10/01/2010

Cover Story: Top 10 LEED Projects

This fifth annual installment examines a variety of outstanding LEED projects—all of which exemplify excellence in sustainable commercial interior design and architecture.


By Robert Nieminen and Jamie Nicpon
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One of the most common criticisms of the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Rating System is that there is often a disconnect between the projected energy savings and performance of a building

in the design and modeling phase versus how it actually performs in its daily operations. If the mechanical systems (such as HVAC, lighting and shading controls, etc.) are not properly calibrated and maintained, or the occupants don't use the space as intended, or there are unanticipated energy usage patterns that were unaccounted for during modeling, then the end result will be a monument to irony: a "green" building that wastes energy—not to mention a target for potential lawsuits from clients who were promised a return on their investment.

A sustainable project is only as good as it performs, and the only way to know whether or not a building is performing to its maximum efficiency it to measure it. That's why last year the USGBC announced its Building Performance Partnership (BPP)—a program to engage owners and managers of commercial and residential LEED-certified buildings to optimize the performance of those facilities through data collection, analysis and action. This summer, the USGBC opened the program to all current whole-building LEED-certified commercial and residential projects with the hopes of creating a comprehensive green building performance database and enabling standardization of reporting metrics and analytics to establish new building performance benchmarks.

The LEED buildings that participate in the partnership will receive annual information on performance—specifically comparing predicted performance versus actual performance. It is important to note that no building will be decertified for performance or a performance gap; rather, this information will be used to inform and help projects achieve higher levels of efficiency.

Additionally, the report will show aggregated data of similar buildings and certification levels, and will act as a case study of a project's strong performance and/or significant improvement. Currently, more than 120 projects are participating in "phase one," and these projects will receive a basic performance report in time for Greenbuild in Chicago this November.

Until then, we are happy to present our fifth annual Top 10 LEED Projects, all of which exemplify excellence in sustainable commercial interior design and architecture. Many of these projects are the first in their geographical locations to earn the distinction of being LEED-certified; one of them even has the unique honor of also being listed on the National Register of Historic Places (see p. 49). We acknowledge that these projects are not perfect, and we do not have the luxury of having their actual performance data in hand. However, what we do know is that the people who designed and built them made significant strides in reducing the environmental footprints of these facilities—creating beautiful, functional, healthy spaces for their clients in the process. And that is something worth celebrating.


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