New Design Research Blog Launched: LS3P Knowledge Center

In case anyone doubted just how big of a nerd I really am, I'm proud to announce another blog, the LS3P Knowledge Center, that I've recently started up based on my work as a researcher at LS3P ASSOCIATES LTD. I haven't discussed it much here, but believe it or not I don't spend all day every day working on LEED project management. In fact, my primary job is to collect research that could influence the way we design and construct facilities... how can the design of a school increase student test scores, how can material selection work to reduce infection rates in a hospital, or what impact does an office's physical characteristics have on employee satisfaction?

LS3P Knowledge Center

Interestingly, it was the massive amount of research being performed on sustainable design and construction practices over the last decade that drove me into LEED project management in the first place... Within six months of starting at LS3P I had earned my LEED AP title. I was doing so much research on the costs of LEED, examining the most effective strategies to implement, and helping to prove the value of sustainable design to our clients that I was soon tasked with assisting our project managers in completing the documentation itself. I jumped on the opportunity and about a year and a half later I was effectively an in-house LEED consultant and shortly thereafter I started Real Life LEED in my spare time.

Don't worry... Real Life LEED isn't going anywhere, as the Knowledge Center will be handled through my regular working hours, but I'm really proud of the content we already have loaded and I'm very excited about the contributions of others in our firm that started last month and will continue into the future. If this sort of thing interests you, please check it out!

A Night at the Proximity - My Stay at the First LEED Platinum Hotel

Regular readers know I have a standing policy against posting announcements, case studies, or other related info about new LEED certified projects... mostly because you can find them all over the place. Well... today I'm breaking that commitment a little, but I promise to do it the Real Life LEED way (read: I'll focus on quirky details that interest me and possibly no one else)! The reason for this review is partially because until this weekend I've never been able to spend more than a few minutes in a LEED building at once, and partially because if I review this building I get to write off the costs of staying there as a business expense!

The Proximity is clearly a luxury hotel, a fact that would be lost on anyone looking only at the camera-phone pictures I'm about to provide. The hotel really does prove that you can be sustainable without sacrificing comfort, and I would suggest checking their website's photo collection to get a better feel for the full experience of the place. All the expected green features are included (40% energy savings, whole room kill switches, a very large solar thermal array, regional materials, etc.), and you can find the official USGBC case study and final LEED-NCv2.2 Checklist with descriptions online.

A True Commitment

While the design and construction practices leading to their LEED Platinum certification were no doubt substantial, what really impressed me about this hotel is its managements' commitment to sustainable operations. Not only do they track the energy use of the facility, they have built a running model that figures in hotel occupancy and uses an on-site weather center to calibrate the performance under ever changing conditions! Having had a few years to learn how the building really works, they've even gotten to the point where they provide rooms for guests based on energy performance... They don't place people in the south-facing rooms until the hotel is filling to capacity so they can close the blinds and reduce the solar heat gain to the maximum extent possible. You don't get to that point by just letting the design and construction team do their thing and simply moving in.

This attention to detail runs to other sections of the hotel... The image above shows how guest rooms not only feature CFLs, but feature different size CFLs in each light to allow for multiple light levels down to 7 watt bulbs... a concept I plan on implementing in my own house if my current lamps ever end up burning out.

Another interesting feature was the fact that all guest room floors feature a small fridge and icemaker on the 'honor' system, presumably because standard vending machines are pretty big energy hogs... This may not work in a less affluent hotel where the clientèle may be more prone to petty theft, but I thought it was an interesting tradeoff to reduce process energy use.

They're also willing to take their time. Though I don't have an image to show, they have a currently small extensive green roof that originally featured 17 different sedums. After a few years they've found the 3 or 4 that seem to be a good fit for the climate, and will be expanding their green roof over time...

The LEED Bump?

Free marketing and increased occupancy rates are commonly cited benefits of LEED certification, and while talking with Tony Villier, a very helpful (and knowledgeable!) LEED AP Guest Service Coordinator for the Proximity, he mentioned that roughly 20% of their event sales cite the property's LEED certification as one of the primary reasons for choosing their facility. While I can't verify the authority of that statement, the LEED Platinum status of the hotel was about 90% of the reason I was staying there (the other 10% being the blissful matrimony of Mr. and Mrs. Ryan McDowell the next day). Amazingly, I also ran into an interior design student at the Art Institute of Charleston, Catherine Collins, eating dinner with 'a friend' at the Print Works Bistro (the hotel's luxury on-site restaurant that was also included under the same LEED certification) the same night, and she mentioned that the chance to eat in a LEED restaurant shifted their decision as well. I'm not sure how many people were there that night overall, but I can say with certainty that at least four people spent money at the hotel that likely wouldn't have been there if not for the effort spent going through the LEED process.

