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Human Performance Measured in Buildings

Aclima’s Scott Andrews talks about designing for IAQ data.

This article is written by Scott Andrews, LEED AP BD+C, Director, Aclima, Inc. In this series, speakers from USGBC Northern California’s GreenerBuilder conference, held July 13, 2017, at the Zero Net Energy Center in San Leandro, share insights from their sessions. Interested in supporting GreenerBuilder 2018 as an event sponsor or exhibitor? Please contact Brenden McEneaney.

USGBC’s Pacific Regional Director, Brenden McEneaney, and the President and CEO of USGBC and GBCI, Mahesh Ramanujam, kicked off GreenerBuilder 2017 with two very important concepts: First, that we must remember that green buildings are always about people, and second, that data is a natural resource in itself. Therefore, it was fitting that the first session of the morning, “Science and Practice of Measuring Human Performance in Buildings,” focused on the collection and application of environmental data to improve our buildings for people, who spend up to 90 percent of their days living, working and learning indoors.

Recent research shows that there is an undeniable correlation between measurable indoor air quality (IAQ) conditions and human cognition. This unleashes an entirely new set of economic considerations in managing commercial property. With new definitions of what constitutes an optimal indoor environment, tenants are beginning to look past aesthetics to the sizeable economic gains that healthier office environments can offer. This session, which included Lane Burt (North America Lead for Buildings Alive), Simon Turner (President and CEO of Healthy Buildings), and moderator Scott Andrews (a director at Aclima), took the audience through the science to the economics and into practice.

And fortunately, just as the deep relationship between IAQ and human health and wellness is becoming more widely understood, so too are our desires and abilities to empower facility managers to gather reliable, hyperlocal data to optimize building environments for health and well-being. The panel explored the question of how we will design, construct and operate buildings in five years. It was proposed that buildings might look more like a computer, with software controlling the building and adjusting to climate, health and other conditions in real time to optimize spaces for our most important resource: our people.

Although the panel agreed that some version of this new era of smart buildings may soon be a reality for many properties, thanks to the democratization of data that companies like Aclima are delivering to the marketplace, it will remain an imperative to train our facility managers. After all, not all aspects of a building can be automated, and this newly available data is only as valuable as the people and systems in place to analyze and apply it. FM, along with their consultants and internal teams, represent the critical last-mile delivery service for applying data analytics to make IAQ improvements and co-optimize the indoor environment and energy performance.

Distributed real-time sensor networks with parameters like CO2, VOCs, and comfort indicators such as temperature and sound levels represent the missing meter to measure how our buildings turn energy and water inputs into desired outputs. This includes a close review of building systems and potential outside factors that could impact IAQ, which can also be measured with on-site outdoor sensing equipment. There is a need to connect good intentions with measured outcomes, and new products and services are making this possible like never before.

How LEED combats climate change

One of the goals that guided the development of LEED v4 was reversing a LEED building’s contribution to global climate change.

The Earth’s climate is changing, and 97 percent of climate scientists agree that it is likely due to human activities. So where does that leave us and the rest of the building industry?

Buildings account for more than one-quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), according to the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction. Add in other infrastructure and activities, such as transportation, that is associated with buildings, and that number jumps.

By building green, we can reduce the impact our buildings have on contributing to climate change, while also building resilience into our homes and communities.

LEED vs climate change

One of the goals that guided the development of LEED v4 was reversing a LEED building’s contribution to global climate change. High-performing green buildings, particularly LEED-certified buildings, play a key role in reducing the negative climate impacts of the built environment. For this reason, 35 of the 100 total points in LEED v4 are distributed to reward climate change mitigation strategies.

The LEED process addresses a structure’s planning, design, construction, operations and end of life as well as considering energy, water, indoor environmental quality, materials selection, and location. Green buildings reduce landfill waste, enable alternative transportation use and encourage retention and creation of vegetated land areas and roofs.

LEED rewards thoughtful decisions about building location, with credits that encourage compact development and connection with transit and amenities. When a building consumes less water, the energy otherwise required to withdraw, treat and pump that water from the source to the building are avoided. Additionally, less transport of materials to and from the building cuts associated fuel consumption.

Here are some of the ways that LEED weighs the various credits and strategies so that LEED projects can mitigate their contribution to global climate change:

  • GHG Emissions Reduction from Building Operations Energy Use: To target energy use reductions directly associated with building operations. This includes all building systems and operations within the building or associated grounds that rely on electricity or other fuel sources for energy consumption.
  • GHG Emissions Reduction from Transportation Energy Use: To target energy use reductions associated with the transportation of building occupants, employees, customers, visitors, business travel, etc.
  • GHG Emissions Reduction from the Embodied Energy of Materials and Water Use: To target GHG-emissions reductions associated with the energy use and processes required in the extraction, production, transportation, conveyance, manufacturing, assembly, distribution, use, posttreatment, and disposal of materials, products, and processed water. Any measures that directly reduce the use of potable water, non-potable water, or raw materials (e.g. reduced packaging, building reuse) will indirectly reduce energy as well because of the embodied energy associated with these product life cycles.
  • GHG Emissions Reduction from a Cleaner Energy Supply: To target actions and measures that support a cleaner, fewer GHG-emissions intensive energy supply and a greater reliance on renewable sources of energy.
  • Global Warming Potential Reduction from Non-Energy Related Drivers: To address the non-energy related climate change drivers (e.g. albedo, carbon sinks, non-energy related GHG emissions) and identifies actions that reduce these contributions to climate change (e.g. land use changes, heat island reduction, reforestation, refrigerant purchases).

Some of the top credits in LEED v4 BD+C, ID+C, and O+M that are associated with mitigating global climate change:

  • LT Credit: Surrounding Density and Diverse Uses
  • LT Credit: Access to Quality Transit / Alternative Transportation
  • WE Credit: Outdoor Water Use Reduction
  • WE Credit: Indoor Water Use Reduction
  • EA Credit: Optimize Energy Performance
  • EA Credit: Renewable Energy Production / Renewable Energy and Carbon Offsets
  • EA Credit: Enhanced Refrigerant Management
  • EA Credit: Green Power and Carbon Offsets
  • MR Credit: Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction / Interiors Life-Cycle Impact Reduction

A goal of USGBC Central Pennsylvania

In March of 2016, USGBC Central Pennsylvania identified an opportunity to work with Habitat for Humanity of Harrisburg on a rewarding project: a duplex that was going to be given to a military veteran’s family, which had suffered from a fire. The goal of the project was to provide a low-cost and healthy home that operated sustainably to keep day-to-day costs for the family very affordable.

USGBC Central Pennsylvania worked with Habitat for Humanity by providing technical consultation and identifying potential suppliers to offer discounted materials and services. Several USGBC Central Pennsylvania board members conducted site visits and provided architectural, energy-related and green-building recommendations, including:

  • Insulation types and installation methods
  • Low-usage plumbing fixtures
  • Paints with less than 50 grams per liter of volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Asbestos testing
  • With new roofing and windows, and a complete remodel of the interior by Habitat for Humanity volunteers, the property will soon be a beautiful home to a happy family. The space has energy-efficient windows donated by Plygem, upcycled cabinets, and countertops from the Habitat ReStore and bamboo and cork flooring donated by Calibamboo.
  • USGBC Central Pennsylvania is looking forward to more projects in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity in the coming years.  We are also glad to support other community-focused organizations that are interested in sustainability. Please email Heidi Kunka, the community’s director, or phone 202.706.0836, if you have a project in mind.

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.