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GSA Hears Overwhelming Support for LEED

Posted July 10, 2012 9:15 PM by Nadav Malin
Related Categories: BuildingGreen Talks LEED, BuildingGreen's Top Stories

Green Globes may have come out slightly ahead in a recent “alignment” report, but support for LEED is strong in the building industry.

Atlantic Wharf, a huge mixed-use building on Boston's waterfront, is pre-certified LEED Gold and features a rain harvesting system to re-use rainwater in building systems and a green roof on the Waterfront Building.
Photo Credit: JC Cannistraro

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), along with the Department of Defense and Department of Energy, today hosted a second “listening session” on which green building rating system it should recommend for federal government use. Public comments almost universally favored a GSA determination to continue with LEED as the government’s rating system of choice.

This rating system review is stipulated by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and supported by a report from Pacific Northwest National Labs that compared LEED, Green Globes, and the Living Building Challenge. As reported in EBN, that report found that Green Globes aligned with federal guidelines slightly better than LEED for New Construction, while LEED bested Green Globes in that tally for existing buildings.

The first listening session took place in Washington, D.C., in late June; today’s happened online, where 25 speakers each got three minutes to speak. What they said was almost universally in support of LEED.

The Tally:

Specifications for LEED “Certifiable” Projects: 4 Approaches

Posted June 26, 2012 10:43 AM by Mark Kalin, FAIA FCSI LEED BD+C
Related Categories: BuildingGreen Talks LEED, Product Insights

Many owners and municipalities are requesting LEED “certifiable” buildings from their design teams. How is a specifier to respond?

The ZGF-designed "Living Learning Center" at the University of Oregon was designed to the LEED Silver standard but did not apply for certification. Colleges & universities frequently take this approach.
Photo Credit: University of Oregon

In our experience with over 200 (real) LEED projects, we have seen four approaches.

Approach 1: Declare an early victory

The team completes the LEED scorecard and declares victory. There is no mention of LEED in the project manual and the contractor is asked to “make the right green choices.” There is no review of the scorecard after construction. While this is clearly a useless LEED approach, there are many who accept this result. In fairness, some are municipalities that are not able to mandate certification, others are architects who believe their professional training and personal commitment is the correct measure of sustainability.

Specifier’s Response: As always, at least include low-VOC products, high-performance products, and construction waste management in your specs.

Approach 2: Sprinkle in some requirements

The team completes the LEED scorecard, makes a determination of which design credits could be easily achieved, and includes only a few requirements in the specifications. Perhaps construction waste management, FSC-certified wood, and Green Label Plus carpet are sufficient to demonstrate some interest in sustainable design. Data-intensive credits such as recycled content, regional materials, and low-emitting materials are typically avoided. Again, the scorecard is not evaluated after construction.

Chemical and plastics trade groups claim the federal government should stop using LEED. BuildingGreen separates the facts from the fabrications.

The FOX Architects-designed American Chemistry Council headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Photo Credit:

A developing focus on chemicals of concern in the LEED rating systems could make federal buildings less energy-efficient, according to the American Chemistry Council (ACC).

In recent letters to the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight and to a number of representatives in the U.S. Congress (PDF), ACC and others also claim that LEED v4 (formerly known as LEED 2012) is not “science-based” and does not use a “true consensus approach” to development.

LEED: “a tool to punish chemical companies”?

The latter document went to a group of legislators who have echoed ACC’s position in their own letter (PDF) to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) pointing to “arbitrary chemical restrictions” and claiming LEED is “becoming a tool to punish chemical companies.” See Lloyd Alter’s incisive coverage at Treehugger for more background on the congressional letter to GSA.

Below, we look at each of AAC’s claims and separate the truth from the lies. But first…

Why this attack matters

The federal government, including the military, is the single largest user of the LEED rating systems. According to data provided by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), 7% of LEED-certified projects and 11.5% of those pending certification are federal government buildings. The public sector as a whole (federal, state, and local governments combined) makes up a whopping 27% of LEED-certified projects, and smaller governments could follow the federal lead on LEED. Use of LEED by these entities has, over the last 12 years, helped develop green practices and products across the industry.

Six Things LEED Consultants Do Wrong in Specs

Posted June 1, 2012 3:13 PM by Mark Kalin, FAIA FCSI LEED BD+C
Related Categories: BuildingGreen Talks LEED, Product Insights
Mark Kalin

LEED consultants are paid to lend their expertise to achieve a project’s LEED certification goals. Their decisions focus on achieving credits and their participation is absolutely vital to the project, but some can actually work against the project's sustainability goals. Here are the top six problems I see.

#1 Discouraging bidding by specifying unrealistic LEED requirements

When a specification requires a regional source, a recycled content percentage, and certain certifications for a product, the specifier has to be certain that conforming products exist. On a recent project, the only bidder for the doors couldn’t actually meet all the requirements and put in a premium price. Other bidders declined to bid citing the requirements of the specifications. The worst outcome was a project that decided to abandon certification because of unnecessary requirements in the specifications that pushed the project over budget.

