes revolved around the addition of an acoustics credit to LEED-NC projects and the consolidation and expansion of the Low-Emitting Materials credits. They adjusted the standard to be consistent with language in ASHRAE 189.1, which is certainly a good idea.

Innovation in Design - The only major announcement here is that the ID point for having a LEED AP on the project will now require the appropriate LEED AP specialty (e.g. to get the point for LEED-NC, LEED-CS or LEED-Schools you will need to have a LEED AP BD+C specialty). Legacy LEED APs without a specialty will maintain that credential for the rest of their lives, but it's no longer going to help them earn a point under the ID credit.

LEED Systems On the Horizon

One of the panelists covered sector-based LEED rating systems that are on the horizon. I don't have timelines for any of these and suspect they are at a minimum of a year to multiple years away. New systems on the horizon include:

  • LEED-EB for Schools
  • LEED-EB for Retail
  • LEED-Homes for Mid-Rise
  • LEED (NC/CI?) for Hospitality
  • LEED (NC/CI?) for Warehouses
  • LEED (NC/CI?) for Data Centers

Normally I would here request comments about your thoughts on these developments, but since the LEED draft is open for comment I'll instead direct you there.

*FULL DISCLOSURE - LEEDuser and BuildingGreen are a sponsor of this site.

LEED Automation Allows Third Party Companies to Integrate Directly With LEED Online

Though largely overshadowed in press by the hubbub around the Center for Green Schools launch, in my opinion the biggest news for practicing LEED APs is the relatively obscure technical development of a platform for third party companies to integrate directly with LEED-Online. The USGBC is calling it LEED Automation (official press release here), and it will hopefully result in an exponential increase in innovation in the way LEED projects are documented. After "$10 million in total investment in LEED-Online" (Chris Smith, COO of USGBC's words), many users still find it a frustrating tool (my words). "From the very start, LEED-Online was never intended to be a USGBC tool... It was intended to be a plug-and-play platform for others to build on." (Chris Smith again).

Now think about how the open iPhone and Android app markets make their phones far more useful than Apple or Google could do on their own. That is the goal of LEED Automation in a nutshell. Mike Opitz indicated that they ultimately wish to open a "USGBC App store"... In his words "The world of LEED execution just got faster, cheaper, and easier."

Where Does It Stand Today?

I'm going to profile a few projects that were used as case studies of what can be done with the data and integration capabilities that are now available.

Lorax Pro - This is a 'virtual LEED consultant' that has already been around for awhile, and one I've been meaning to profile for some time (sorry... still doing this in my spare time!). In a nutshell it's a tool to organize, schedule, and assign work to the various parties in more detail than offered by LEED-Online (e.g. your project is mapped on Google and can automatically calculate things like access to transit and community connectivity at the click of a button). Again, this has already been around for awhile, but the news here is that now their online software can translate your work DIRECTLY into LEED-Online without having to force you to pull everything down manually and re-enter data. Taken to the extreme, you could potentially mean that you'd never have to work directly in LEED-Online again!

O+M Track - Green Building Services is a consulting company has developed a tool that will be extremely helpful for those pursuing LEED-EB O+M. Basically this is a management tool for your performance periods, where a facilities manager is provided with scheduled tasks to ensure they are keeping all of their ongoing performance measurements for the life of the building, greatly facilitating recertification efforts that are needed to be performed every five years. Again, the news here is that work entered into their system can be directly loaded into your LEED-Online project, helping to reduce the overhead and costs associated with compliance.

Building Dashboard - This is a web-based software developed by Lucid Design Group that allows real-time updates of a building's performance along various metrics, largely centered around utilities. Other vendors offer similar services, and it was unclear from their presentation how this will affect those working on LEED projects today. On the other hand, if they work out directly updating these results into a LEED-EB certification/recertification similar to the GBS tool, it could mean huge reductions in overhead for those pursuing such projects.

WorkFlow Pro - is a service from GreenWizard.com that harnesses the wealth of material data embedded in their system and allows the population of those onerous MR credit templates if you build a project in their system, making the lives of specifiers and contractors that much easier.

Green Building Information Gateway - This is a pilot project led by Dr. Chris Pyke, VP of Research for USGBC in conjunction with ESRI. It is a comprehensive map of LEED projects in Chicago, but it contains a wealth of additional layers that is pulled directly from a stream of data that the USGBC is now making public. The information from any specific project is compared live against the performance of every building in the set. Basically this is a benchmarking tool designed to allow designers to show their clients how their design might stack up against others in the area. There's even a trend tool that allows you to view this data over time. It's based on a post-certification data stream, so it's applicability to those working on current projects likely won't be huge, but it could be very helpful for banks and others trying to make a business case or valuation assumptions measuring the impact of LEED certification or even individual LEED credits.

What's On the Horizon?

It's hard for me to explain how huge the potential of this. I see Trane Trace and other energy modeling software allowing direct uploads of model results into LEED without the very significant data entry headache that exists now. Revit could directly upload daylighting calculations without the architect ever having to open up a credit calculator.

Mike Opitz indicated that there's still kinks that need to be worked out, specifically citing energy modelling. At the core, there is the issue of standardizing data exchange protocols to ensure that everything is accurate, and not just easy. As energy modeling is so critical to the performance of a building, they cannot sacrifice

So What's the Catch

Well... all this innovation does not come free. In the same way that there are paid apps on the iPhone and Android marketplaces, some of the case studies above have subscription fees or other charges that will be in addition to what you're paying the GBCI for certification fees. Don't want to pay extra? You're welcome to stay with the current LEED Online, but I suspect that many firms will find that the productivity gains of these tools will far exceed the costs.

As this market get's more sophisticated, I suspect we'll see a profusion of micro-tools that may be ad supported and offered for free, but time will tell whether the development process is easy enough for such small scale tools to be worth their development costs.

I'm sorry to the other companies that demo'd their automation innovations that I did not include here... I can only type so fast! If you have a new product that harnesses this technology please don't hesitate to let me know, as this blog is all about providing readers with tools that will make their live's easier.

*FULL DISCLOSURE - GreenWizard.com is a sponsor of this site.

Linking Design to Healthcare Outcomes

This is a session review of the presentation from Amy Keller, M.Arch, EDAC and Anjali Joseph, Ph.D, EDAC, who are researchers with the Center for Health Design. Operating under a USGBC research grant, they have identified common metrics, developed a standard for collection, and then set out to develop industry benchmarks to establish a link between (surprise!) healthcare facility designs and their resulting impact on patients. We frequently focus on the economic return on investment when advocating for sustainable design, but this session supports the notion that benefits to human health and well-being can also be a powerful argument to convince skeptical clients to build sustainably.

Click the image to access the Ripple Database

Ultimately, all of their findings are housed in the Ripple Database, which is an open, freely accessible data sharing website that serves two primary functions. The first is to provide users with access to the studies so far. The second is to allow you to compare the differences in outcomes from two facilities with different design characteristics. From their explanations of individual case studies featured on the site I also learned that there is such a thing as the "Jersey Shore University Medical Center"... seriously, and a recent redesign reported very positive patient outcomes.

