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Biobased Materials—Increasing Our Scrutiny

Posted March 20, 2012 2:13 PM by Jennifer Atlee
Related Categories: GreenSpec Insights, LEED

It's natural that we should gravitate toward biobased materials. But many of them are energy-intensive and toxic, so how do we judge what's best?

O Ecotextiles is an example of the kind of leadership company that has worked diligently to address environmental impacts at every step of their product's production--including careful attention to responsible sourcing of biobased materials. We discussed Ecotextiles in EBN and had them on our top-10 list of 2008.

It still seems like biobased materials should be better for the environment. Even after the LEED Wood Wars, even after all the stories of pollution and waste from industrial agriculture, it just seems logical that resources we grow as part of a natural cycle are greener than the ones we mine or extract.

There's already been a lot of excellent debate around the new LEED Pilot Credit 43. I find myself agreeing with both sides! Here's where I stand in what may be the eye of the storm.

LEED is supposed to be about buildings--and market transformation

On the one hand, LEED is fundamentally supposed to be about designing high-performing green buildings, and product and material selection is one integrated component. It's not supposed to be about cobbling together a building out of greener products and materials. If the core purpose gets lost amidst the debate surrounding one material (yes, I'm talking FSC/SFI), we all lose.

On the other hand, LEED is at this point a major market driver for green building products. We need to use all the levers we can find to create truly sustainable manufacturing and sourcing if we're ever going to make it through these pivotal times into a vibrant, thriving, truly sustainable world. So we ought to use LEED for all it's worth in pushing real substantive improvements down through the supply chain.

LEED 2012 Points—or, How we'll eventually get points

Posted February 7, 2011 5:17 PM by Emily Catacchio
Related Categories: BuildingGreen Talks LEED, LEED
This screen capture from the webinar shows how each piece of the matrix is filled in in the Assessment Tool. Here, you can see the three associators (relative efficacy, benefit duration, and benefit control) and their respective options.

The USGBC recently hosted an “Introduction to LEED Rating System Weightings Process” webcast detailing how point allocations for credits in the next version of LEED, a.k.a. LEED 2012, will be determined. As with LEED 2009, the system will still be based out of 100 points (plus 10 “bonus” points), with no credits earning less than one point. The webcast was led by Brendan Owens, Vice President, LEED Technical Development, and was also presented by Corey Enck, Director, LEED Technical Development, and Chrissy Macken, Associate, LEED Technical Development.

Handy Reference Tool for LEED Regional Priority Credits

Posted March 22, 2010 3:26 PM by Tristan Roberts
Related Categories: BuildingGreen Talks LEED, LEED
What are the environmental priorities in your region? How can you find out?

As you may know, USGBC responded to the longstanding call for regionalization of LEED by establishing Regional Priority Credit 1 (RPc1) in its LEED 2009 family of rating systems (NC, CS, CI, Schools, EBOM).

Regional priority credits are identified by USGBC Regional Councils for each zipcode within their region, with input from USGBC Chapters. These bonus points are granted for meeting requirements that have been designated as particularly important for your project's specific geographical area.

Doing LEED SSc8? Light pollution reduction in a nutshell.

Posted March 15, 2010 12:09 PM by Tristan Roberts
Related Categories: BuildingGreen Talks LEED, LEED

The following is a video that we recorded at our booth at the 2009 Greenbuild conference, when we transformed BuildingGreen's booth into the "Ask LEEDuser" experience, including talks on specific credits from LEEDuser's "guest experts"--the top LEED minds on specific LEED credits.

Here, Joshua Radoff of YRG sustainability reviews some of the key considerations behind achieving SSc8: Light Pollution Reduction in the 2009 NC, CS, and Schools rating systems. (Links go to further guidance on the LEEDuser site.) Josh covers what you have to do in terms of interior AND exterior lighting, and what you need from your designer. A highly recommended two minutes and 21 seconds!

LEED AP Credential Maintenance: Cracking the Code

Posted March 3, 2010 10:32 AM by Tristan Roberts
Related Categories: LEED
I'm a "Legacy LEED AP"--one of the 150,000 or so people who became LEED APs before the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) retired the old exam and overhauled the LEED AP program in 2009.

