Posts tagged ‘LEED’

September 11, 2012

While You Were Out: Our Take on the Sustainability Stories of the Summer

Summer Vacation

Image via Laura Menenberg

Summer can be a hard time to keep up with the news – vacations, travel, and business planning for fall can take your attention away from the front pages. Before summer slips away, don’t miss these sustainability stories from summer 2012 that could affect your business in 2013.

LEED Gets Lobbied

In June, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced that it would delay releasing the LEED rating system’s next version after pressure from a wide variety of interest groups.  Those groups included building owners, concerned that the new version would be too stringent or difficult to document; business interests like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and manufacturers of products panned by the new version of LEED.

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March 6, 2012

On Maintaining Professional Credentials and LEED Accreditation

Nate Young, Education Coordinator, BrightworksBy Nate Young, Education Coordinator

Much has been made of the mismatch between the available jobs in the current market and the lack of training among many job seekers (including on this blog). Companies seek and value employees that come trained in very specific ways, and are unwilling to invest in bringing unqualified prospects up to speed. Among the best ways to prove your worth to employers is to gain and maintain pertinent credentials and certifications while honing the skills those credentials require.

In the building professions, LEED accreditation has fast become one of the core qualifications employers seek.

Brightworks’ built environment staff and clients are just now experiencing the first wave of renewals within the credentialing maintenance system the USGBC rolled out in June 2009. Included in the revamped system is a Credential Maintenance Program (CMP), now run by partner organization GBCI. This program requires all LEED Accredited Professionals (APs) to complete continuing education to maintain their credentials on a two-year schedule.

Numerous Brightworks employees took the earliest exams under the new system and have now completed the first round of credential renewal. Our staff has been fielding calls from many clients and partners seeking help with the new system, so I wanted to share some tips and pointers to ease what can be a challenging process.

Don’t procrastinate

Take Notes!

Record keeping like this will get you in trouble.

For starters, depending on how prepared you are, expect to spend several hours completing the process of renewing your credential. Let me stress again – the renewal process is long and involved. It’s likely to last weeks, depending on the types of credits you are submitting for your credential. As an architect recently told me, “This is much more rigorous and confusing than maintaining my architect’s license with the state.” Please don’t wait until the week your credential lapses to begin!

Like cooking dinner or painting a room, things move much more quickly when you are thoroughly prepared. GBCI requires online reporting that asks for many details you probably haven’t been recording, and tracking them down will take time. I have created this tool (click to download) that can help to organize your CE information in the exact format you’ll need to complete “My Credentials” on GBCI’s website.

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June 15, 2011

Learn, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

Nate backpacking on Washington's Olympic Penninsulaby Nate Young

Brightworks Education Coordinator

A number of years ago, researchers dug into the efficacy of the 50-year-old “Smokey the Bear” campaign to prevent forest fires. They found that a picture of Smokey produced a 98% aided recall of the campaign. Digging deeper though, they found only a 7% unaided recall and an even lower rate of understanding of what actions actually reduced forest fires. A critical but missing piece of the campaign was the education behind the image: What steps should campers and other forest users take to prevent forest fires?[i]

Smokey the Bear

But how, Smokey? What do I actually do?

Is sustainability your Smokey the Bear? Do your employees recognize the importance of sustainability, without understanding what the term means, let alone their role in driving the firm toward triple bottom line success?

In addition to managing the competitive pressure to increase sustainable practices, I’ve pointed out before that many firms also recognize the important role workforce training plays in engaging and retaining high-quality, motivated employees. As awareness of sustainability grows, employees increasingly seek out employers that offer and encourage professional growth generally and in sustainability specifically. According to a recent Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) study, fully 67% of firms interested in sustainability are or will be providing on-the-job training in sustainability.[ii]

I’ll present three reasons you should join these firms in offering a workforce education program on sustainability:

  • save money
  • make your firm more nimble and innovative
  • improve your employees’ level of engagement.

