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Cover Story - July 2007
Green Building

Green Building Trends
More and More Owners, A/E/S Professionals
Realizing Value of Sustainability

By Brad Fullmer

Sustainable design and construction proponents believe Green Building is not only practical, but that it's the right thing to do for the future of our world. What is the outlook for sustainable projects? Should the USGBC's LEED rating system be the industry standard? A lot of questions remain, but optimism abounds within the A/E/C community that significant changes are on the horizon.


"LEED is useful as a checklist and it's easy for any company to preach that. It's one thing to say it, another to prove it. Getting a LEED rating is proof that we're seeing tangible results." - Francisco Benavides, manager
for Sustainable Development, Environment and Safety,
Kennecott Land Company

"One of the most sustainable things we can do is to retrofit old buildings that are really good, well-designed buildings with the use of windows, daylight and new mechanical and electrical systems." - David Brems, GSBS Architects

Dublin Transit Center Wright

Green Building is rapidly becoming the buzzword in the A/E/C industry, as owners - both public and private - continue to learn and understand about the myriad of benefits of designing and constructing sustainable buildings.

According to figures from McGraw-Hill Construction's 2006 Green Building Report, sustainable or 'green' buildings accounted for roughly two percent of commercial construction nationwide in 2004. The report added that by 2010, that figure could jump to as high as 10 percent, or $20 billion.

"There isn't a day that goes by where somebody doesn't mention Green Building," said Alan Rindlisbacher, director of Business Development for Layton Construction Company of Sandy, Utah. "At a NAIOP (National Association of Industrial and Office Properties) meeting in February I came back with the philosophy that we better be on board, because its moving in that direction."

In addition to the obvious advantages of green building - including reduced consumption of energy and natural resources, a healthier, more appealing environment for building inhabitants, and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions into the environment - there are a myriad of reasons owners should consider building their next project to be sustainable.

Since the beginning of 2005 in the two-state Intermountain region of Utah and Idaho, there has been a spike in the number of projects earning Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

According to the USGBC, as of June 1, 2007 there were 16 projects in the two-state Intermountain region of Utah and Idaho that had achieved Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED) certification (11 projects in Utah; five in Idaho). Prior to 2005, the only project to achieve LEED certification was the Utah Olympic Oval in March 2000.

Click here for the complete list>>

"We've seen a tremendous increase in LEED certified projects in the past two years nationwide," said Ashley Katz, communications coordinator for USGBC. "We've had roughly 400 projects that have been certified (worldwide) since 2005, so it's definitely a growing trend."

"We recognize that more and more governmental agencies are demanding sustainable projects," added Rindlisbacher. "The hesitation we've seen in the past (from owners) has been cost and bureaucracy, but I think the USGBC is making the LEED certification process easier."

Katz said the demand for LEED certified projects is snowballing.

"Right now we have 6,500 projects that are registered, either in conceptual planning, design or building phases," she said. "They have registered with us for the intention of getting LEED certified. It's not a guarantee, but by registering, owners are on their way to getting their building certified."

In Utah, there are three projects that are slated to receive LEED certification in 2007, and another 13 are presently in the design or construction phases that have registered with the USGBC. In Idaho, there are also 13 registered LEED projects currently in design or under construction.

Thinking Green

David Brems' experience with green design goes back to the early 70's.

Brems, a founding partner of GSBS Architects of Salt Lake City, realized early into his architectural career the flawed design practices of the preceding generation of architects, those that lived during the beginning of inexpensive energy in the U.S., post World War II.

Cheap energy prices at that time led to a common design of buildings that were, according to Brems, "hermetically sealed" - meaning there was no way to get outside air into the building except through the mechanical system.

Brems said these buildings lacked natural daylight, often had no windows, and were lit with an abundance of artificial, fluorescent lighting.

"These are buildings that are undesirable to occupy, unhealthy, and they use far more energy than they should," said Brems.

In 1973, Brems said a world-wide oil embargo sparked a dramatic rise in the cost of oil and fuel, and caused architects to start thinking about new ways to design buildings.

"Architects began to recognize at that time that the buildings we had been designing since the advent of cheap energy was leading us down the wrong path," said Brems. "I was in architecture school and it was a big wake up call for architects to take a new look at minimizing energy use of buildings and integrating solar passive ideas - how to use the sun to heat and cool buildings.

