Sustainable By Design: LEED-EB Changes On The Horizon

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 Anne Vazquez Published in the June 2007 issue of Today’s Facility Manager In 2005, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) revamped its LEED for New Construction (NC) rating system with the aim of streamlining the reporting process and increasing its user friendliness. Now the Council is working on changes to the LEED for Existing Buildings (EB) rating system. Facility managers interested in certifying, or recertifying, their buildings under LEED-EB will want to keep an eye on developments in the coming months. At press time, the LEED-EB Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs) are reviewing the proposed changes that were formed by the EB Steering Committee. The committee completed its work on the changes at the end of April and is now awaiting the technical feedback. Doug Gatlin, director, LEED for Existing Buildings at USGBC, estimates that if the TAG review goes smoothly, the revised rating system will be put out to public comment in July of this year. “Ideally, we’d be done with public comment by August, and then we’d put it out for member ballot around Labor Day,” he says. The Steering Committee has approached this overhaul of LEED-EB with two overarching goals—make it more user friendly, as with the NC revisions in 2005, and focus the rating system primarily on operations and maintenance. Making the process easier for applicants will certainly be beneficial for all involved; however, the second goal of changing the substance of LEED-EB is where much promise lies. As with the other LEED rating systems, the EB offering evaluates a building according to six overall categories. These are: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality, along with a section for approaches deemed innovative by providing substantial added environmental benefits. “The current version of LEED-EB [2.0] uses a lot of credits that are new construction oriented,” says Gatlin. “The aim is to differentiate the EB rating system from that of NC. The main differential is EB is for ongoing operations of a building, whereas NC is limited to design and construction.” In revising the EB system, Gatlin notes the credits are focused on management and processes in a building, while NC is about integrated design and the materials used in construction. “There is a big difference between those two rating systems,” he says, “and we thought the line had been blurred by having so many NC type credits in EB.” To that end, the prerequisites and credits that make up the EB rating system have undergone major revisions from the Steering Committee. For one, the total number of prerequisites was reduced from 13 to 8, with consideration given to the reality of building projects and operations. Says Gatlin, “This is not to weaken the rating, but rather a recognition that many of the prerequisites involved compliance with environmental regulations, and we can address them in a general requirements section.” For instance, a prerequisite requiring the facility to have a sedimentation and erosion control plan was suggested for removal. Identified as “Sustainable Sites/Prerequisite 1 Erosion and Sedimentation Control,” the intent of this is to “control erosion to reduce negative impacts on water and air quality.” As Gatlin noted, this issue could be dealt with in general requirements. In addressing the credits, the Steering Committee also worked to bring the rating system in line with the reality of operations and management in an existing building. For instance, the system’s Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) section, Credit 10.2—Green Cleaning: Isolation of Janitorial Closets—requires that the facility contain these spaces with “separate outside exhausting, no air re-circulation, and negative pressure.” The intent of Credit 10.2 is to reduce exposure of occupants and maintenance personnel to potentially hazardous chemical, biological, and particle contaminants. However, Gatlin notes, “We realized a lot of our customers weren’t taking this extra step. To build a separate standalone closet is capital intensive. Sure, it is a good practice, but there are other ways to mitigate the risk of exposure to toxic chemicals.” To address the elimination of this credit while encouraging healthy IEQ, the Steering Committee’s suggestions strengthen the green cleaning section by requiring the facility to have a comprehensive policy in place that also deals with handling chemicals safely. A third focus in revising LEED-EB was to define clear performance metrics in order for facility managers to have a quantitative way of measuring building performance. “Not only is that meaningful information, but it also gives facilities managers something they can report on a continuous basis, rather than having to do it periodically,” says Gatlin. “It’s less of a single event and more about a continuous process of measuring and improving.” When the new version of LEED-EB is approved and released to the public, it will bring with it one other change—if only in name. It will be the first of the LEED rating systems to be named according to the year of its introduction. Assuming the system is put on the market next year, it will be called LEED-EB version 2008; with the current naming convention, it would be named LEED-EB version 2.1. Going forward, this will be the case for all of the USGBC rating systems. There are many changes afoot for existing buildings and LEED certification. By revamping the EB rating system, the USGBC is striving to provide a tool that is more relevant to the actual work of facilities managers. Those who wish to have their voice heard can keep an eye out for the public comment period expected to begin later this year. Information for this article was based on an interview with Gatlin and literature from the USGBC (www.usgbc.org). As they develop, updates on the LEED-EB rating system and the revision process will be posted on FacilityBlog at todaysfacilitymanager.com/facilityblog.

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