Then, I’ll offer three crucial tips to ensure the efforts you undertake are worthwhile:

  • engage all levels of the enterprise
  • offer required “courses” but also allow employees to direct some of their own learning
  • tie learning objectives to business objectives and incentives

Why Offer Sustainability Education?

Cost Savings: Who can argue with an opportunity to save money? By neglecting to offer your employees the knowledge they need to make effective, cost-saving decisions, you may be leaving money on the table. Most decisions that affect the bottom line are made at the top. However, the daily actions of line-level workers can result in costs rising or falling.

One energy-saving initiative at Intel to raise the thermostat by one degree led to energy savings estimated at more than $400,000 in just one year. Piloted by employees, this effort cost the company nothing and yet led to substantial savings. With oversight from management, the knowledgeable workforce was able to recognize a potential for savings, test out their hypothesis to ensure there were no negative consequences and institute the plan.[iii]

Nimble, Innovative Workforce: Studies have consistently shown a strong correlation between companies that attend to sustainability and those with superior financial returns. One such study showed companies focused on leadership development and adaptive culture grew four times faster and had seven times higher job creation.[iv]

Setting goals, informing your workforce and providing the necessary training can provide a distinct competitive advantage. As social and environmental sustainability increasingly become a part of consumer expectations, the modern workforce must know how to adapt to changing expectations proactively rather than reactively.

Employee Engagement and Retention: SHRM has estimated the hiring process for a given position costs 70-200% of that employee’s annual salary. One of the most important and effective ways to retain a high-quality workforce and avoid employee replacement costs is to offer ongoing workforce training.

I heard a sustainability executive recently identify employee engagement and retention as one of four compelling reasons her firm continued to pursue sustainability strategies and provide ongoing sustainability training. The company’s job applicants consistently ask: “What is your stance – and how do you engage your employees – on sustainability?” Having a proactive sustainability plan made the firm an attractive place to work for their recruits, and ongoing training kept them motivated and engaged.

How to Ensure ROI on Sustainability Training

As with any new business initiative, sustainability training requires certain steps to ensure a return on investment. There are three critical ways to transform the “fuzzy” benefits of sustainability training into improved business performance:

Engage All Levels of the Workforce: Sustainability initiatives often employ the “green team” model driven by motivated employees with no support from management. Alternately, management may issue a directive to incorporate sustainability, with no explanation or attempt to engage employees.. The most effective initiatives, however, involve every level of the organization.

Ground-level support can truly drive change, as in the Intel example above. However, having management on board with training and other efforts adds to employee motivation, while also providing the high-level leadership needed to truly make sustainability efforts successful.

Brenda Wisniewski, Chief Learning Officer of CoreNet Global, said:

“Where I’ve seen this work best is when training and learning is a priority — and it’s always because the CEO recognizes (and vocalizes) his or her point of view that the better trained the company’s people are, the more they understand the business strategy and where they fit into it, and the better they can deliver on it.”[v]

Offer Flexibility in Training Options:  Part of remaining an adaptive, flexible organization is allowing your employees training options. This enables individuals to pursue aspects of sustainability that are important to them, while also allowing them to bring different knowledge and skills sets back to the workplace.

As discussed above, an organization that adapts to changing conditions is much more likely to be successful. A workforce that is educated on current sustainability trends brings proactive growth to the company when it is critical rather than in response to your competition’s movements.

Tie Training to Business Objectives and Incentives: It should go without saying, but employees tend to be substantially more effective at a task when their compensation and/or bonus are tied to its completion. Stonyfield tied employees’ bonuses to a companywide mandate to reduce energy consumption. Through continued education on methods for energy savings, and with incentives to match, the company surpassed their goal with a 22% reduction in energy consumed in 2008.[vi]

Healthcare giant Baxter developed a separate Environmental Financial Statement (EFS) that has been issued since 1993. The EFS showed that savings from employee-driven sustainability initiatives, tied to bottom-line goals, led to $91.9 million in income, savings and cost avoidance from 2002-2008.[vii]

Now is the Time

Is your company where it needs to be with regards to sustainability? And more importantly, will you continue to be on the front lines based on the level of training your workforce is receiving? Or are you opening the door to your competition by leaving your employees to fend for themselves? Now is the time to offer sustainability training to drive your firm into the emerging green economy – your competition isn’t waiting, and neither should you.