By the researchers own admission, the utility of the site is limited have due to a small set of data entry to work from (five facilities so far), buIt this is a new project and the information can only improve over time. The website hasn't even officially launched (planned for "first quarter 2011"), but you can go to the beta site now. Even in it's current state, investigating specific strategies yields an impressive wealth of outcomes at the case study level, and from there you can view abstracts of other peer reviewed research that further informs your efforts.

I'm personally extremely excited about this project, and would love to see it extended to other market sectors as well. I would strongly encourage anyone involved in healthcare facility design and construction to talk with their clients about the need to share their outcomes for the betterment of the industry at large. Get your projects in there ASAP!

Greenbuild 2010 Is Here!

Well folks, Greenbuild is officially underway, as the opening plenary just wrapped up in McCormick Place! Not having been to Chicago since I was quite young, I'm already enamored with this city and can't wait to explore it over the course of this week.

Lake Michigan

No photography inside the plenary, so enjoy a view of Lake Michigan instead!

The Opening Plenary

Right off the bat R. Fed led off with some impressive stats. I'm sure many of you have seen the headlines about LEED certified space crossing the 1,000,000,000 sf mark, but what I consider more impressive is the announcement that the GBCI is certifying 1,000,000 sf a DAY, meaning that it will take less than three years to get the next billion. It's an amazing growth curve that we all should be proud of.

After that, Colin Powell told the story of the LEED Platinum General Colin Powell Apartments recently built in the South Bronx, and then moved on to his investments in the company that created the Bloom Box, a fuel cell that's received a great deal of attention and has the potential to decentralize power production across the world. He then launched into what I suspect is his more traditional keynote speech, which only loosely related to sustainable design and construction. It was a great talk, but I'm not going to go into great detail.

I was about to walk out to head o the expo hall when they announced that Mary Matalin and James Carville were introduced, and of course I couldn't pass on the opportunity to hear the Ragin' Cajun* in person. Unfortunately their discussion on the current state of politics only confirmed that neither party really has any solid vision for the future, though Carville's trademark humor and perspective were interesting all the same.

Overall it was a fairly tame opening, but as my only frame of reference was the giant party of last year's opening in Phoenix it's probably not a fair comparison. As I write this from the Spertus Institute waiting for the Executive Leadership luncheon to begin, and am looking forward to the LEED Automation session taking place this afternoon... I suspect that is likely to have the biggest impact on your day to day work in the coming years, and will be sure to cover that in depth soon after it closes.

*If you haven't seen Bill Hader do his Carville impression on SNL you must click on that link! For those more politically inclined don't write me off as a buffoon just yet, I've been a Carville fan and follower ever since I watched excellent documentary The War Room nearly a decade ago...

GBCI News Feed Gives You Latest LEED Announcements

I recently stumbled on the GBCI Announcements feed, and it's already led me to discover a few helpful tools that I wouldn't have otherwise known existed (CMP Wizard, anyone?) While some of the feed is the press release variety, many posts cover tools and updates to the documentation process to make it worth scanning at least once a month or so.

Threads are forum topics

They conveniently created a set of RSS feeds to narrow your topics down. Don't know what an RSS feed is? You need to learn! They make the interwebs function. Even Real Life LEED has an RSS feed.

New Guide Provides Instructions For Setting LEED Project/Campus Boundaries

Shortly after complaining about changes about new policy documentation from the GBCI, it occurred to me that the USGBC also published a much needed updated to their Application Guide for Multiple Buildings and On-Campus Building Projects (2010 AGMBC) that does a good job of clarifying how to document 'weird' site conditions. The previous 2005 edition did not have much guidance for how to determine LEED Campus and Project boundaries, an issue the new guide explains in easy to use terms.

If this is your campus boundary, you may want to consider downsizing it a bit

Though both documents provide guidance on how to calculate specific credits when multiple buildings on a similar site are seeking certification, I'm most interested in how to set the Project and Campus boundaries. This process is as much art as it is science, and the new guide goes so far as to say that "guidance on where to draw the LEED Campus Boundary is intentionally non-specific". This is a good thing, because boundary issues for an urban project with multiple buildings on one well-defined site are going to be different than the issues a campus may face when certifying a single building on a site where the school owns thousands of acres.

Key Issues

Project vs. Site Boundary - For 'normal' projects (I'm not sure I've worked on a 'normal' project yet!), you create a single LEED Project Boundary where all credits are calculated based on what happens within that zone. This is normally supposed to be the legal limits of the site, but many times multiple buildings will eventually be built in Multiple building or campus projects will frequently have two boundaries, a Project Boundary and a Campus Boundary.

  • The Campus Boundary is normally the entire area that the owner (normally a large developer or university) owns or has control over, but in some instances it will be a subset of that property (e.g. a 'quad' of a university campus or one phase of a master development). The purpose of the campus boundary is to allow the project team to take credit for shared infrastructure (e.g. stormwater mitigation efforts, dedicated open space, structured parking) that may serve the project but is not part of the scope of the specific project seeking LEED. It may not contain areas outside of the legal control of the organization seeking certification (e.g. off-campus areas can not be included just because there's a park there that would help with an open space credit)
  • The Project Boundary is contained completely within the campus boundary, and is defined as "all land that is associated with and supports normal project operations, including all land that was or will be disturbed for the purpose of undertaking the LEED project." In other words, it's the area you're actually affecting when building the specific project seeking certification. The project team has reasonable discretion in determining this boundary, and past experience has indicated that review teams will accept anything that isn't clearly 'juked' (e.g. including a sliver of a site to connect your project to a park to earn open space).

There's more to it than stated above, and I strongly suggest you and your consultants read the guide and then sit down to determine boundaries as a group to make sure all credit impacts are considered. In past projects I've worked on, stormwater mitigation and light pollution credits had the biggest influence on these boundaries, but parking, open space, and a variety of other credits could come into play as well.

I'm heading to Greenbuild 2010 today... Hope to see you there!

GBCI Extends Utility Reporting Requirement to 20 Years?

UPDATE (11.05.10) I just received a comment from Bruce DeMaine, Vice President of Certification for GBCI. He confirmed, as others noted in the comments below, "that the 20-year figure is a typo. The utility reporting time period was decreased to 5 years shortly after the introduction of the LEED 2009 Minimum Program Requirements. We are working with our information technology staff to correct this error as soon as possible." He also addressed other concerns I've raised below, and I've added his response to the end of the post in it's entirety. I'd like to personally thank him for reaching out to clear up this issue! I've left the remainder of the post as it was originally published:

Alert reader Eric Johnson of Gardiner & Theobald just pointed out that the latest edition of the LEED Certification Policy Manual (September 17, 2010 Release) has increased the period for which you must allow the GBCI access to utility data from a minimum of 5 years to at least 20 years:

"It is the intent of GBCI to review ongoing project performance to assess project compliance with LEED Green Building Rating System requirements. Project owners authorize GBCI to access and review their project’s Energy and Water Usage Data from the utility service provider and/or the whole-project metering facility where such meters are in place. This authorization shall be maintained for a period of twenty (20) years following the date the project achieves LEED certification."

