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Archive for January, 2018

SITES and LEED: Pilot projects

A third of the certified projects that participated in the SITES pilot phase also achieved LEED certification.

LEED is a global movement, with about 92,000 registered and certified projects across 167 countries and territories, with 2.2 million square feet certifying every day. To complement LEED and ensure that the sustainability movement addresses all areas of the built environment, GBCI expanded with several other project certification and credentialing programs, including SITES.

With several rating systems to choose from, how does one know which is the right fit? How can specific goals be met through a variety of approaches? This article is the first part of a series explaining the relationship between the two rating systems and how projects can drive incredible results by using SITES and LEED together.

Integrating natural and built systems

Although every building project has a site, not every site has a building. Originally modeled after LEED, SITES was developed to fill the gap in addressing site sustainability. It can be used as a standalone system, but it was also developed to work with LEED to integrate natural and built systems in a more meaningful and efficient way.

A third of the certified projects that participated in the SITES pilot phase (2010–2014) also achieved LEED certification. These projects were national and local parks, commercial headquarters, botanic gardens, museums, government facilities, residential homes and more. Each helped shape the direction of the SITES program and its relationship to LEED.

Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes

Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes

For Richard Piacentini, Executive Director of the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, pursuing SITES certification in addition to LEED was not even a question. As an early adopter of SITES, the Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) achieved the highest certification level in 2013 during the SITES pilot program. CSL was among the 150 projects that field-tested SITES during its pilot phase.

CSL also achieved LEED Platinum, the Living Building Challenge and WELL Platinum certifications. The goal was to apply systems thinking to the center, says Piacentini. “We wanted to know how we could truly integrate the building and landscape.” With the new center, “nature is now not that far away,” he explains. Sustainability is embedded in the organization’s culture and values.

Novus International

Novus International

In 2009, Novus International achieved LEED Platinum for their nine-acre corporate campus. Landscape architect Hunter Beckman recalls meeting the Novus owners soon afterward at a local USGBC event. According to Beckham, “We shared similar passions for sustainability and were fortunate enough to introduce them to what sustainable design means outside of the building, particularly improving both intellectual and physical health for anyone experiencing the property.”

After achieving SITES certification during the pilot program, the campus boasted many sustainable elements, such as a garden terrace linked by a trail and the transformation of a concrete-lined water detention pit into an amenity that not only manages stormwater, but also attracts wildlife and serves as an inviting outdoor space.

“This level of certification represents the company’s commitment to minimizing our impact on the environments in which we operate,” said former Novus President and CEO, Thad Simons, in 2012. “Our successful application of land and development practices proves that companies can achieve a healthy sustainable work environment while reducing operating costs.”

NREL Research Support Facility

National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Research Support Facility

The 30-acre Research Support Facility at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, earned both LEED and SITES certification (also during the pilot phase).

“For buildings, we tend to concentrate on LEED certification, which is great from a structure standpoint,” said Michelle Slovensky, the NREL Senior Sustainability Project Manager at the time. “Not only should your building have a sustainable and efficient design, but so should your infrastructure and your landscape. We felt that if we have the highest-performing buildings, we should look at our campus to find ways it can be used as an example of a sustainable campus and living laboratory.”

Project Water Use Reduction

See how a water use reduction pilot credit helped Starbucks measure their water savings.

In April 2017, USGBC released a new pilot credit with the potential to change the way project teams document their water savings—allowing teams to earn more points while potentially saving both time and money.

In the U.S., buildings account for 13.6 percent of potable water use. As our climate continues to change with the warming of the planet, it’s more important than ever to both use water more efficiently and reduces our potable water use. Now is the perfect time to reevaluate how your team documents water use reduction—there might be several additional LEED points you could achieve.

Taking water use reduction further

The LEED Building Design and Construction pilot credit Whole Project Water Use Reduction aims to reduce the indoor and outdoor water consumption of a project and associated site. Project teams can always document water savings through credits such as Rainwater Management, Outdoor Water Use Reduction, and Indoor Water Use Reduction, but depending on the building type and use, these credits may not currently address all the water use within a given project boundary. The pilot credit allows potentially significant water savings that previously went unrecognized, such as process water.

In order to pursue this pathway, project teams must develop a water use baseline and create a proposed water balance model. USGBC and GBCI will also work with you before you even submit the credit, to make sure you’re headed in the right direction.

A successful test run with Starbucks

Although this is a relatively new pilot credit available for all LEED 2009 and LEED v4 new construction and tenant fit-out customers to use, Starbucks, a leader in the sustainable retail and food service building industry, has already used this pilot credit on over 500 LEED-certified projects worldwide, with several others close behind. Their use of this new pilot credit exemplifies how USGBC and GBCI work together with customers to find solutions that encourage innovation in sustainability.

Starbucks leadership has long recognized that process water use far exceeds fixture water use in stores, leading project teams to employ methods to save process water—even though they weren’t gaining additional points through their LEED volume program. Therefore, the company decided to work with USGBC on a cumulative calculation to account for the process water savings they had been able to achieve. As it happens, members of USGBC’s LEED User Group: Industrial Facilities were also working on an alternative solution to better address the high volume of water used in a manufacturing facility.

Measurable results, high savings

Essentially, LEED was capturing all water savings in two separate use categories, but the Indoor Water Use Reduction credit required that both the fixture and process water categories meet the percentage savings required to achieve higher point thresholds. Starbucks’ process water savings are typically four times the savings achieved in fixture water, because of the much higher volume of use. This innovative new pathway therefore allowed projects to receive credit for the high volume of savings achieved in the process water category.