Click to view references

March 16, 2011

CALGreen: Triumphs and Challenges

Marian Thomas

By Marian Thomas

Brightworks Sustainability Advisor

On January 1, 2011, CALGreen, California’s new statewide green building code went into effect – soon followed by widespread confusion, panic (and quite possibly tears) among those responsible for securing building permits on new projects. While the actual code requirements are quite reasonable, the implementation of CALGreen appears to be another matter entirely – for building departments and project applicants alike.

Codification of green building: much ado about nothing

Many of us in the green building industry have anticipated the day when green building best management practices became codified. Green building can be interpreted in myriad ways and often suffers from misconceptions around cost and feasibility. Like other building practices, it benefits from translation into concrete, regulated codes. Building codes can demystify green strategies or practice, making them as common place as other building requirements, such as structural or plumbing codes. This eases confusion and drives down costs.

As an example, in the early 1900s engineers initially began advocating seismic design requirements or “earthquake engineering” in buildings. The first generation of researchers could barely secure funding to complete their studies — even after the devastating San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Many in the building industry believed “such discussion will advertise the state as an earthquake region, and so hurt business.” Others critics considered the early seismic engineering to be both costly and unattractive. By the 1930s, seismic engineering requirements were signed into law. Today they’re as ordinary as any other building practice in California. This legislation neither hurt nor stalled the boom in real estate and business in the state.

San Francico Earthquake of 1906

Another good reason for building code updates

CALGreen, in taking this initial first step towards integrating green building practices into code, has also encountered its share of dissension that in some ways parallels the adoption of seismic engineering requirements. Like the critics of Assembly Bill 32, opponents of state-mandated green building or energy reduction requirements that claim such legislation will harm development and discourage business from locating in the state are both near-sighted and sensationalist.

The CALGreen authors intended to create a baseline of green building across the state. This now means even smaller jurisdictions without established green building ordinances are required to, at a minimum, reduce water consumption by 20 percent, recycle construction and demolition waste, install low-emitting materials and commission buildings over 10,000 sf. CALGreen’s mandatory requirements are neither overly stringent nor onerous, particularly given the state’s existing energy code. These requirements are a solid first step toward formally establishing green building in California and potentially across the rest of the country.

Implementation: much ado about something

That’s the good news. Unfortunately, it’s not the complete picture. The multitude of ways cities are choosing to implement CALGreen is not doing green building legislation in the state any favors. Since January 1, any city can amend CALGreen as it sees fit. Beyond the mandatory requirements mentioned above, CALGreen also includes a selection of voluntary measures and “tiers” (similar to LEED and GreenPoint Rated credits) that cities are encouraged to adopt as mandatory in their own adaptations of CALGreen. These can include enhanced requirements for energy efficiency, carpool/LEV parking, water use reduction, C&D waste diversion, etc. There are countless combinations of additional requirements and amendments possible under CALGreen.

At the same time, municipalities such as San Francisco and Oakland have also retained certain elements of their previous existing green building ordinances, such as requiring LEED or GreenPoint Rated certifications for certain building occupancies. For project applicants in these jurisdictions, it’s like juggling three separate green building systems. Tracking and managing all these nuances can be both time-consuming and costly.

Many have assumed documentation for all CALGreen measures, mandatory and voluntary, would be included in the construction drawings or specifications submitted to and reviewed by the building department as part of plan check. However, what we are seeing now is that each building department can mandate its own documentation and compliance review process as well – from requiring third-party reviews, to bringing on a licensed “Green Building Compliance Professional of Record” or “Green Building Certifier” (at the owner’s expense) to sign off on the green measures in the project.

