LEED VOC Budget Calculations Explained

I stumbled onto concise but comprehensive article by Chris Dixon in Walls & Ceilings magazine called Straight Green: Alternative VOC Calculation for LEED. Basically, it walks you through the process of preparing a VOC budget (what you need to do if the contractor slips in a non-compliant paint or adhesive) as an alternative compliance measure for achieving EQc4, Low Emitting Materials credits. I could go into more detail, but instead I'll just recommend reading the article for yourself!


VOC Budget Example

This article was published in 2008, and references LEED-NCv2.2 standards, though my understanding is that the methodology should not have changed in the 2009 edition of the same system, and that it should also apply to LEED-CI, LEED-CS, and LEED-Schools systems.

via 4specs discussion forum

USGBC Membership Shrinks 10%

I track a number of various USGBC email updates both for the information they provide and the statistics that they post in the title bar. Today I noticed something interesting in the latest USGBC Update... to the best of my knowledge (based on these emails and past presentations from the USGBC), the "members" figure has decreased for the first time in the history of the organization!

USGBC membership decline

USGBC Update received 02.22.10 - Member Update Received 01.14.10

The USGBC had been reporting at 20,000 member figure since at least October 2009, and LEED AP figures have risen about steadily over that same period. I'm curious to know whether this is simply a sign of the economic woes facing all membership organizations or more serious problem where companies are deciding that membership costs outweigh the benefits of being included in the USGBC. I've noticed that at the (member) firm I work at, the substantial discounts we receive for LEED registration and certification fees are passed directly to our clients, so in essence we're keeping their costs lower while increasing ours...

Has your company recently left the fold? Tell us why by leaving a comment!

New LEED Fees Discount Combined Design And Construction Review

or [pessimistically]

New LEED Fees Penalize Separate Design and Construction Reviews

I'm two weeks into a four week LEED Green Associate training course* that I'm giving at my firm, and yesterday we went over the LEED rating systems and the steps you have to go through to earn certification. As much of the process is the same as it was in the v2 system, I simply copied many of the slides from earlier classes, one of which was about when to pay registration and certification fees.

I was alert enough to recognize that the fees have been updated on January 11th, but I had assumed that there was still no difference in costs between doing a combined design and construction review or splitting it into two distinct design and construction review phases. Luckily, I'm not the only one on our staff keeping up with v3 changes, and one of our project architects corrected me this morning:

GBCI LEED Review Fee Chart

Orange = Mo' Money!

As you can see, there is a discount of 8.33% for non-members and 10% for members for using a combined review over splitting the review into separate phases. This makes sense considering it presumably takes more overhead to run two review processes instead of one, though I personally liked the option of separate reviews because you had a better understanding of where you stood points-wise before going into the final review.

It's important to note that these fees are not based on registration date but rather the date of the review submittal, so all those v2 projects will be affected as well.

*I've been using a variety of study guides (both from the USGBC and third parties) to develop this class, and will provide a detailed report of recommendations on what to study, what to pay for, what not to pay for, etc. once it's all complete. If you sell LEED study guides, practice tests, or related materials and would like to be included in this review, please contact me via email to discuss.

Key Baseline Changes in 2009 Edition of WEc3, Water Use Reduction

I recieved a call from a project architect this morning who had designed a large LEED Core and Shell v2.0 project who in turn had received a call from another architect who is working on a LEED Commercial Interiors v3.0 (2009 edition) upfit of the same building. While we were able to earn 2 points for reducing expected water use by 30.1% in the LEED-CS submittal, when the upfit architects were looking at the water use reductions based on the LEED-CI requirements they determined that the anticipated reduction was only 10.8%. This level of reduction doesn't even meet the new 20% reduction requirement found in the WEp1, Water Use Reduction prerequisite!* What happened? Did we miscalculate the original submittal?

faucet fail

The Unusable Faucet... The latest in water use reduction technology

We (or rather our consultant engineer) didn't miscalculate anything! After taking a closer look at comparing the calculations for both the v3 and v2 editions, we discovered that LEED has adjusted the baseline rate for public faucets from 2.2 gpm down to 0.5 gpm, meaning that while we had substantial flow rate reductions in the LEED-CS v2.0 submittal, none could be claimed for the LEED-CI v3.0 calculation even though the fixture specs were the same. The updated baseline standard applies to v3 editions of LEED-NC, LEED-CS, LEED-Schools, and LEED-CI systems. The change stems from the inclusing of the "maximum [flow rate] incorporated into the national Uniform Plumbing Code and the International Plumbing Code[s]" into the updated requirements. LEED-EB:OM v3.0 sets the anticipated baseline on these standards, but that was the case on the v2 edition as well so nothing has changed there from what I can see.

