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GREEN BUILDING DEFINED|
Many people have heard of “green building.” The term has been around for many years, but what exactly is it? The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the nation’s leading nonprofit coalition for advancing buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work, has been working to define green building through the Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Green Building Rating System™.
Since its founding in 1993, USGBC has been focused on fulfilling the building and construction industry’s vision for its own transformation to high-performance green building. Today, it includes over 5,020 member companies and organizations – representing more than 1000% growth in the past four years alone. During that same period, more than 193 million square feet of commercial building space has been registered or certified under LEED, and the annual U.S. market in green building products and services has grown to $5.8 billion.
Industry-led and consensus-driven, the Council is as diverse as the marketplace itself. Membership includes building owners and end-users, real estate developers, facility managers, architects, designers, engineers, general contractors, subcontractors, product and building system manufacturers, government agencies, and nonprofits. Leaders from within each of these sectors participate in the development of the LEED Rating System and the direction of the Council through volunteer service on USGBC’s open committees. Other USGBC programs include LEED Workshops; LEED Professional Accreditation; the Greenbuild International Conference & Expo (http:// www.greenbuildexpo.org); and a robust local chapter program. There are currently 56 Chapter and Organizing groups across the country working in conjunction with USGBC in order to promote educational outreach and local initiatives.
The LEED Green Building Rating System, publicly released in 2000, is a voluntary standards and certification program that was created to define high-performance green building. Green buildings are environmentally responsible, healthier, and more profitable structures. LEED addresses a variety of buildings and building project types through individualized systems, including New Construction (LEED-NC); Existing Buildings (LEEDEB); Commercial Interiors (LEED-CI); Core & Shell (LEED-CS) – in pilot, to be released 2005; Homes (LEED-H) – in development, to pilot in 2005; and Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) – in development, to pilot in 2005. In addition, application guides are in development to provide templates on applying LEED to vertical market segments including retail, health care and laboratories.
The rating systems are developed through a consensus process in USGBC committees. Each volunteer committee is composed of a diverse group of practitioners and experts representing a crosssection of the building and construction industry. Any USGBC member can serve on a committee, and all committee procedures and proceedings are available at www.usgbc.org.
The built environment has a profound impact on our natural environment, economy, health and productivity.
In the United States, buildings account for:
· 36% of total energy use/65% of electricity consumption
· 30% of greenhouse gas emissions
· 30% of raw materials use
· 30% of waste output/136 million tons annually
· 12% of potable water consumption
Breakthroughs in building science, technology and operations are available to designers, builders and owners who want to build green and maximize both economic and environmental performance.
Environmental benefits of building according to LEED include protected ecosystems and biodiversity, improved air and water quality, reduced solid waste and conserving natural resources. The economic benefits include reduced operating costs, enhanced asset value and profits, improved employee productivity and satisfaction and optimized life-cycle economic performance. Health and community benefits include improved air, thermal and acoustic environments, enhanced occupant comfort and health, minimized strain on local infrastructure and contributions to overall quality of life.
LEED Certification distinguishes building projects that have demonstrated a commitment to sustainability by meeting the highest performance standards.
LEED certified buildings have lower operating costs, higher lease rates, and happier and healthier occupants than conventionally constructed structures. Certification under LEED validates to the market that your building is green, as well as setting standards and measures for the building’s performance.
There are four progressive levels of certification: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. The LEED system works on a point system. There are six credit areas including: sustainable sites, energy and atmosphere, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, materials and resources, and innovation in design. Within each credit area there are a certain number of points available and depending on the number of points the building earns, determines the building’s certification level. Out of a possible 69 points, a project must earn between 26- 32 points to achieve the basic Certified level, 33-38 points to be certified as Silver, 39-51 to be certified as Gold and 52 points or more to attain a Platinum certification. Within the rating system there are various prerequisites that must be met by each project. As the level of certification for the building increases, so does the performance of the building. The basic certification level must meet 40% of the LEED system, Silver must meet 50%, Gold must meet 60% and latinum must meet 80% of the rating system.
The first step to becoming certified is registration. Registering the project during the early phases of design will ensure maximum potential for achieving certification. Once a project is registered, the project team begins to prepare documentation and calculations to satisfy the prerequisite and credit submittal requirements of LEED. It is helpful to have a LEED Accredited Professional as the project contact and team member responsible for coordinating the LEED process. Once the building is at or near occupancy, the project contact may submit the documentation, which undergoes a technical review. Once the documentation is approved, the project is awarded certification. The project has 30 days to accept or appeal the decision.
Recently, the University of Richmond’s Weinstein Hall achieved LEED-NC certification at the Certified level. The 52,082-square-foot Weinstein Hall is an addition/renovation of the old political science building. Located on the Stern Quadrangle, Weinstein Hall now houses the departments of Political Science, Sociology and Anthropology, Geography, Journalism, Rhetoric and Communication Studies, and the Speech Center. It includes several classrooms, labs, offices, group study spaces, and research suites. Students and Faculty are encouraged to use alternative transportation with access to six public buses, alternative fuel re-fueling stations, and preferred car pool parking. Water efficiency was important to the project. For landscaping, adaptive plants were installed for 80% of the landscaping, requiring no irrigation. The remaining 20% is hand watered and well mulched, thus minimizing potable water use. Faculty and students at Weinstein Hall benefit from indoor environmental quality strategies such as carbon d oxide monitoring, low-emitting paint, carpet, and composite wood, and a comprehensive green housekeeping plan. In addition to educating students on social sciences, Weinstein Hall educates students and faculty on the benefits of green building. In fact, a Weinstein Hall case study is part of a course open to all students that covers sustainability and LEED.
Another project, the Boldt Wisconsin River Valley Office in Stevens Point, Wis., achieved LEED-NC Silver. Since 1889 the Boldt Company has offered consulting, construction, and maintenance solutions throughout the U.S. The Boldt Wisconsin River Valley Office is a combination 20,570-square-foot office and warehouse. Located at the Portage County Business Park, employees are encouraged to use alternative transportation with access to carpool parking spaces and bike storage and changing/shower facilities. Energy savings is achieved with additional commissioning to ensure on-going building efficiency, and a two year green power contract offsets the building’s energy use. For good indoor quality, there is carbon dioxide monitoring, lowemitting materials, thermal comfort, daylight, and views. A sustainable outreach program at the Boldt Wisconsin River Valley Office educates visitors and staff on the benefits of green building with signage, building tours, and a case study.
There are LEED projects in 50 states and 15 countries and LEED has been licensed for use in Canada by the Canada Green Building Council. For more case studies visit:
LEED was created to establish a common standard of measurement that will ultimately transform the building marketplace by providing integrated, wholebuilding design practices. LEED also hopes to raise awareness of green building benefits while stimulating green competition. For more information please visit the USGBC Web site at:
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