Below is a recap of our conversation with Jason Franken from Goby, a company focused on sustainability and helping others to get their green building certifications. The information below is a summary, but watching the video will provide more detail on all of the items we discussed.
Q: Tell me a little bit about LEED certification and why people seek LEED certification for their buildings?
A: There are lots of reasons to seek LEED certification but here are some common themes:
- Confirming publicly that your building is designed & operated well,
- Showing that you’re reducing waste, costs etc while also creating a better working environments,
- Helping your company or tenants achieve sustainability goals,
- Improving rent rates (and profitability) by having a well-built environment.
Q: What is the typical process for getting an existing building LEED certified?
A: There are a few steps, and it’s typically about a nine month process to get certified. The steps are:
- Basic readiness assessment: what are you already accomplishing? What needs to be changed?
- Setting goals including what type of LEED certification you might be able to achieve,
- Reviewing costs and improvements,
- Registering and beginning your LEED process with the USGBC,
- Upgrading and making your building more sustainable,
- Beginning your reporting period, when you collect data and information to submit to the U.S. Green Building Council,
- USGBC Review period.
Q: How is that different from gaining certification for a new building?
A: New building certifications are focused on design best practices, unlike existing buildings, which have more to do with operating in a sustainable manner.
For new buildings, many of the points are earned for anticipated performance instead of performance measured over a period of time. There is also no reporting period for new buildings.
New building certifications are permanent because they are based on the design of the building. Existing building certifications, which focus on a building’s operations, have to be renewed every five years.
Q: How does Goby (or any LEED consultant) fit into that process?
A: A consultant is not required to achieve certification, but can certainly help to streamline the process.
They should be able to communicate with the USGBC, fill out paper work, and manage the details of the process, taking the majority of the work off of the property owner or manager.
LEED and Water
Q: Our audience is particularly interested in water and how water fits into the LEED certification process. Can you talk about the main areas where water conservation can earn LEED points?
A: First, it’s important to know that there are two versions of LEED currently being used: LEED 2009 and LEED v4. Water is treated slightly differently in the two versions.
Water is an important category in both, but in v4, there are slightly fewer points and more prerequisites related to water. USGBC is not reducing the importance of water, there are just differences in how each version addresses water.
Main areas of focus in both versions are:
- Indoor plumbing (fixtures and fittings)
- Cooling tower water use
- Metering water use
Q: Can you talk about how smart irrigation contributes to LEED points?
A: LEED looks at irrigation efficiency in two ways:
- A property can meter and show a decrease in irrigation water use over time,
- A property can calculate typical water use and install a system (and select plants) that allow significantly less water use than is considered “typical” for their building.
Smart irrigation controllers, especially those controlled by software and with real-time data [like Banyan Water’s] can play a big part in reducing water use for LEED credit.
If you have the right system, you could go from earning 1-2 points on irrigation to maximizing the solution and earning 4-5 points.
Q: Is there an advantage to having software that tracks your building’s water use?
First, LEED requires monitoring, so having real-time monitoring is useful for your own purposes as well as your reporting to USGBC.
You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Having frequently-collected data allows you to spot trends, solve problems, and plan for the future.
Some software has alarms to alert users when there are issues with their systems, allowing you to know when something needs attention.
Finally, having software that tracks usage is useful for internal reporting, whether building a business case for upgrades or just for reporting successful conservation efforts.
How to get started
Q: If my organization is considering seeking LEED certification, where do I start looking for information? How do I start the process?
- Visit usgbc.org for complete information on the ratings systems and to get reference guides.
- Verify that your building has an Energy Star profile and score that meets up to LEED minimums (69 points or 75 points, depending on which version of LEED you are using). It’s a free service and you can set up your profile online.
- Consider your major equipment: HVAC and indoor plumbing – know if those systems are new or old and how efficient they are. Do they meet minimum standards within the LEED program. All of these items will be part of your LEED consultant’s readiness assessment.
- Finally, LEED is currently transitioning to the LEED v4 system but LEED 2009 is currently still available (through October 31). If you register your project before October 31, you have the choice to use the 2009 version of the system. The registration fee is between $900- $1200 and registering now allows you to lock-in 2009 requirements while still giving you several years to complete your certification.
- Getting in touch with a LEED consultant could also help to save some time and effort in understanding how LEED-ready your building may be.
Q: Are there other green building certifications that my organization might consider in addition to or instead of LEED certification?
A: USGBC and their LEED program are the most well known, respected, and rigorous system.
Other U.S. sustainability programs:
BIT – USGBC’s beta program designed for smaller buildings
LEED Dynamic Plaque
Q: What final tips would you like to give our audience as they seek to make their buildings more sustainable?
A: LEED is really designed to acknowledge good work and practices that you have in place. The real goal is to have a positive impact on environment and community.
It’s a great idea to start by setting goals – how much energy do you want to use, how much do you want to recycle, what kinds of guidelines could you follow for reducing your impact on the environment? Setting and tracking those goals is a great first step.
Vendors and building tenants may want to get engaged and involved, it’s a great idea to get them on board early.
Most importantly: measure, measure, measure. Tracking data makes it easier to identify opportunities and know where you can easily impact use.