This rather significant change has not been publicized in any way that I can see (the most recent LEED Update newsletter dated 10/29/10 doesn't mention the change), and it doesn't appear that the GBCI has informed the USGBC or its own legal department, as the Minimum Program Requirements (MPRs) document provided by the USGBC still shows the five year requirement (see page 4), as does the LEED Registration Agreement that was updated three days after the certification policy manual was changed (see page 6).

A New Process Needed

My biggest complaint with the LEED system right now is how these administrative changes are handled. Changes to LEED credits themselves are made using a thorough and rigorous comment and voting process from the membership on a regular schedule... and that's a good system. On the other hand updates to the LEED policy manuals, documentation requirements, reference guides, the MPRs, owner legal agreements, supplementary reference materials, and a vast array of other critical components of LEED certification seem to occur randomly and there's no system to easily see changes as they occur or to determine what requirements are in place when a project is registered.

The mechanisms by which LEED projects are completed must be stabilized. If it were up to me, there would be no changes to these ancillary materials between rating system updates, and ALL materials related to the LEED rating system should be open to comment. I don't have a problem not putting those ancillary materials up to a vote, but I think there is far more concern over things like LEED Certification Agreement and the LEED Project Registration Agreement than the GBCI/USGBC realize, if for no other reason than it's difficult to find these documents and no real path for commenting on them.

Let me use those two legal documents as an example. You can't even access those two documents before going through the registration process unless you happen to know the URLs for them (i.e. they don't appear to show up in any search results or accessible via links on the GBCI site prior to registration). The certification Agreement is in its second edition (09.20.10), and the registration agreement is in its third edition (09.20.10), yet when I log on to my project that was registered in 07.10 I don't have any access to the documents I agreed to at that date. There's no document highlighting the changes that I'm aware of, and the simple fact that they've changed 2-3 times in about a year is alarming in itself. Since these documents aren't mentioned until you start the registration process, I'm sure has made many first time v3 users look foolish to the project owners who are now forced to agree to another layer of restrictions that was not mentioned previously.

At the end of the day, I still believe the content of the LEED rating systems are the best available for a comprehensive assessment of , but the ever increasing warren of support documents and the added requirements they contain must be controlled or at least better organized and publicized. The USGBC and GBCI need to understand that those actually administering LEED projects are greatly impacted by such changes, and every time a change is made without ample notice we're at best unpleasantly surprised and at worst humiliated in front of our clients for appearing to be inept. That's not to say I don't welcome more stringent guidelines over time, and I welcomed the more stringent energy and water baselines in the LEED 2009 system. At the same time, however, it's more important to be predictable and consistent than it is to be 100% perfect. There's always the next edition, and there's absolutely no reason this reporting requirement couldn't wait until LEED 2011...

Please forgive my rant... I'm still VERY excited about Greenbuild and look forward learning more there.

Mr. DeMaine's Response

As Vice President of Certification for GBCI, I’d like to thank you for bringing these issues related to the LEED certification procedural documents and various associated agreements to our attention. GBCI can confirm that the 20-year figure is a typo. The utility reporting time period was decreased to 5 years shortly after the introduction of the LEED 2009 Minimum Program Requirements. We are working with our information technology staff to correct this error as soon as possible. In the meantime, please refer to the LEED Project Registration Agreement and the LEED Certification Agreement, both of which properly represent that this program is limited to 5 years.

To address the stated concerns regarding lack of access to these documents, both before and after participants register and/or certify projects, all of our current contracts and policy manuals are available at the LEED Online website, www.leedonline.com. To access these documents, visitors to LEED Online must register with the website by creating a site user account. The creation of a site user account is a free service by GBCI. Site users may login to LEED Online and access these documents by going to our “Legal” page. The LEED Certification Policy Manuals are also available on the GBCI website, www.gbci.org.

Regarding revisions to these documents, GBCI has pledged to make changes to our program documents and agreements more transparent. The next scheduled release of such documents will occur shortly before Greenbuild. The coming revision is largely being put forth to incorporate the launch of several additional new programs related to LEED. Further, it is our endeavor to summarize our revisions to these documents and future releases in an open and transparent manner. Such summaries will be made available within LEED Online and, to the extent possible, posted to the GBCI website.

On behalf of the organization, thank you for interest in our certification program and commitment to sustainability. If you or any of your readers have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at bdemaine@gbci.org.

Henry Gifford Sues USGBC Over Fraud, False Advertising, Racketeering!

My good friend Stephen Del Percio over at the Green Real Estate Law Journal just broke the fact that perennial LEED critic Henry Gifford has filed a class action suit on behalf of "consumers, taxpayers, and building design and construction professionals" against the USGBC for:

  1. monopolization through fraud,
  2. unfair competition,
  3. deceptive trade practices,
  4. false advertising,
  5. wire fraud, and
  6. unjust enrichment.


A full copy of the filing is available on Stephen's website (direct link here), and from what I can tell the vast majority of the allegations are based on claims the USGBC has made about energy efficiency tied to the (much discussed) NBI study about performance of early LEED buildings, and their failure to overturn the (also much discussed) certification of the Northland Pines High School when it was appealed. Essentially he appears to be claiming that the USGBC is fraudulently representing both that LEED buildings save energy and that their review process adequately provides the 'third-party verification' that they claim. As a result of these deceptions, we the consumers, the taxpayers, and designers have all been duped into using (and training for) LEED. This has allowed the development of a sort of rating system monopoly that damages other systems like EnergyStar, Passivhaus, etc.

Lawyers v. Marketing

Surprisingly relevant given past post images...

For the record, I'm not an attorney, so the above and following opinions about this case are worth likely next to nothing. My first take is that, as before, Henry Gifford has taken a few valid complaints with the LEED system, sprinkled in some questionable logic, and overblown these complaints to epic proportions. I'll suggest checking in with the Green Real Estate Law Journal and the Green Building Law Update for more on this in the future, as it's a topic I'm sure they'll jump on in the coming weeks. I'm extremely interested to hear your take on this, and would strongly encourage everyone to at least skim the claim itself before responding.

Further Reading

I'll be adding additional sources of information as they're discovered.

*FULL DISCLOSURE: Environmental Building News is owned by Building Green, Inc., which is a sponsor to this site.