With this process, Starbucks went from achieving 2–3 points to 11 points on most projects. This type of major increase could mean the difference in certification levels for a company seeking LEED credits. In addition, the new strategy has reduced the project teams’ overall documentation burden. Starbucks presented their approach to holistic water management at an education session exploring the new pilot credit at the recent 2017 WaterBuild Summit at Greenbuild Boston.

If you’re interested in using this pilot credit on a project or have questions, please contact us. Our LEED technical specialists can work with you to meet your special water reduction needs. To suggest a future LEED pilot credit, please submit your idea online.

Rhode Island Green Buildings Act

The official signing launches Rhode Island’s updated green building standards.

On December 15, the Honorable Gina Raimondo, Governor of Rhode Island, signed a law “showing that [Rhode Island] is serious about being green.”

The legislation updates the state’s Green Buildings Act, first adopted in 2009. The amended law now includes LEED for Neighborhood Development and SITES as applicable standards for the sustainable development of the real public property, making Rhode Island the first state to incorporate SITES into statewide public policy.

“I love it that Rhode Island is first, and I hope that the rest of the nation follows our lead,” Gov. Raimondo said in an interview with Renewable Now Network (RNN) upon signing the legislation into law. “It is the right thing to do. It is the right thing for the environment, and it will also save money,” she said, by enabling the state to consume less water and energy while creating jobs.

In 2009, Rhode Island became the first state to adopt LEED into law for state construction projects, through its Green Buildings Act. The update to the legislation maintains the previous commitments and effectively establishes a demonstration project period for four years or four projects, whichever comes first, where new public construction in the Ocean State must apply sustainability and resilience measures to project sites beyond the buildings themselves.

“Once again, Rhode Island shows its leadership position,” said USGBC Chair of the Board of Directors and Rhode Island native Mike McNally to RNN. “[T]he certification has moved beyond the buildings, into the public space here in Rhode Island, and we expect the rest of the states to follow as they did years ago.”

The signing was the culmination of a multi-year collaborative effort between USGBC, USGBC-Rhode Island, Environmental Council of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Green Infrastructure Coalition and other stakeholders like the Rhode Island Builders Association.

Effective Advocacy through Relationship Building Skills

A Greenbuild 2018 presenter shares tips on building relationships for advocacy goals.

These tips follow up on the Greenbuild Boston session “How You Can Be an Effective Advocate” on November 8, 2017, about specific ways to influence public policy related to green building.

The ability to build relationships is at the core of effective advocacy.

First, to have an impact on matters we care about, it is essential to identify the established leaders on those issues. Strive to get to know them and support their work if it is in line with your values and priorities.

Once trust is built and we get past any existing skepticism, we are more likely to be viewed as credible contributors.

Building relationships

Connecting with established leaders is not enough though. In many cases, there are people who have an interest in an issue, but who have not yet participated in the public dialogue on the issue, and so are not shaping decisions. How do we make sure that, as we are organizing and advocating, we are taking into account a variety of perspectives, experiences, and needs? In order to create a process and achieve results that resonate with various demographics in our community, we need to strive to be welcoming and open.

If we genuinely want to get to know people and explore opportunities for collaboration, we must not expect them to always come to us. We need to offer to go to them. Typically, the further away the person is, the more the effort is appreciated! Instead of a meeting in someone’s office, how about suggesting a tour of the area or a visit to their favorite local coffee shop? They will value the opportunity to show off their community, and the interaction could help break down barriers and reveal commonalities.

If you have the opportunity to meet friends or colleagues of the host while you are there, that can be an effective way to get to know your host and their community better. This type of casual, authentic visit instills a sense of bonding.

Sometimes, when we are trying to advocate for a cause we care about, we think it is best to educate people with data. We might dive right into the substance of the policy proposal, and start hurling numbers at our audience. However, when we take this course, we often skip important relationship-building opportunities and end up with impersonal meetings that fail to leave a lasting, positive impression.

Instead, start by getting to know each other by having a conversation that addresses questions like, “What brought you to the work you are doing? What kinds of things are you working on? Is there an area in which you’d like to become more involved?” This sort of interaction supports an exchange of information, ideas, and contacts. You might bring up a particular issue you are involved in, answer questions about it, pitch a way to lend support and ask for input on who might be interested.

What to avoid

As people who care deeply about creating a more just, sustainable world, it is easy to get frustrated when progress seems too slow. However, frustration can get in the way and cause us to lose sight of the steps we need to take to achieve progress. Frustration may even cause us to act in a way that is counterproductive to the cause.

How do we avoid this common pitfall? Focus on building relationships—and not just with elected officials whom we are trying to influence, but also with fellow community members and other potential allies, such as those with funding capability.

Whenever possible, we should work to build relationships with our opponents, too. Just because we do not agree on one issue does not mean we could not be allies on another. It is also important to know when to step back. If our frustration reaches a certain level, it can be best to encourage someone else to take over who might have a fresh perspective and higher level of positive energy.

Nurture your relationships

Positive relationships involve mutual respect and support. Like plants that need sun and water, relationships require nourishment. So, once you plant the seeds, be sure to tend to the garden.

LEED Certification

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a non profit organization that certifies sustainable businesses, homes, hospitals, schools, and neighborhoods. USGBC is dedicated to expanding green building practices and education, and its LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System™.

Chemline, Inc. is a member of The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and has the potential to provide LEED points.