We also looked at using natural light as a primary source of light and looked at improving the envelope - more insulation, insulated glass and looking at conservation as well."

Brems' firm has been the architect on three projects that have achieved LEED certification in Utah - the Utah Olympic Oval, Big-D Construction's Corporate Headquarters and the Escalante Science Center. He's optimistic about the number of projects locally that have become LEED certified the past two years, but hopes more and more owners will start realizing the importance of the sustainable design movement sooner, rather than later.

"It's taken a long time for that effort to become more mainstream," said Brems. "Many of these old buildings are experiencing sick building syndromes - people don't want to be in those buildings. One of the most sustainable things we can do is to retrofit old buildings that are really good, well-designed buildings with the use of windows, daylight and new mechanical and electrical systems."

"I found out what the USGBC was about seven years ago and I jumped into it," said Bruce Poe, principal with Modus Architecture of Boise and immediate past president of the Idaho USGBC chapter. "(LEED) was a relatively new concept and it has changed tremendously since then. It resonated with my personal philosophies of doing things correctly, designing high performance buildings in a smart way. It translates into being environmentally sensitive."

"One of the catalysts of the green building movement is global warming," added Katz. "Buildings have been part of the problem, but by building green, you can have a measurable and immediate impact on the environment. That's because we're using less natural resources - we're putting less of an imprint on the earth."

Is LEED Best?

Prior to 2005, not too many people within the A/E/C community knew much about LEED and the entire process for trying to get a project certified. Many believed it was a good 'idea', but doubted the practicality of trying to convince owners of paying the additional costs associated with certification, as much as five percent in some cases.

Government agencies like the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and local municipalities like Salt Lake City, and Ada County in Idaho, started seeing the potential benefits of green building and instituted policies in 2005 where all new buildings would be built to achieve LEED certification.

"The government can see the value in a green building," said Ron Bagley, president of Ascent Construction of Centerville, Utah, a firm that has a handful of LEED certified projects under its belt. "Government official can see the energy efficiency, but they also realize that people who work in LEED certified buildings are going to be happier because they are healthier buildings."

The State of Utah has instituted its own High Building Performance policy, which focuses mostly on energy efficiency and a quick return on investment.
Cities like Park City Municipal Corporation also have adopted an informal green building policy, which aims to build sustainable projects, just not according to the official LEED rating system.

"Over the past four years we have developed a sustainability code for the city that includes open space and green buildings," said Park City mayor Dana Williams. Williams doesn't particularly like the added costs associated with getting a building LEED certified, but realizes that it's a fundamentally sound program with good intentions.

"I think (LEED) is a good idea, but it's simply too high of a cost for a plaque on the wall," Williams said.

Other owners believe the added costs for LEED certification are a small price to pay in order to verify that a building is indeed sustainable.

"LEED is useful as a checklist and it's easy for any company to preach that," said Francisco Benavides, manager for Sustainable Development, Environment and Safety at Kennecott Land Company (KLC) in Utah. "It's one thing to say it, another to prove it. Getting a LEED rating is proof that we're seeing tangible results."

KLC's Daybreak community - a mix of residential homes and commercial support buildings like schools, offices and retail buildings - is being built with sustainability at the forefront.

Benavides said all commercial projects for KLC will be built to achieve LEED certification. "In a nutshell, we believe the LEED rating system is credible," he said. "We plan to continue to use it as a design standard."

Salt Lake County adopted a policy in 2005 that all new buildings be constructed in an "environmentally friendly manner," said mayor Peter Corroon. "We didn't specify LEED at that time, although we have three LEED certified projects."

Corroon believes energy efficiency and protecting the environment are the two most important aspects of the LEED rating system.

"As we continue to see energy prices going up, we see that the payback is getting better for LEED certified buildings," said Corroon. "It's good for our air quality, and it's good for our environment. I think the energy crisis we're in is part of (the movement). People are becoming more environmentally aware. Al Gore's movie (An Inconvenient Truth) helped highlight it as well."

Corroon said two new Salt Lake County recreation center projects currently in design - a rebuild of the Northwest Rec Center in Salt Lake and a new Southwest Rec Center in Riverton - are being designed to achieve LEED certification.

"I think we can start making (green building practices) commonplace so it will help drive down costs," Corroon added. "Once contractors become familiar with the process, the process ends up becoming more cost efficient."

Others believe that municipalities and public entities shouldn't necessarily adopt the LEED rating system as a policy, without considering all sustainable design factors.