LEED-ND Study Examines Entire Metro Area

I've been looking at LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) in some detail lately, as evidenced by posts examining the system's fees and also my first experience planning the certification process. While I'm starting to get a feel for the system, my efforts pale in comparison to the work of Brendon Slotterback over at NetDensity.net:

Twin Cities LEED-ND Eligibility

Areas Meeting LEED ND Minimum Eligibility Requirements in the Twin Cities

Brendon's apparently excellent GIS mapping skills allowed him to progressively eliminate areas ineligible for LEED certification due to non-compliance with various Smart Location and Linkages category prerequisites, and the result is the chart above of eligible areas across the entire Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area. You can read all of the four part series by clicking the links below or through this summary page on his website.

  • Part 1: Includes a brief overview of LEED-ND and the HUD decision to begin scoring grant, and then creates a map excluding all areas in the region that do not meet wetland/floodplain avoidance, agricultural conservation, and endangered species habitat protection requirements (i.e. examines compliance with SLLp2-SLLp5).
  • Part 2: Focuses almost exclusively on the SLLp1, Smart Location and Linkages prerequisite and its myriad requirements.
  • Part 3: Examines areas that may technically be eligible for certification but have strong market barriers due to poor connectivity or low density in the surrounding areas.
  • Part 4: Brings it all together and looks forward to zoning and policy recommendations that would help foster greater adoption of these practices in the future.

Does LEED-ND Get It Right?

I found Brendon's site via commentary from Kaid Benfield on his own blog over at the NRDC. He was particularly interested in the ability for small towns and rural areas to meet the SLL requirements, and judging by this post he feels that the system works.

These posts led to a lively discussion on a local planning list I subscribe to, where one respondent was upset that a local new urbanist community planned by DPZ, Habersham, would not qualify due to the fact that it's not an infill project surrounded by dense development. It's an excellent development internally, not far enough away from the existing town to in my opinion be considered contributing to sprawl, but it is located on a greenfield surrounded by river and marsh on one side and not much other than forests on the other. Our conversation happened to align with a visit from Steve Mouzon, author of The Original Green, who summed up the discussion well:

Currently, LEED-ND is based primarily (but not entirely) on the assumption that most meaningful interactions occur outside your neighborhood. So Pienza would fail. As would Key West. As would any number of New Urbanist places, including Habersham... LEED-ND doesn't "trust" very much that the developer will, over time, be able to capture very much interaction... LEED-ND doesn't have very good accounting of time at this time.

It’s clear to me that LEED-ND requires not only good development practices but is also fairly strict about where such development occurs. I see this as a positive but am very interested to hear your thoughts. Should Key West, a town that could literally be wiped off the map if sea level rise predictions come true, be a place that LEED-ND should foster? Should LEED-ND be more forgiving if what’s developed is significant enough to create its own town center, or should we only encourage growth of existing town centers? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment!

Greenbuild 2010 Session Planner

So I took some time today to go ahead and lock in my sessions for Greenbuild 2010, and thought you might like some guidance on the bewildering array of choices available. Last year I know the popular sessions filled up, and there will be someone at the door scanning your badge so it's not like you can simply stroll in anyway. If you're going, you'd be wise to sign up now! Also, if you haven't seen it yet, you may also want to check out my post on places to stay, as right now all but one of the official conference hotels are completely booked.

Conference Room Fail

You must first register for the conference, and after that you must schedule the sessions you want to attend. Note that you can sign up for workshops and tours as part of your initial registration, so what I'm talking about today are the dozens of 'regular' educational sessions that are included in your registration fee. There's an online schedule guide that you can browse before you sign up, and once you register you use a very similar system to actually lock in your choices. I found it helpful to have this pdf 'at-a-glance' style schedule printed out next to me (I know... I'm terrible, but in my defense I also had to deal with having this post up on the screen and I only printed the three pages I needed) while signing up, as the online scheduler show the GBCI CMP hours.

Credential Maintenance Program (CMP) Hours

There are some 37,000+ of you out there that now must deal with continuing education requirements, and there is a handy pdf guide that explains which sessions are elgible for GBCI credit hours, whether or not they're LEED specific, and what topic category you can apply those hours towards that is organized by date and time. I found this extremely helpful, as I already have submitted credits for many categories and need to fill in a few specific topics only at this point. There's a long overdue post about my experience with this that I'm determined to get to soon, but for now those seeking other sources for credits can look at a post on 95+ Online Sources for FREE CMP Hours. Unsure which credits you need? Log in to the My Credentials section of the GBCI website and click on "Review/Report CMP Activity"... a table will pop up showing what you have earned and what's still required.

Also, I'm not personally very interested in the Residential Summit, which appears to have it's own set of educational sessions all day Thursday. You're on your own for that one as well.

Session Recommendations

I'm not including obvious things like the Opening and Closing Plenaries... just the stuff where you have to make tough choices. I've also not included off-site sessions or tours, because frankly not being a Chicago resident I can't really say what's worth it or not. I've also found a number of discrepancies and among the various sources of information (e.g. 'SS' sessions that don't appear to be listed anywhere but the online catalog and mislabeled times for some programs), but I suspect most of these amount to last minute changes inherent in any conference. To anyone reading this blog for the first time, please don't take the 'most likely' designations seriously... Regular readers should already know better!

There are a two ways to add sessions, and I've found the easiest is to go to "My Schedule" section and add based on time slots... The "Session Catalog" doesn't even include the Specialty Update sessions in it's lists, and in general is more frustrating to use. The "My Schedule" route has the added benefit of allowing you to add personal meetings.

Red Series: Wednesday 2:00-3:30

  • First Choice: RD03 Making the Connection: Linking Building Design to Healthcare Outcomes - In addition to administering LEED projects, my 'real' job focuses on the power of research to inform our design decisions, and evidence informed design has taken root in healthcare more than any other sector. Both speakers hail from the Center For Health Design, whose Pebble Project is arguably the most comprehensive examination of the impact of design on healthcare outcomes worldwide.
  • Most Intriguing: RD06 Cell Phones On for this Session Please: Social Media and Tech Tools for Public Involvement and Charrettes - Mostly intriguing because I've recently started contributing to LS3P's social media efforts (twitter, research blog, facebook).
  • What My Boss Probably Wants Me To Go To: RD09 Rationalizing Sustainability When Money is Tight... and Isn't It Always? - I can't say how many times I've put together materials justifying the (potential) increased costs for sustainable design and construction practices, and it always seems like the data's a little out of date.

Orange Series: Wednesday 4:00-5:30

  • First Choice: SS01 The Building Blocks of Green Neighborhoods: An Interactive LEED-ND Focused Site Planning Exercise - I'm currently in the process of looking at LEED-ND for the first time (see my first take here), and this appears to be a very valuable opportunity to get some practical experience before performing similar routines with clients.
  • Most Intriguing: OR10 Mannahatta and the Mtigwaaki: Learning from Ecological and Indigenous History To Remake Our Cities - I once attended an AIA session by Frank Harmon who said that whenever he went to design a project in a new city, the first thing he did was look at building design there before the invention of air conditioning... It only makes sense that the most sustainable facilities could likely learn a lot from those that have no supply of energy or far away materials at all.
  • Most Likely To Have Pretty Pictures: OR15 2010 Natural Talent Design Competition: Young Designers Help Rebuild New Orleans - I don't mean to belittle this excellent competition or rip on the quality of the other sessions, but most of those sessions will be fairly technical and at the end of a long day it will be nice to see fresh images and ideas up on the big screen...