While it is valuable to allow cities the ability to set higher standards and require measures that may reflect regional priorities, the inconsistency in compliance and documentation requirements may be doing more harm than good to green building in California. This variation in the municipal implementation of CALGreen is creating confusion and a bit of pandemonium among those trying to navigate these new green building requirements. As a result, many will continue to see green building as a hurdle to overcome, rather than an accepted standard of practice.

CALGreen, the “Third Wheel”

Perhaps having a separate “green building code” makes it appear, once again, that building sustainably is an add-on – as other third-party certification programs are often interpreted. Perhaps it would have been less distressing to the building design and construction industry to instead integrate many of these “green measures” more subtly into the existing building code divisions. For instance, water use reduction targets could have easily been added to the plumbing code, and enhanced indoor ventilation requirements could have been added to the energy and mechanical code sections.

In fact, many CALGreen measures are simply repeats of existing code requirements anyway. While it doesn’t carry the same mystique or catchiness as “CALGreen,” the more subtle approach may have avoided the confusion now plaguing the building design and construction industry under the new CALGreen mandates.

Bottom line: the primary challenge posed by CALGreen will not be meeting its requirements, especially for teams accustomed to meeting LEED or GreenPoint Rated systems. The real challenge will be ensuring documentation and compliance is adhered to properly for every city, county and jurisdiction in the state.

March 10, 2011

The More You Know…

Better Educated = Better World

Nate backpacking on Washington's Olympic Penninsulaby Nate Young

Brightworks Education Coordinator

I’ve always been impressed with the impact knowledge can have on an individual. My driving habits were forever changed when I learned automakers and the EPA advise that there is no mechanical reason to idle a car longer than 30 seconds. If all US drivers changed their behavior accordingly, this tidbit of knowledge could save as much as 1.8 billion gallons of gasoline. The GHG impact would be comparable to removing more than three million cars from the road annually.1

Similarly, professional, adult or continuing education helps the educated make better decisions. As Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said, “Benefiting society as a whole, educated individuals are more likely to participate in civic affairs, volunteer their time to charities, and subscribe to personal values…that are increasingly crucial for the healthy functioning of our diverse society.”2 Education leads to positive changes within our personal and professional practice and, in turn, benefits an entire ecosystem, raising all boats.

Sustainable Careers Require Constant Evolution

The value of continuing education is not lost on the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). In June 2009, the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) revamped the credentialing process. Individuals accredited by the GBCI are now required to earn a number of continuing education credits every two years. (Check out our brief guide to the Credential Maintenance Program for those Legacy LEED APs without specialty who are interested in the prescriptive path to a LEED specialty.)

Further, the first ballot version of the 2012 LEED rating systems states that Legacy LEED APs will not qualify for “LEED AP credits” as they have in the past. This is meant to ensure the credit is awarded only for green building professionals that are up to date on industry best practices. (For more information, see this article on LEEDUser.)

We agree green building education is not a static destination, but a journey. Brightworks recently launched a series of continuing ed. workshops that aim to fulfill the specific requirements of the prescriptive path to a specialty (though our content aims to move beyond the LEED fundamentals by bringing innovative and practical courses to the industry).

To stand still professionally is to be moving backwards, particularly in today’s job market. Participating in workshops and trainings is one sure way to stay on top of changes in green building. It also shows current and future employers you’re making an ongoing investment in your career and industry.

Bored at Work? Get Inspired!

The inspirational value of ongoing education should not be ignored either. Professionals are continually pushing the boundaries of green building. Additional standards, such as Passive House and the Living Building Challenge, raise the bar for rating systems and set a new benchmark for green buildings that strive for regenerative design. New initiatives such as STARS quantify for the first time better practices for new transportation projects. And frameworks such as biomimicry support the design and implementation of green building strategies, often changing the way we think about design.

