LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. If you read this closely, you’ll notice that sustainable design clearly requires leadership.
As the champion for LEED projects at BRPH, I am often tasked with providing this leadership and guiding our clients to a sustainable solution that fits their project and budgetary needs. A question often asked by clients is- “What level of certification can my project achieve with minimal impacts to the budget?” Since we primarily work with corporations and government organizations, there is a financial limit to their sustainable design investment that we must adhere to. During the discovery process of the initial sustainable design charrette, most clients validate the thresholds to their sustainable design investment with the help of our team.
The Board of Directors and leadership within each organization are held accountable to stockholders or tax payers. Therefore, sustainable design limits must be held in check. The first LEED credits to target are the low hanging fruit elements that are already essential to the project. In other words, they are things we would do regardless because it is good design practice or it is part of the building program.
Reserving Low-Emitting and Fuel-Efficient (LEFE) parking for compliant vehicles is one such option. Reserving 5% of the total parking stalls for LEFE vehicle parking yields 3 points with minimal cost for signage. Credits such as public-transportation access adds no cost to the project yet provides 6 points. This credit is solely dependent on the proximity of the project site to public transportation. Our Harris Technology Center and Boeing 40-58 CWC projects achieved both of these credits.
Secondly, we target credits that have a high Return on Investment (ROI). The primary LEED categories that offer a high ROI tend to be Energy and Atmosphere, and Water Efficiency.
For energy efficiency, BRPH prepares an eQUEST energy model that simulates a baseline project for comparison against our actual design project. We can identify building performance variations through evaluation of construction assemblies, fixtures, and equipment. After identification, we submit these sustainable design options to the client for approval.
In comparison, water efficiency is easier to calculate based upon the project’s full time equivalent (FTE) occupancy. This occupancy is determined by how the building will actually be used rather than the building code occupancy. Additionally, the plumbing fixture industry has made great strides in developing water efficient fixtures. Because of this and other factors, a 35 to 40% water reduction is common with most projects seeking to achieve LEED certification.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), also referred to as “corporate citizenship,” involves incurring short-term costs that do not provide an immediate financial benefit to the organization. CSR promotes positive social and environmental change, rather than producing clear monetary savings.
Numerous sustainable design credits focus on the social wellbeing of the organization. Credits such as natural daylighting and views are designed within the project and are geared towards enhancement of the workspace experience for staff. Focusing on these design elements lends to higher LEED credits while promoting increased production, staff morale and retention.
A majority of BRPH projects are contracted as Design-Build, so our construction partners play a critical role in the sustainable success of our projects. Approximately 60% of credits occur during the design phase, and the remaining 40% occur during the construction phase of the project. By accurately projecting credit probability prior to the construction phase of the project, we can minimize the associated risk of achieving our certification monetary threshold.
As the LEED Leader of our projects, we take pride in guiding our owners through establishing their design threshold based on financial choices. Each credit has a cost, whether it is design, construction, administrative or operational. We are the leaders and trusted advisors for our clients and construction partners through this process and continue to make strides in designing the most energy efficient buildings without breaking the bank.
Shad is a Senior Architect who has spent the past 11 years of his career here at BRPH. He has 28 years of experience in architectural design, including new construction, renovation and expansion for commercial and government projects. He also ensures project QC, and as LEED Administrator, he tracks LEED credits and prepares documentation to certify projects with USGBC.