Yellow Series: Thursday 8:30-10:00

  • First Choice: YL14 Benchmarking & Performance Evaluation LEED Schools (BELS): Research Findings and Design Lessons for the Future - This is an overview of a year long comparative study of 10 LEED and non-LEED schools in Oregon. Based on the description, they appear to be looking at about every metric imaginable, from energy to obesity rates to student performance.
  • Most Intriguing: YL09 Beyond The Silver Plateau: Using an Innovative Model to Conquer the Financial Barriers of Deep-Green Projects - This was a very close call for first choice... We've repeatedly run into the certified/silver barrier where economic ROI quickly dwindles after the 'easiest' credits are earned, and I'm very curious to hear any methods to move clients beyond these barriers.
  • Most Likely To Foster an Antagonistic Relationship With Your Clients: YL06 Expanding your Reach: Engaging Commercial Building Tenants In Energy Management and Sustainability - We're all well aware that the occupants play a critical roll in making sure all those efficient and highly tuned systems are performing optimally, but it can be difficult to 'educate' them about how their building should run.

Green Series: Thursday 2:00-3:30

  • First Choice: GR02 Night at the Energy Modeling Improv: Featuring The Wizard of SD - I'm very interested in this session as it focuses on the use of eQuest in the schematic design phase, a process that I'd like to see used on EVERY project... The scheduler currently has this listed as taking place on Wednesday at 2:00 but it looks like this is a typo?
  • Most Intriguing: GR15 The Evolution of a Biomimicry Approach - I've been fortunate to have a former Biomimicry Guild alum move just down the street from me, as it's a topic that I've been fascinated with in general for the past five years. The scheduler also has this listed as taking place at the wrong time (noon)...
  • Most Likely To Include Someone Yelling To Prove A Point: GR14 Building Sound Environments: What the Workplace Can Learn From Schools - I think in general acoustics are one of the last things considered in a building's design, if it's considered at all... This is something that needs to change!

Blue Series: Thursday 4:00-5:30

  • First Choice: BL02 How to Integrate the OPR, BOD and Commissioning to Optimize Building Performance - The Cx process including the creation of the OPR/BOD documents is the arguably the most important aspect of sustainable design. I'm surprised that this is the first session to directly address Cx in this conference that I can see!
  • Most Intriguing: BL15 Tomorrow's Vertical Cities: Sustainable Design in Tall Buildings - Architects will likely fawn over the opportunity to hear Adrian Smith speak post-SOM, and I can't blame them.
  • Most Likely To Be Even More Relevant in 2012: BL01 When Green Building Is Code - This session focuses on the implementation of CALgreen, which is a precursor to what is likely much more widely adopted International Green Construction Code (IgCC) from the ICC which is due for final release in early 2012.

Purple Series: Friday 4:00-5:30

  • First Choice: PL05 Using the Past to Teach the Future: Post-Occupancy Studies from Two Affordable Multifamily LEED for Homes Platinum Projects - I'm a big fan of POEs, and am proud that our firm is about to embark on a set of them in the near future to build on a few we've done in the past. The difference is that this time I'm involved in the design and administration of those POEs, so this session will hopefully offer some helpful advice.
  • Most Intriguing: PL09 Effect of LEED Ratings and Levels on Office Property Assessed and Market Values - Perhaps 'intriguing' is a bit of a stretch, but I'd love to have whatever data they've found at my fingertips when I leave Chicago.
  • Most Likely to Terrify Design Professionals: PL01 Outcome-Based Energy Codes as a Foundation for Market Transformation for Building Energy Performance- The major criticism of LEED has been that it's based on energy models and not actual performance. This session appears to propose that we go a step further and have codes based on energy performance instead of designs...

For the True LEED Nerd: Specialty Updates

There are a series of USGBC developed 'specialty update' sessions that happen during or just after lunch each day that cover topics like "CMP Roundtable" and "Introducing the LEED Volume Program" that really will only be interesting to people who find this blog interesting. I'm not going to go through my picks, as you can easily see for yourself what's available.

A LEED for Neighborhood Development Project Planning Guide

Today I was tasked with determining the implications that pursuing LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) certification would have on current, preliminary plans for a roughly 100 acre mixed use development including a retail center, offices, and a mix of single- and multi-family residential. Though generally aware of LEED-ND this is the first time I've tried to apply the rating system to a specific project, and I figured many of you will be in the same boat sooner or later. With that in mind, here's what has jumped out at me as the major issues we'll need to discuss with the client. If you have absolutely no idea what LEED-ND is or what it attempts to do, I strongly recommend checking out this short video before continuing.

The Bluth's were never known for their commitment to sustainability

The Bluth's Development would probably not qualify for LEED-ND

To create this analysis and resulting post I've been relying on the rating system document, the LEED-ND Reference Guide, and the nine page LEED-ND Certification FAQ. I would strongly suggest reading the "Introduction" and "Getting Started" sections in the reference guide and the FAQ as they contain a gold mine of administrative issues that you'll want to know about at some point. I'm hitting the high points in this post, but there's a great deal more info that you'll want to at least skim so you don't run into any nasty surprises. If you're not aware already, it's nearly impossible to pursue LEED certification without purchasing the appropriate reference guide for it.

Understanding the Process

Unlike most LEED rating systems, LEED-ND uses a three phase review system, though depending on where you are in the planning stage you may not need all three. Each review follows the same format as the commercial LEED rating systems (i.e. submit review, receive preliminary comments from GBCI, amend as necessary and resubmit, receive final comments from GBCI, and appeal or accept the rating as granted).

Stage 1 - Conditional Approval of a LEED-ND Plan (Optional)

This review is designed to "help the developer build a case for entitlement among land-use planning authorities, as well as attract financing and occupant communities", and can only be pursued if "no more than 50% of the project's total new and/or renovated building square footage has land-use entitlements... for the specific types and quantities of... land uses proposed." According to the rating system language, entitlements are defined as "the existing or granted right to use property for specific types and quantities of residential and nonresidential land uses." I read this a "zoning is in place".

Confused? So was I at first, but basically all this is saying is that if zoning is already in place for more than 50% of your total project as it will ultimately be built, you skip Stage 1 and move to Stage 2. Their definition of entitlements is based on planned building area, not land area. So even though I may have 75 acres out of 100 zoned how I want, if over 50% of my building square footage is in those last 25 acres (perhaps the neighborhood core?) then I'm still eligible for Stage 1. If zoning is not in place for 50% of the total square footage of the project, you may pursue this certification, but you're not required to. The impression I get reading through the guide is that the only people who should pursue a Stage 1 review are those developers who need help convincing local boards or zoning administrators that their plans are indeed sustainable and could benefit from a USGBC seal of approval of said plans.