I've got questions. Is it worth opting in to the new system of LEED AP + a.k.a. LEED AP "with specialty"? GBCI is allowing legacies to opt into the new system until 2011 without having to take the new exam. If I opt in, how do I satisfy the 30 hours of continuing education requirements I'll be beholden to? Is that something I can do with a mix of presenting, self-study, LEED project work, and Greenbuild attendance, or will I have to seek out additional avenues?

If you're a LEED Green Associate (LEED GA) or already a LEED AP + you might share some of these questions.

Is Worker Safety a Missing Piece of the Green Puzzle?

Posted January 7, 2010 10:28 AM by Tristan Roberts
Related Categories: LEED, The Industry
If the jobsite for a green building isn't any safer than the jobsite for a conventional building, is something missing from our definition of "green"? That is the question raised by a new study, "Impact of Green Building Design and Construction on Worker Safety and Health," published in October in the Journal of Construction Engineering and Management. The authors--two university professors and a safety supervisor with the Hoffman Construction Company in Portland, Oregon, went hunting for any statistical difference in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordable and lost time injury and illness data for green and nongreen projects. The number of projects surveyed, 86 (38 green and 48 nongreen) is modest but impressive, considering the difficulty in extracting data from firms. Nine of 15 firms surveyed supplied data. For statistics geeks, the study reveals some suggestive tidbits, but bottom line?

Top-10 LEED Snafus.... And Tips to Avoid Them

Posted January 5, 2010 12:46 PM by Tristan Roberts
Related Categories: LEED
It could be worse.
Happy New Year from, and from our credit-by-credit guide to getting LEED done, LEEDuser. (Which, I want to add, is available for only $9.95/month!) I hope you'll enjoy this fun compilation of common (or not-so-common) LEED problems, with links to LEEDuser credit guidance. On a more serious note, you might also enjoy my recent post, Hard-Won Lessons From a LEED 2009 Early Adopter.

Snafu #10: Being threatened to be hung from the construction crane if the project doesn't earn LEED Gold.

LEEDuser tip: Create a detailed checklist with tasks delegated to individual team members, allowing each member to focus on assigned tasks. The checklist can function as a status tracking document and, finally, the deliverable for LEED Online.

Hard-Won Lessons From a LEED 2009 Early Adopter

Posted December 31, 2009 11:29 AM by Tristan Roberts
Related Categories: LEED
Editor's Note: Erica Godun, AIA, LEED AP, an associate with FXFOWLE Architects shared the following account with us. I've included links throughout to specific credit guidance (including the official credit language) on our LEEDuser website (available by subscription). By the way, LEED projects can upgrade to 2009 anytime. We've analyzed whether it's worth it here.

LEED 2009 an "interesting" challenge

We thought that being one of the first projects to use the new LEED 2009 Interior Design and Construction rating system would be an exciting challenge. It is turning out to be more "interesting" than "exciting" as in the ancient Chinese proverb. We started a 25,000-square-foot interior renovation project in summer 2008. Our client was committed to building a sustainable project and wanted LEED certification. The objective was to get as high a rating as possible without spending money on sustainable strategies just to earn additional credits without real project benefits.

Is LEED on Track to Save the World?

Posted November 30, 2009 6:09 PM by Nadav Malin
Related Categories: LEED, Op-Ed, The Industry
Rob Watson recently published "Green Building Market & Impact Report," his second annual report on the impact LEED is having in addressing environmental problems. The report highlights the continuing remarkable expansion of LEED: 2009 registrations for new design and construction projects in the U.S. may actually exceed total new construction starts! (This is possible because projects don't typically register when they start construction, and a flurry of projects were registered just before the requirement to use LEED 2009 kicked in, to keep their options open.) Watson takes note of the shift from whole building construction to Commercial Interior tenant fit-outs (CI) and Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (EBOM) registration and certification. And he compares 2009 certifications to registration numbers from 2006 and 2007 to see what fraction of projects are making it through the system.

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