Green Building Trends
More and More Owners, A/E/S Professionals
Realizing Value of Sustainability
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
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
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.
David Brems' experience with green design goes back to the
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,
"These are buildings that are undesirable to occupy,
unhealthy, and they use far more energy than they should,"
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."
Understanding LEED Key for Subcontractors
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
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
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.
How to Become a LEED Accredited ProfessionalTenure in green building and construction industry knowledge.
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
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
The time commitment for this exam depends on your commitment
It's recommended that you have:
Familiarity with documentation process for LEED certified
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.
Green Earth Development
Home built in 1911 transformed into Green Earth Development
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
"We went to Greenbuild (2006) and it was pretty exciting,"
"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
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 www.betterbricks.com,
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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