Stage 2 - Pre-Certified LEED-ND Plan (Optional)

You can't proceed with Stage 2 until 100% of the entitlements are in place (i.e. finish up your zoning then move on). So now you have that in place and all of your design work is completed, but it's going to be quite some time before this place is completely built out... This is the time to submit for Stage 2 Pre-certification!

Similar to the goal of Stage 1, the intent of pre-certification is to aid the developer in marketing, except this time to potential tenants and not zoning boards. Since many projects have long timelines for development, it's likely that more than a few will pursue Stage 2 pre-certification and stop there. One developer who participated in the pilot project system with a 25 year development timeline indicated that this is a likely outcome for them.

Stage 3 - LEED-ND Certified Project

This stage is the real deal, and once you reach it you finally have a certified project and a plaque to put somewhere. One question I have is that based on the information provided in the reference guide and other supporting documents, it's not clear whether a well prepared Stage 1 or Stage 2 documentation set would look much different than what's provided for Stage 3. Multiple sections of these documents suggest that more information and guidance on the matter is provided on LEED-Online, but at the moment I don't have access to that info. I've sent inquiries to the USGBC on this matter and will update this post when I hear back.

Now that I've likely thoroughly confused you about the different stages, here's a graphic from the reference guide that should make it much clearer. The introductory sections provide much more guidance and helpful charts regarding site drawings and documentation that is not found in the free rating system document:

LEED Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) Stages Explained

Click to view full size


As mentioned in an earlier post, LEED-ND fees aren't exactly cheap, but when you start to divide the cost over every building it starts to look much more favorable compared to certifying each building independently.

For the 100 acre project I'm examining the total direct certification fees paid to GBCI (i.e. not including consultant costs) for one stage would be $1,500 registration + $18,000 for the first 20 acres + $350 * 80 additional acres = $47,500. That sounds steep, but when you consider that the cachet of LEED will fall upon the 334 buildings (34 commercial + 300 residential) within this area, likely a significant marketing bonus for all properties, that breaks down to only $142/building. If two stages are pursued (in this instance Stage 2 and Stage 3 are most likely), the total fees rise to $85,500 for both, or $255/building.

When I wrote the previous post I was under the impression that a project was forced to seek all three stages of certification at considerable cost, but looking into the matter further it appears that a project may only need to complete one or two stages and can save significantly. I'm not 100% clear on this and have sent a request to the USGBC for clarification and will update this post when I have confirmation. It's important to note though that at least one building must achieve LEED certification of some form in order to satisfy a prerequisite, and additional points may be earned for additional certifications under the Green Infrastructure and Buildings category.

Who's on the Team?

Far more than any other LEED rating system, a good civil engineer or formal planner, ideally with a fair amount of GIS mapping experience, is critical to making the LEED-ND certification efforts proceed smoothly. You will be creating a LOT of site and vicinity maps to comply with Smart Location and Linkage and Neighborhood Pattern and Design prerequisites and credits. I admit that a layperson could likely handle most of this, but it will be very time consuming without a working knowledge of GIS software.

One of the Green Infrastructure and Buildings prerequisites requires that all commercial buildings be designed to exceed ASHRAE 90.1-2007 (by 10% for new buildings or 5% for renovations) or smaller structures can meet detailed prescriptive requirements. Residential buildings must comply with Energy Star ratings. All projects must certain plumbing efficiency requirements. For this reason, it's likely that an MEP engineer will need to be involved in the documentation process as well, but not to the same extent as the single building LEED systems.

A developer who handles most of the design in-house can probably survive certification without needing an additional consultant, but if they don't have some of the skills mentioned above it will be a very frustrating process. Alternatively, an architecture or planning firm could also provide a great deal of the documentation for a developer. At the end of the day it will come down to who can do the paperwork most efficiently, and in my opinion that is almost always the person handling the design the first place.

What to Look for First

Unlike other LEED systems where the prerequisites can generally be achieved on any site, it's very likely that it will be impossible to certify greenfield, surburban sites if there's very little or poorly connected infrastructure. The project I was tasked with examining will very likely not qualify for certification due to the fact that the neighboring sites are not very dense and it's bordering undeveloped parcels for much of the site boundary. Internally, the developer must be willing to commit to certain density requirements and also pursue a very urban style infrastructure with building frontages bordering streets instead of vast arrays of parking. For your convenience, I've briefly summarized the most critical prerequisites below so you can check to see if your plan will qualify. There are other prerequisites to consider, but these are the ones you need to know about before you pay a registration fee... For more detailed descriptions of the credits, download a pdf copy of the rating system itself.

Site Location and Linkages

SLLp1: Smart Location - This is the one that will prohibit greenfield, urban fringe projects from qualifying. The site must be currently served by water and wastewater service or "within a legally publicly planned water and wastewater service". In addition to that requirement the project must be an infill site (see credit for details, but it's pretty much what you'd expect), OR at least 25% of the project boundary must be immediately adjacent previously developed property while land within a 1/2 mile radius contain an average of 90 intersections/square mile. Confused? Even the free rating system pdf has good maps clarifying the credit.

SLLp3: Wetland and Water Body Conservation - Want to fill in some wetlands on the site? Not going to happen... It's going to be very difficult even building within 50 feet of wetlands or 100 feet of water bodies (beyond minor improvements like paths), which is prohibited unless you meet stringent stormwater management and density requirements.

SLLp4: Agricultural Land Conservation - There are significant restrictions to building on land "within a state or locally designated agricultural preservation district".

SLLp5: Floodplain Avoidance - If your site is within a 100-year floodplain, it better be an infill project or previously developed, otherwise you're not going to be able to build there at all.

Neighborhood Pattern and Design

NPDp1: Walkable Streets - Technically you don't need to know this prior to design starting, but the developer should probably be warned as these will significantly shape their project. 90% of all new building facades must directly border "public space, such as a street, park, paseo, or plaza, but not a parking lot, and is connected to sidewalks..." Additionally, sidewalks must be provided on both sides of 90% of internal streets or frontage, and no more than 20% of street frontages can be faced by a garage door. There are also street width to building height ratios that must be followed for at least 15% of the development.

NPDp2: Compact Development - For projects located within walking distance of a transit corridor, you must build to a minimum density of 12 units/acre residential and .80 FAR for commercial spaces. Projects not within walking distance of a transit stop must build to a minimum 7 units/acre residential and .5 FAR for commercial.

NPDp3: Connected and Open Community - Internal streets within a project must average at least 140 intersections/square mile and there must be "at least one through-street and/or nonmotorized right-of-way intersecting or terminating at the project boundary at least 800 feet." No one way in, one way out developments here!

Green Infrastructure and Buildings

This category has three prerequisites, but they are all to be tackled much later into the design process. Basically you have to have at least one LEED certified building within the LEED-ND project, and all buildings in the development must meet minimum energy and water efficiency requirements.