"I was involved with LEED when it was brand new," said Kenner Kingston, an architect with Architectural Nexus of Salt Lake City. "Initially, what it was intended to be was a voluntary program to make the world better. As it becomes more regulated, and public agencies start mandating to use LEED, it becomes increasingly problematic. Legislating something that is external to themselves is kind of dangerous."

Brems, however, believes LEED is the most common sense approach at this point to building a truly sustainable project.

"It's becoming much easier to do," Brems said of LEED. "The certification process is more streamlined, and it's online. Many more people in the marketplace understand the process, and are helpful and willing to do their part. Have subs and contractors that really understand how these buildings go together is important. There is not a good reason not to use LEED."

Brems added that about a year ago, he was moderating a panel on green developments at an Urban Land Institute convention in Salt Lake City when renowned world-wide developer Gerald Heinz walked in and commented on the green building movement.

"He wanted to talk for 10 minutes," Brems recalled. "He said 'all of our new buildings will be LEED certified.'"

Brems said Heinz looked at a "triple bottom line" approach when considering LEED for his development projects. One, Heinz said LEED certified buildings are more energy efficient and cost less to operate. As energy costs go up, his buildings will be the most energy efficient. Second, occupants in LEED buildings are happier and healthier because buildings don't have VOC's, along with having natural daylighting. Third, Heinz said he owns buildings in cyclical markets all over the world. When one particular market struggles, tenants will naturally want to be in LEED certified buildings.

"It's hard to see the downside (to LEED)," Brems added. People say it costs more money, but I say no, it saves money. There still is a lot of misinformation about LEED."

Sidebar One

Understanding LEED Key for Subcontractors

By Darrin Sanders, PE, RCDD Electrical Engineer, Hunt Electric

With the drive towards energy efficiency, a re-evaluation of all electrical systems is taking place in the building and construction industry. Public entities and private owners are asking for their buildings to be environmentally friendly, or "green," not only to reduce energy consumption, but to provide a higher quality work environment for employees, tenants, and other end users.

In pursuing LEED certification, the electrical engineer has several areas of responsibility that help bring essential value to a project. Pursuing LEED certification is a time consuming process, but in light of rising energy costs, well worth the effort. Additional design time, documentation, energy modeling, verification, etc. is required above and beyond the requirements of a normal project. In the design-build arena, projects almost always have an aggressive design and construction schedule. This adds to the level of complication for LEED certification. Experience and familiarity with the many requirements of LEED certification help make the project a successful one.

The main focus for the electrical engineer is the lighting system. Lighting is one of the largest energy consumers in any building. Lighting energy usage needs to be reduced by the use of newer technologies in lamps and ballasts, automatic lighting controls, and light fixtures that more efficiently distribute the available light produced by the lamps and ballasts.

"Light pollution" is minimized or even eliminated in a project that is LEED certified. LEED certification requires that the electrical engineer carefully study and document that lighting within the building interior is not directed through transparent surfaces such as windows, and that site lighting does not direct light upwards or towards adjacent properties.

A true benefit to a LEED certified project is the energy efficiency of the power distribution system. Conductors need to be sized to minimize voltage drop, exceeding the requirements set forth by the electrical code. The inherent impedance of building wiring causes energy to be consumed transferring the power to where it is used by building systems. These inefficiencies in building wiring can waste energy in the form of heat that is dissipated into building. Using larger wires reduces impedance and increases energy efficiency.

Newer NEMA TP-1 transformers can also reduce heat being dissipated into the building, and harmonic mitigating transformers help to offset the effects of non-linear loads such as computer power supplies and electronic lighting ballasts.

A critical aspect of LEED certification is commissioning. Energy related systems need to be verified that they are installed, calibrated, and perform according to project requirements. This is a prerequisite of any LEED certification. Additional LEED points can be obtained from enhanced commissioning where the commissioning agent is involved early on in the design process and assists in evaluating aspects of the design for energy efficiency.

A successful LEED certified project will include the electrical engineer early on in the project design. Other items outside the responsibilities of the electrical engineer directly affect electrical aspects of the project. For example, interior finishes and colors can affect overall lighting levels.

The main focus of the LEED rating system is to encourage sustainable design. Buildings that reduce the impact on the environment benefit all of us. Valuable resources, both renewable and non-renewable are better utilized. Work environments become healthier, and the quality of life for the earth's inhabitants is benefited.

