Buildings account for 39% of CO2 emissions in the United States, more than either the industrial or transportation sectors. Fortunately for the fight against climate change, green building certifications such as LEED, WELL, Green Globes, Living Building Challenge, and many others have become increasingly well-known and pervasive in the building industry.
Photo credit: Michael Bednar
Environmental Product Declarations (EPD’s) are commonly referred to as the “nutrition labels” of the green building industry. Instead of showing fats, carbohydrates, and calories, EPD’s provide information on the environmental impacts of a certain product, such as global warming potential, water consumption, and smog formation. EPD’s take the nitty gritty of a product’s life-cycle analysis and condense it into one document. While it can take up to a year to produce an EPD, more manufacturers are releasing them as demand increases from building architects, consultants, and designers.
Photo credit: International Well Building Institute
Everyone might know what is trending on social media, but do you know what is trending in the world of building design? While LEED is still the frontrunner of green building rating systems, a new standard is increasingly becoming all the rage among designers. The WELL building standard was developed by the real estate firm Delos in 2013 and takes a human-centered approach to the process of designing a building. Like LEED, the standard has various credits that projects must achieve to become certified. The seven aspects of the WELL standard are: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. These are centered around the concept of improving human wellness and how the office environment shapes our physical and mental health. While WELL certification may seem like just another trend to boost an organization’s brand, recent studies have shown that our office environment affects us much more then we know.
Photo credit: Ratcliff Architects
As we’ve noted in previous articles covering commissioning (Cx), it is an important key to the green building design process that should never be left out. For a little recap: commissioning (Cx) is the continual process during planning, design, construction, and building operation that aims to make sure quality is up to par, design is meeting its expectations, and systems are performing as they’re supposed to. This last part is crucial. Why spend the time, money, and effort on installing high-performance heat pumps in your structure only to later find out that they are improperly installed and thus wasting energy instead of saving it? Verdical Group’s very own commissioning agent (CxA), Frank Hooks, recently discovered within one of our projects that all of the economizers were completely shut (they were never set up to be operational) while a LEED flush out was supposed to be in progress—meaning there was no way the flush out was performed correctly. The quality control work that commissioning agents complete helps to find all sorts of errors in building systems—as large as the example formerly described or as minor as a toilet improperly flushing.
The USGBC clearly recognizes the importance of commissioning buildings; the energy and cost savings resulting from it are too great to ignore. The new LEED v4 rating system significantly improves upon LEED v2009’s fundamental and enhanced commissioning credits. In the proceeding paragraphs below, some of the major commissioning updates that have been incorporated into LEED v4 are discussed.
Photo credit: USGBC
The last day to officially register a project under the LEED v2009 rating system is on October 31st, 2016. That means projects failing to register before Halloween will have to sign up for LEED v4 by default. (If your project is already registered under LEED v2009, do not fear—you have until June 2021 to submit for certification under this rating system). So, what can we expect from LEED v4 that has some critics clearly spooked? Is it really all that scary? Keep reading below to find out more about the soon-to-be normal for USGBC’s LEED rating system.
Photo credit: Solatube
There is a huge movement afoot that, unless you are in the building industry, might pass right under your nose without you even noticing it. If you walk into a newly built home, office building, or by some off-chance a Macy’s warehouse, and happen to notice the great lighting that has been installed—the probability that the sun is beaming through those light fixtures is steadily increasing. Designed to look like normal commercial ceiling lights (unbeknownst to the average person), Solatube’s “Tubular Daylighting Devices” (TDD’s) are gradually becoming the norm for high-performance green buildings. From research alone that continually shows how beneficial natural daylight is for humans, it wouldn’t be crazy to think all new construction in 10 years will come equipped with some form of TDD’s. As Michael Sather recently told Verdical Group at a Lunch & Learn held in our office, “For us, energy savings is just the ice on the cake. The cake is really human performance.”