Use at your own risk!

It's important to note that this is my first review of these credit requirements, and though I work to ensure this blog is as accurate as possible, I shortened many complex credit requirements down to only hit the big spots. I may have also overlooked small details that would provide exceptions to the statements below. This post is intended to get someone who hasn't cracked the book up to speed about LEED-ND as quickly as possible, but it's ultimately up to you to read the reference guide and meet all of the requirements. Please call out any mistakes or differing opinions in the comments and I'll update the post ASAP.

Booked for Greenbuild 2010 in CHI-CITY!!!

I just locked down my hotel/flight/ticket to Greenbuild 2010 in Chicago, IL, and I can't be more excited! I'll be posting about the best sessions to attend later, but in my searches for places to stay I noticed the options were getting more limited every day and I wanted to give you a heads up...

Where to stay?

Last year in Phoenix I held out on getting a place till late, and definitely paid the price by being in the middle of nowhere (though everywhere seems to be the middle of nowhere in Phoenix). This year I promised myself that I wouldn't make the same mistake, and after a great deal of searching I settled on a hotel in the Loop near Grant Park about two blocks from the Metra line that will take me straight to the conference and a block from the L subway lines that connects me to everywhere else. I didn't realize it at first, but McCormick Place Convention Center is on the much less well connected Metra line, which doesn't really link with the more pervasive subway system. Just looking at Google maps it's kind of tough to tell, so buyer beware.

Kanye Letting R-Fed Finish

Will Kanye Make a Surprise Cameo? Will He Let R-Fed Finish?

McCormick Place is on the near south side of Chicago, and playing around with google street view convinced me I didn't really want to be stuck down there on the weekend. Most people I talked to said the best parts of Chicago are North of the Loop (the loop is supposedly dead at night), but that area would make it tough to commute to the conference. I split the difference and stayed at the loop with easy access to transit in both directions.

The USGBC has setup official lodging, but at this point theres nothing less than $240/night and everything really close is already booked. On the bright side, if you book through them you'll have access to a free shuttle to the convention. Last year the shuttles were open to everyone, but they've decided to limit it to guests staying at official destinations this year. For comparison's sake, I found my place for under $120/night, but that's about as cheap as it gets and I'm not exactly staying in the lap of luxury... On the other hand it's in the perfect location.


I took a serious look at so-called 'crash-padder' sites, which were recently profiled in the NY Times. Basically, people rent out their own apartments or rooms in their apartments for typically much less than you'd find comparable hotels. I looked around a few sites (scroll to the end of the NYT article for four of the bigger sites) and there were some pretty interesting options. If you own a business that's taking more than one person you could end up saving a great deal while getting everyone their own bedroom. It's not for everyone, but there are checks and balances in the system to make sure you don't get screwed. I ended up passing, but if I was going with 2-3 friends I definitely would have booked this way. It could also be a savior for anyone who's booking late.

Any Chicago area residents PLEASE comment about where to go, what to see, and where to stay! If what I've heard is wrong, definitely correct me!

Informative Hypothetical LEED-ND Project Walkthrough

Kaid Benfield over at the NRDC just posted about a video a colleague of his, Eliot Allen of Criterion Planners, created showing how a sustainable development he studied would be scored if it pursued LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND). The video does a great job of breaking complex calculations into a simple, easy to understand format that would be excellent to forward to clients considering the system...

Know of other great videos online? Let us know by leaving a comment.

USGBC Membership Shrinks Another 9%

You may remember a post from February back where I noticed the USGBC reported a decline in membership on their Member Update newsletters. I noticed today that that membership has declined further, dropping to 16,380 from a peak of 20,000 reported in January 2010.

It's worth noting that I've seen no indications that LEED registrations or personal accreditations are declining, and as we've seen before residential LEED certifications are growing very rapidly. As always, I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on why this decline continues... is it just the poor economy or something more?

GBCI: 94% of LEED Reviews are Currently On Time

Tristan Roberts of Environmental Building News* recently wrote an article about how the GBCI is shifting LEED reviews back to the GBCI in an effort to reign in "inconsistencies and poor service that have been frustrating to LEED project teams." I was more interested in a statistic cited later in the article, where GBCI President Peter Templeton "cited internal figures showing that 94% of reviews are currently on time, which is up 45% from the start of 2009." You may remember from earlier posts that the delays in 2008 and 2009 could be pretty long, and I'm glad to see USGBC/GBCI's commitment to improving customer service is paying off!

Cracking the whip!

Cracking the Whip on the LEED Reviewers**

Recent personal experience with LEED reviews confirms that this is true... Normally the initial review appears to be taking most of the 25 business days, but we've found relatively quick turnaround on final reviews.

*Full Disclosure: EBN is owned by parent company BuildingGreen, a sponsor of this site.

**No LEED reviewers were harmed in the making of this post... or even really featured in this picture

Every LEED Certification/Accreditation Fee In One Place

I had a few requests today at work for clarifications on LEED fees, presumably because they're a little hard to find or that they require 3-4 clicks to get to from the main website and my coworkers are lazy (just kidding... please don't fire me!)

expensive hamster

Perhaps an unfair picture for this post, but then again...

As a result, I thought all you LEED power users might appreciate a post that will link directly to fees for every rating system. In each case, fees all versions of the rating system are indicated:

So that's that, and I hope it makes you're life slightly easier... If any of these links break please let me know by leaving a comment!

Learning from the LEED-Homes Platinum 100K House

A few years ago, Chad Ludeman and Nic Darling of Postgreen embarked on a journey "to build a LEED Platinum home for $100,000 in hard construction costs." Lucky for you, they not only succeeded but documented the entire process on their popular 100K House blog!

100K House

Image credit: Postgreen

While their blog covers topics beyond the original project and is definitely a recommended read as a whole, I wanted to highlight some of the posts I found most helpful for LEED APs embarking on a LEED-Homes project... or you could just go directly to the 20 posts under the LEED category:

New readers may not be aware of a similar that that I profiled a over a year and a half ago (has it been that long???), The Lambert LEED Home. Know of other great LEED Homes resources that deserve attention? Let us know by leaving a comment.

SUCCESS! New Official LEED Checklists Unlocked, Added Improvements

Though the primary goal of RealLifeLEED is to better inform project managers and others involved in LEED documentation, every once in awhile I put up a rant about some topic that's bothering me in the hopes of bringing attention to something that needs to be fixed. Fortunately, it looks like the USGBC is listening, as yesterday I received a comment from Courtney Yan at USGBC explaining that:

"In response to feedback we've received from you and others, we recently updated the checklists available at usgbc.org. Revisions include the addition of d/c designations, adding a notes section and unlocking the detailed version."