Hunt Electric Design-Build has extensive experience in sustainable design and the LEED rating system. We are excited to be on the leading edge of this new horizon in the building industry.

Sidebar Two

How to Become a LEED Accredited Professional

Interested in becoming a LEED Accredited Professional (AP)?
Here are some things to consider.

Exam fees for LEED AP are $350 for non-members and $250 for members.

The LEED Reference Guide - the main source of study material for the exam - is $200 for non-members, $150 for members, and $125 when purchased in conjunction with a LEED educational program.

The time commitment for this exam depends on your commitment to studying.

It's recommended that you have:

  • Tenure in green building and construction industry knowledge.

  • Familiarity with documentation process for LEED certified projects.

  • Knowledge of LEED credit intents, requirements, submittals, technologies and strategies within your discipline.

  • Practical experience working with multiple design disciplines.

  • Understanding of life cycle cost and benefits of LEED.

  • Familiarity with LEED resources and processes.

    No two exam candidates come to the test center with the same level of knowledge. Because experience and educational backgrounds are unique, these considerations should be taken into account when considering study methods. While some candidates may take the exam without any study, the majority spend time preparing. Because the exam measures the candidate's ability to facilitate the integrated design process and his/her knowledge of the LEED Rating System and the resources and processes involved with the project certification process, the best way to prepare is to understand the rating system requirements and processes and their application in practice.

    Sidebar Three

    Green Earth Development
    Green Renovation

    Home built in 1911 transformed into Green Earth Development office

    Michael Jeppesen sees the future of Green Building, and it is here and now.

    As owner and president of Green Earth Development of Salt Lake City, Jeppesen decided to pursue Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy Efficient Design) Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for the $500,000 renovation of an old home built in 1911 into his company's headquarters.

    Jeppesen's firm acts as a developer, or as an owner's representative for developers, and his entire practice is devoted to the construction of sustainable projects and developments.

    But it wasn't until he attended the USGBC's Greenbuild 2006 national convention in Denver last year that made him bite the bullet on going through with the added cost to apply for LEED certification.

    "We went to Greenbuild (2006) and it was pretty exciting," said Jeppesen.

    "The analogy that somebody made was 'building your building green and not getting the (LEED) certificate is kind of like going to college and not getting your degree. I believe you can have a green building and not have it LEED certified. However, I believe LEED is the pre-eminent system and context to understand and get our arms around what it means to build a green building."

    Designed by GSBS Architects of Salt Lake City, and constructed by Entelen Design-Build, LLC of Sandy, Utah, the Green Earth Development office is a 5,000 sq. ft. renovation that includes energy-efficient systems, low-VOC paints and adhesives, three Solatube daylighting devices and recycled products and materials.

    Jeppesen said the building is also photo-voltaic (PV) "ready", meaning all he has to do is find an affordable PV system and have it installed.

    "What I look at in my practice as a developer, and for my clients, is if we can get that payback in 10 years or less, it makes sense," said Jeppesen.

    "Eventually, (green building) will be mainstream - buildings will just be done this way."

    "The LEED program assures that you're following up and making sure things are being done right," said Jim Davis, project manager for Entelen. "The LEED program assures accountability in documentation. It's very stringent on following up to make sure things are done they way there were designed.
    There is accountability throughout the construction process."

    "My feeling is, a lot of lip service has been paid to this in the past and we're really just starting to get off the ground," added Rob Burby, director of Business Development for Entelen. "We're going to see a lot of progress in the next two years - it's going to be exciting to be part of it."

    Jeppesen said one of the main factors owners should consider with green or sustainable buildings are the people who occupy them, primarily employees.

    "When you look at what the costs are for an employer, the bottom line is labor is about 90 percent of an employer's entire overhead," said Jeppesen. "The biggest factor of green construction will be employees. It's about people and creating more healthy environments. There will continue to be significant impact and risk to employees who are occupying buildings that are unhealthy.

    Those costs far outweigh the energy costs immediately."

    Jeppesen said according to the website, employees in non-daylit buildings called in sick an average of 20 days in a 120-day period, compared to only five sick days for employees working in buildings with natural daylight.

    "You can significantly reduce your labor costs if a building is done appropriately," said Jeppesen. "We have an amazing tool with sustainable design to offset our total operating costs, not just energy. It's an economic risk to not pursue more sustainable buildings."

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