One recent participant of a biomimicry workshop said, “The way you look at nature after taking this class is forever changed.” Not only did she benefit professionally from a framework that looks to nature for inspiration in solving design challenges – significant in itself; she also developed a new appreciation for the natural world that is a strong driver for our work!

The Multiplier Effect of Education

Finally, I’m passionate about the combination of sustainability and education because of the potential multiplier effect. As Scott alluded to earlier this week, changed individuals can create “infinite ripples of change.” Think of the power that all those ripples taken together can have!

As we individually learn more about sustainability, our knowledge filters out to the network of individuals around us. Just one A/E professional knowledgeable about sustainability influences an entire network, driving change on projects that lead to even greater triple-bottom-line benefits. In the end, that is Brightworks’ and my mission: “to foster the emergence of a sustainable, equitable society.”

1    Carrico, A. R., Padgett, P., Vandenbergh, M. P., Gilligan, J. & Wallston, K. A. (2009). Costly myths: An analysis of idling beliefs and behavior in personal motor vehicles. Energy Policy, 37, 2881-2888.

2    Bernanke, B. S. (2007). Speech to the US Chamber Education and Workforce Summit, Washington, D.C. September 24, 2007. Retrieved from http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/speech/bernanke20070924a.htm

September 21, 2010

From Green Design to Green Operations

Eric Baxter, Brightworks Sustainability AdvisorBy Eric Baxter

Brightworks Sustainability Advisor

It’s been more than 10 years since the U.S. Green Building Council rolled out the LEED® rating system.   Now that LEED certified buildings have been operating in the real world for several years, researchers and the media are analyzing whether these buildings are living up to expectations.  One aspect of LEED projects is that they carefully model the environmental and financial savings that greener buildings should create for owners and tenants.  The question is, what happens when these buildings move from concept to reality, and how can we best manage the transition when reality presents unexpected but unavoidable challenges?

Brian Libby from the Sustainable Industries Journal recently dove into this subject, using various examples of the gap between expectations and actual performance for green buildings.  One of his data points was the LEED Platinum Certified OHSU Center for Health and Healing (OSHU CCH), which as Libby points out, hasn’t met all of the performance targets the building was designed to achieve. Brightworks CEO contributed a guest column to SIJ that gave a fuller picture of the unanticipated challenges the building faced when trying to meet its performance projections (Bridging The Gap).   Such challenges can happen with any building.  All you have to do is increase your tenant population or install some energy-intensive equipment, and the building you walk into every day is no longer the building you modeled.

So how do you keep a green building performing in the face of changing conditions?  With ongoing operational plans and policies that continue to take resource efficiency and healthy environments into consideration.

I want to expand on the discussion of  OHSU CHH as a prime example of a building that was designed to be high performance making a successful transition into a building with high performance operations.

The Lobby of the OHSU Center for Health and Healing

photo courtesy of benshead on flickr

Certainly the building was groundbreaking.  It utilized best-in-class features in its construction, from photovoltaic (PV) enabled sun shades on its south face to collecting all of its stormwater and treating 100% of its wastewater on site using a membrane bioreactor.  You can learn more about the design of OHSU CHH here. It was the first large-scale highrise healthcare facility to earn a LEED Platinum certification, and has established itself as a focal point for the University’s expansion off the main Marquam Hill campus and into the redevelopment of Portland’s South Waterfront district.

As a Sustainability Advisor, I worked with the development, design, and construction team on the project, and am now working with the building operations team in the certification effort for LEED Existing Building Operations and Maintenance (EB O&M).  It has been exciting for me to watch a building designed for high performance evolve to be even more efficient and extremely well-run. When OHSU/RIMCO first approached this project, they admitted that they were looking for a different model; one that would allow for experimentation in how to manage and maintain the building. Knowing CBRE’s expertise in that area, the owners contracted with them to operate and maintain the building . Since tenant understanding and use of building systems is crucial to the performance of any building, the building management team has been active in educating tenants. That education included what the building can do, how a green building might feel or act differently from other buildings they have previously worked in, and how their understanding and use of these different attributes contributes to its performance.