The New Look Of LEED (Checklists)

While I may be appear harsh towards the USGBC/GBCI at times, I do recognize that we all share the same goal of improving the quality and reducing the environmental footprint of our built environment, and they deserve recognition for identifying a problem and working to fix it. I'll leave my previous post featuring links to checklists I created up, but I would encourage you to check out the new UNLOCKED excel checklists provided by the USGBC as well, since they've refined them even further than my editions:

Are there other improvements you think still need to be added? Suggest them here by leaving a comment!

Special Recognition

In my last post I forgot to congratulate the winner of the mini-contest where I asked readers to identify why the hell I featured two people sipping big gulps in a post about daylighting. My new best friend and suspected hipster (single speed... check! v-neck... check! manpurse... check!) The Beastmaster, authors two blogs (one for him and one for his family) and correctly guessed that the picture featured Matt and Kim, a band best known for their single, Daylight! Congrats!

The LEED Size Gap: When a Renovation Is Ineligible for LEED Certification

A few days ago I got a very interesting email from my new best friend Dan Overbey of Browning Day Mullins Deirdorf Architects. He relayed a story about a client who was building a 16,000 sf horizontally attached addition to an existing 25,000 sf building. The client was committed to sustainable design and was very enthusiastic about pursuing LEED. When BDMD was looking at choosing the appropriate LEED system for their scope, they learned that the project appears to be in a strange LEED 'size gap'.

The core of the problem is that limits on registrations for additions on LEED-NC projects are based on the combined footprint of the existing building + the addition, whereas elgibility for including an addition a LEED-EB certification is based only on the footprint of the existing building... and the two are not mutually exclusive. According to the registration walk-through process on the GBCI website, a project is ineligible for LEED-NC if the scope of work is less than 60% of the total project square footage. Additionally, a project is ineligible for current registration for LEED-EB if the scope of the work is greater than 50% of the existing project square footage:

LEED Size Gap

Dan was kind enough to put together a summary of the issue in this convenient paper... Note that it is possible for a horizontal addition to apply for LEED-NC separately from the existing building if (a) the addition is physically distinct from the original (defined as having party walls separating the space along with separate lighting, HVAC, and plumbing systems) AND (b) the addition has a separate address or name than the existing building. This particular project did not meet those requirements, so they went back to the drawing board.

You may have noticed that I used the phase 'ineligible for current registration' when I mentioned LEED-EB above. Ultimately, the project in question is eligible for LEED-EB, but only after the renovation is complete (the whole facility will be 'existing' at that point), meaning they cannot pick up points for good construction practices under the LEED-EB credits MRc3 and MRc9 Facility Alterations and Additions related credits. It also means that their performance periods cannot begin until the addition is complete, causing a long delay between substantial completion and certification.

To the USGBC and GBCI's credit, they have developed fairly effective tools for helping with system selection. Anyone registering a project for LEED 2009 runs into a sort of registration 'wizard' as part of signing up that helps them select the proper system if they're unsure what to use, and running through the same wizard resulted in a LEED-EB suggestion when I answered these questions with this project in mind. Also, the USGBC has released a LEED Rating System Selection Policy that offers additional guidance, though the issue at hand is not discussed in detail.

Making Something Out of Nothing?

I've been trying to get my head around this issue for days now, and I'm trying to figure out if this is a legitimate problem with the way LEED eligibility is determined or whether this specific instance happens to be a rare outlier and that the USGBC can't be blamed for not covering every construction project imaginable... In my mind no LEED system has really been a great fit for partial (in size) but comprehensive (in scope) renovations or additions, and I'm very curious to hear your thoughts about the subject. Are there others out there that had to go back to their client telling them LEED wasn't an option? Is there a need for a system tailored to renovations that's distinct from LEED-CI but more flexible than LEED-NC? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment!

Daylighting Simulation in LEED 2009: 2 Models = Unanswered Questions

Despite the fact that I almost live on the interwebs and have a penchant for butchering images in photoshop, I'm not the most technologically advanced person when it comes to Revit and the bevy of associated environmental modeling programs available. I got an email from one of my colleagues asking how to interpret the following requirement for compliance with EQc8.1, Daylight and Views, Daylight credit using Option 1, Simulation, and I'd like your help in determining an appropriate response:

"Demonstrate through computer simulations that 75% or more of all regularly occupied spaces areas achieve daylight illuminance levels of a minimum of 25 footcandles (fc) and a maximum of 500 fc in a clear sky condition on September 21 at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m...”

The issue here is that they ask you to generate two models (one at 9am and the other at 3pm), but no guidance is provided about how to combine these models to show that 75% of the space meets the footcandle requirements...

What the hell does this image have to do with a post about daylighting compliance?*

Previous editions of LEED forced you to simulate the daylighting levels at noon, and I suspect that by using solar positions that are 'lower' in the sky more projects should be able to claim credit since daylight should penetrate more deeply into the building. The reference guide goes on to discuss other issues surrounding the simulation, but none resolve the problem brought to my attention earlier today. My reading of this leads me to two possible interpretations:

'Subtractive' Compliance

In the 'subtractive' compliance scenario, you would take the two floor plans and run the daylight intensity model for both and mark the compliant square footage on each. You would then combine the two models, and only include the spaces that are compliant on BOTH models in your calculations to determine if 75% of the overall regularly occupied space and mark your compliant square footage. The result is a combined space that is smaller than either model individually.

'Additive' Compliance

This interpretation would require you to generate the two models, but instead of cutting out the spaces that are not compliant at both times, you combine the two for a larger footprint than was created by either model.

The final word?

After I wrote 95% of this post, it occurred to me I should scan the forums for an answer, and I found a reasonably definitive answer on the LEEDuser forums**, courtesy of Jill Dalglish at Dalglish Daylighting:

"I received this statement in a response from USGBC Technical Customer Service: 'The simulation needs to document compliance at both 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.. Only areas that meet the requirements at both of these times are considered complaint.' To me, this means that you cannot take an average and you cannot evaluate the two times separately, ie. you cannot include the space in the compliant area if 75% of it meets the footcandle requirement at 9am and then also meets it at 75% at 3pm (unless that 75% overlaps.)"

This clearly supports the 'subtractive' method of compliance, but I'd love to hear from someone who has performed and submitted and had this strategy approved in a LEED review. Please share your experience by leaving a comment!

Forgive my Rant

Another sidenote to anyone at the USGBC responsible for developing the reference manuals: This is ridiculous! It's one thing that this slipped through the cracks in the first edition of the reference guide, but to also miss it in the addenda makes me want to scream... It would be one thing if it was a minor issue, but people cannot complete their documentation without this critical piece of knowledge! How is this overlooked (at least) twice?

* Free kudos and (if desired) a link to the site of your choice to the first commenter who points out what, if anything, this picture has to do with this post... Liz, you can't enter!

** FULL DISCLOSURE: LEEDuser is a sponsor of this site... I know there's been a bunch of of 'full disclosure' posts lately, and I can only offer my word that it's not by design! I really do use my sponsor's sites on a regular basis.