While the v2 baselines applied a 2.2 gpm baseline requirement for all bathroom lavatories, the v3 system distinguishes between 'public' and 'private' commercial restrooms and residential bathrooms. A private restroom is anything that would regularly be used by only one person at a time: hotel/motel guest bathrooms, hospital patient room bathrooms, and arguably bathrooms serving single offices (e.g. bathroom in the CEO's office used only by that person). All residential bathrooms and these private bathrooms are still held to the same 2.2 gpm baseline as before. Everything else (hotel lobby, shared office, school, and retail and restaurant bathrooms, etc.) are now held to the .5 gpm baseline.

I should point out that I think this is a good change... it's ridiculous to put anything other than a .5 gpm in sinks that will likely never be used for anything other than handwashing or perhaps brushing your teeth, especially when you consider a .5 gpm replacement aerator costs about $2. It also makes sense to keep private bathrooms to a higher standard, since people may be filling coffee pots or other containers that could be annoying if you were limited to such a low flow rate. I've installed a variable flow rate faucet in my kitchen that works great since I leave it on the low setting until I need to fill something up, but my bathroom sink uses a .5 gpm aerator. I should point out that people using on-demand water heaters may have problems in that the flow rate is so low that it may not trigger the water heater to turn on!

Bottom line... I think this is another instance of LEED moving in the right direction by tightening the requirements a bit, but people used to the v2 systems such as myself should definitely make a point to realize that a 20% reduction in v2 is not necessarily 20% in v3. Disagree with me? Please let me know by leaving a comment!

*I should note here that as the bathrooms in question are part of the shared core space of the facility, they should presumably not impact the LEED-CI calculations at all since they are outside of the scope of the upfit**, but any project that upgraded or is considering upgrading from a v2 system to it's v3 equivalent should take note of this change and evaluate the impact on their scores and ability to meet the WEp1 prerequisite.

**NOTE - 02.17.10 - Nathan has questioned the accuracy of the assumption that the existing fixtures would be outside of the scope of the prerequisite in the comments, and I don't have an 2009 IDC reference guide on-hand to refer to so I can provide a definitive answer. I've always been a little hazy on how the scope of a LEED-CI project is set, and since I don't have direct experience in LEED-CI I could very possibly be wrong!

Why You're Not Going to Get the Extra Point(s) for WEc1, Water Efficient Landscaping

I've had an issue come up multiple times in the past few weeks that I hope in telling will prevent you from similar headaches. In multiple projects that I've been involved in, we have situations where 100% of the water used for landscaping is being supplied by non-potable sources, yet in every case we will not be earning the 2nd point (v2 rating systems) or the other 2 points (v3 rating systems) for WEc1, Water Efficient Landscaping... Why, you ask?

Read Carefully

Read Carefully!

The issue with WEc1 is that the basic requirements listed in the rating system omit a very key statement which can only be found buried deep in the reference guides. Here I'm quoting from the LEED-NCv2.2 reference guide, but I checked and the v3 edition has the same problem:

"If the Percent Reduction of Potable Water is equal to or greater than 50%, WEc1.1 is earned."

So far, so good... nothing unexpected... but wait!

"If the Percent Reduction of Potable Water is 100%, you must also calculate the Percent Reduction of Total Water (Potable plus Reuse) according to Equation 7 […the long one where you have all the landscape coefficients and such]. If the Percent Reduction of Potable Water is 100% and the Percent reduction of Total Water is equal to or greater than 50%, WEc1.2 is earned in addition to WEc1.1.

The problem here is that the rating systems (the requirements you get to view for free) make no mention anywhere of the fact that TOTAL water use, not just potable, must be reduced by 50% along with the 100% potable water reduction in order to earn the additional point(s). It only shows up deep in the "Calculations" section of the reference guides...

If you have ample supply of non-potable water sources for a project, it is less likely that the design team has examined in detail the total water consumption of the landscaping as performing these calculations is time-consuming (read: costly).

Why this requirement isn’t stated upfront in the credit language is lost on me, but the fact remains we must not only reduce potable water use completely but also total water demand based on the LEED calculations. Had I recognized this before the latest update, I would certainly have suggested an amendment to the rating system during the public review. Let's all make an effort to correct this during public comments for the v4 rating systems!

Disagree with my interpretation? Did you slip one by a review team and get the extra points without anyone noticing? Let us know by leaving a comment!