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!