This gets to the crux of the change: Even the most high-tech, energy-efficient building might perform no better than a code-built building if it is poorly operated. Efficient operations in a green framework are critical to maximizing a building’s potential, as well as minimizing expenditures and resource uses for energy and water.  This ultimately provides operational cost savings on an ongoing basis. Since the building was turned over to CBRE’s operations team, they have worked to continually improve the operation of the building.  Their goal is to reach the operations target that the developer, Gerding Edlen, sought from the outset of the project: 50% operational energy cost savings over a standard, code compliant building.

Because of its intended use, the building faced inherent challenges in meeting this goal. Key challenges included higher medical equipment energy loads than originally anticipated, as well as a complex system design that required extensive tuning during commissioning in order to optimize performance. In the process of optimizing the building’s systems and developing a high performance operations program, the operations team has also successfully implemented an array of other green practices, from green cleaning and procurement to a building-wide recycling program.  OHSU is interested in formally adopting and receiving third-party recognition for these and other new strategies through a LEED EB O&M certification in order to cement these operational practices.  To this end, Brightworks is again working with the OHSU CHH team to develop these practices into the LEED EB O&M framework and prepare the building for this certification.

The building was also recently honored by the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) with The Outstanding Building of the Year (TOBY) Award. The CCH competed against buildings from around the world to become the first winner in Oregon.  Given the tenant-friendly and operator-friendly nature of LEED, particularly the EB O&M requirements, it should come as no surprise that five of the fourteen TOBY Award winners are LEED certified, including two LEED EB O&M certified projects. I expect to see continued interest and growth in EB O&M certifications, and I’m excited because these programs create buildings that are not only healthier for the people who occupy them,  but which reduce operating expenses for building owners and managers, and minimize their environmental impacts.

March 11, 2010

Forest Rant

A Call To Action

The non-profit US Green Building Council, which created and administers the industry standard green building certification system called LEED, is poised to decide whether to weaken a very important forest protection provision within the LEED standard.

Love Forests

The provision is within what is called the “Certified Wood” credit of LEED, and pertains to what 3rd party certification standards are accepted for the LEED Certified Wood point.

Currently, only the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard is considered acceptable within LEED.  Under intense pressure from members of the forestry industry who do not follow the strict FSC requirements, USGBC is considering allowing competing standards to be accepted along with FSC.

But NRDC, one of the most highly-respected national conservation groups, says “The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) runs the only credible forest certification program.”  (see source here)

Don’t let this happen!  Make your voice be heard.

For more background on the issue, see:

The US FSC web site, here.

Yale did a comparison of forestry certification standards, which supports FSC as the only meaningful certification standard,  here.

Go To USGBC’s Web Site, and Comment Now!

You don’t have to be a USGBC member to comment against the proposed change to the Certified Wood standard.  But the deadline to comment is this coming Sunday, March 14th.  COMMENT, NOW,  Here.

If you are a USGBC member, you can opt in to the consensus body by Wednesday March 24th to be eligible to vote on the final proposed credit revision, here.

In case your browser doesn’t support embedded links, the URLs above are:

FSC:
http://www.fscus.org/green_building/usgbc_failings_third_comment_leed.php

NRDC:
http://www.nrdc.org/land/forests/qcert.asp

Yale:
http://yale.edu/forestcertification/ForCertContrMatrix.htm

USGBC:
Comment Now-
http://www.usgbc.org/LEED/LEEDDrafts/RatingSystemVersions.aspx?CMSPageID=1458

Opt In to the Consensus Body –
https://www.usgbc.org/Login.aspx?REFERRER=/DisplayPage.aspx%3fCMSPageID%3d2070

— Scott Lewis

Brightworks CEO

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