Final Thoughts

I'm not sure what target demographic the management was seeking when drafting plans for the hotel, but I can say they pretty much nailed it if they were going after picky bloggers in their mid-twenties with a penchant for a comfortable minimalist aesthetic. For someone who works on LEED all the time, it was gratifying to finally be able to experience a certified building for longer than the few minutes it takes to tour them. My only complaint is that it's not located within walking distance of downtown... I would highly recommend this hotel to anyone, but LEED APs in the Greensboro, NC area should definitely spend the few extra bucks to upgrade to this sustainable, four-diamond hotel!

A Can't Miss LEED GA Exam Prep Webinar with LEEDuser

UPDATE: 05.23.10- For those that missed it the first time around, this webinar is now available for free online at the LEEDuser website... Check it out!

So the fine folks over at LEEDuser* somehow convinced me to turn my post on LEED Green Associate (LEED GA) exam advice into a FREE, full-blown webinar on the same subject next Tuesday, April 27th at 3:00pm EST. I've been working on the slides yesterday and this morning and instead of going into what I'll be talking about (hint: it's about how to prepare for the LEED GA exam!) I thought you might be more intrigued by some of the images I'm considering including:

From my personal files Learning at its finest... Let's get this show started Tests are hard Life Lessons

Clearly you have to find out how in the hell all these pictures relate to the exam (hint: some don't!), so sign up today! Believe it or not I've also included some very helpful information and advice and shoved it in between all the cheesy jokes and LOLcat references.

*LEEDuser is a sponsor of RealLifeLEED.

LEED ND Launches April 29th + First LEED AP ND Specializations Earned

After a refreshing weekend in the desert of California (ok... technically I was on a giant polo field), I came back to find a few important announcements about the LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) rating system, namely that there are now LEED AP ND specialists out there and that the system is going to be launched on April 29th!

LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND)

Did I mention that I'm digging the LEED-ND logo?

LEED-ND To Be Launched On Thursday, April 29

According to a press release forwarded by the USGBC Wednesday morning, there are going to be a set of meetings in Chicago and Washington, DC where R. Fed and company will "launch the LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) rating system" and it will be available online for registration at that time.*

First Batch of LEED AP ND Specialties Awarded

I found out about this through a less official but no less accurate source, as a friend of mine let me know that he just received a letter from the GBCI indicating that he had passed the beta test for the LEED AP ND specialty. The 'normal' test won't be live until June 11, 2010 (see the candidate handbook for eligibility and logistical details), but it appears as though you can apply to take the test right now. Ladies and gentlemen I present to you Nathan Schutte, the first LEED AP ND worldwide (as far as I know**), on the links lamenting the lack of development density while enjoying the access to green space:

Leading us straight to sixth place...

Nathan had already passed the LEED-NC v2 AP exam, but was interested in learning about the system oriented more towards planning than building design. Since the beta test was free he decided it couldn't hurt to try. He said of the experience: "This test was the biggest kick in the teeth I've experienced." In other words it was hard, which is not terribly surprising but helpful to know anyway. He had worked on LEED-NC projects before, one of which happened to fall within a LEED-ND pilot project, and my understanding is that he used the LEED Reference Guide for Green Neighborhood Development as his study tool.

Were you in the group that took the LEED ND beta test? Let us know about your experience by sharing a comment!

*This section was edited on 04.22.10 after the USGBC Communications Department confirmed that registrations will be live on 04.29.10.

**Meaning this could easily be incorrect, but presumably all beta testers were notified at roughly the same time.

Meet RealLifeLEED at the 2010 Sustain SC Conference!

I don't talk about it very often, but I've served on a local USGBC branch in South Carolina for a few years now, and after my term ended at the beginning of the year for some reason I was dumb enough to volunteer to help plan our second annual conference, Sustain SC, to be held on May 12-14, 2010 at the Charleston Area Convention Center in North Charleston, South Carolina. It's been a TON of work, but I'm very proud of what we've been able to put together!

SustainSC 2010

In addition to helping plan the conference, I've volunteered my time to lead a 1/2 day LEED GA Training Session based on the guidance I provided here, and I'll also be providing an educational session on "Online Tools for LEED Project Managers" with the CEO of*, Adam Bernholz, that will feature many of the tools that can be found on this site.

Many more details can be found on the conference website, or you can avoid all that and go straight to the registration!

LEED CMP Credits Galore!

For those of you in the LEED GA or LEED AP with specialty system, there is a new streamlined LEED Continuing Maintenance Program (CMP) submittal process where we could submit most of the educational sessions for USGBC Education Review Body (ERB) approval, and 16 of our 22 sessions and both tours have been submitted for review. What all this means is that it's likely (we haven't yet received final approval) you will be able to knock out up to 7 CMP credit hours, about half are LEED specific, in only two days! To my knowledge there are very few inexpensive ERB approved course available at this time... Not sure what the hell I'm talking about? I opted into the new AP system about two months ago, and will be posting all about it soon (assuming the credits I submitted for review are ever approved), but for now I would suggest this great webinar by Mara Baum hosted by LEEDuser* explaining the basics of the CMP system.

*GreenWizard and LEEDuser are sponsors of this site.