LEEDuser Webcast: Top-20 LEED-EBOM Documentation Mistakes--And How to Avoid Them

Posted April 16, 2012 4:39 PM by Tristan Roberts
Related Categories: BuildingGreen Talks LEED

Free Webcast

Top-20 LEED-EBOM Documentation Mistakes--And How to Avoid Them

Wed. April 25 | 2 p.m. Eastern Time

Getting LEED-EBOM certification is all about documentation: At a lot of documentation. It's a lot of work, and yet--there are so many pitfalls, unknowns, and blind alleys that it's common for LEED review comments to hang projects up with tons of issues. Such problems are a frustration--at worst, they can cost a LEED certification, or certification level, that you worked hard for.

In our latest webcast, LEEDuser is pleased to offer a free presentation addressing exactly this issue: common LEED-EBOM documentation mistakes, and how you can avoid them.

Get a First Look at LEED 2012 Reference Guides, LEED Online Forms, and More

Posted April 16, 2012 3:12 PM by Tristan Roberts
Related Categories: BuildingGreen Talks LEED

Free LEEDuser Webcast

Behind the Scenes on LEED 2012: New Developments in Credit Documentation, Reference Guides, and More

Thurs. April 26, 2012 | 3 p.m. EDT

As we've seen from the LEED 2012 drafts and public comment periods, major changes are underway for the LEED rating systems. So many changes resulted from the 3rd public comment period, in fact, that USGBC announced a 4th public comment period, to run May 1–15.

Army: No, We Are Not Abandoning LEED

Posted March 30, 2012 4:27 PM by Paula Melton
Related Categories: BuildingGreen Talks LEED

Yes, the Department of Defense is using ASHRAE 189.1 and other guidelines--but a code is not the same as a rating system, says an Army spokesperson.

Blogger Chris Cheatham of the Green Building Law Update raised alarms about LEED's future earlier this week with this eye-popping headline: "Army Abandons LEED Certification." Citing testimony by Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Dorothy Robyn that discussed the Department of Defense's intention to create its own internal building code based on ASHRAE 189.1, Cheatham concluded that LEED was dead in the military and that this was a "game-changer" for federal contractors, LEED APs, and the very survival of LEED.

Along with some commenters on Chris's post, we suspected this conclusion was a little premature. LEED has a lot of challenges ahead, but we have confirmed that losing the Army is not currently one of them.

As Dave Foster in the Pentagon's Media Relations Division told us, "LEED is a rating system. ASHRAE is a construction code. The two are not the same."

If we want to slow global warming, we need to stop being such tree-huggers and start embracing the world's forests. And yes, there's a difference.

This is part three in our "Wood Wars" series.

Part 1: Are FSC and LEED Killing American Jobs? A Look at the Evidence

Part 2: FSC and Beyond: LEED 2012 Buries the "Wood Wars" Hatchet

Next: forests and global warming

From earliest childhood, most people naturally want to be in or near trees--the seed of environmentalist leanings for many of us. Solving problems like global warming will take a more nuanced and rational approach that balances our love of nature with the economic and environmental realities of forest systems.

Some children have pets. I had trees.

Webcast – LEED 2012 3rd Public Comment Period and Beyond: The Future of LEED

Posted March 5, 2012 3:29 PM by Tristan Roberts
Related Categories: BuildingGreen Talks LEED

Free Webcast

LEED 2012 3rd Public Comment Period and Beyond: The Future of LEED

Wed. March 14, 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time Register Now!

With every new draft of LEED 2012, starting in November 2010, then August 2011, and now March 2012, USGBC has redefined our expectations of what the LEED rating systems are. The latest overhaul is likely to be the last, however, as much of the latest revisions amount to fine-tuning, and USGBC plans to put the new system out for member ballot in June, and launch it in November.

LEEDuser has been following the changes closely and publishing guidance on them (see our LEED 2012 page), while also hosting public forums to spur discussion and improve understanding of the changes.

LEEDuser's LEED 2012 experts cover the key issues

Now LEEDuser is pleased to offer this presentation by Tristan Roberts, LEED AP BD+C editorial director for LEEDuser. This live, hour-long webcast will cover the following topics:

FSC and Beyond: LEED 2012 Buries the "Wood Wars" Hatchet

Posted March 1, 2012 10:09 AM by Paula Melton
Related Categories: BuildingGreen Talks LEED

After months of controversy, the third public comment draft of LEED 2012 strengthens commitments to both FSC and local wood--while not budging on the importance of life-cycle assessment.

This is Part 2 in our "Wood Wars" series.

Part 1: Are FSC and LEED Killing American Jobs? A Look at the Evidence

Part 3: Three Things You Need to Know About Forests and Climate Change

Next: forests and global warming

In this ad from last year, several heavy-hitting environmental groups attempted to show the difference between life-cycle metrics and performance-based standards--and also objected to the since-revised credits for biobased materials. Click to embiggen.

For years, certified wood has ignited tempers and dominated discussions of building materials in the LEED rating systems.

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