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.