5) Look to the Roof
Got a blacktop roof? Depending on your climate, it could be absorbing much more solar heat than necessary – and taxing your HVAC system. This fix could earn you a Sustainable Sites point and lower your energy consumption at the same time.
“A relatively easy win that buildings wouldn’t normally do if they weren’t pursuing LEED is to have reflective material or paint on the roof,” says Dengler. “A white roof is more cost-effective, and because it’s reflective, it actually increases the life of the roof. It also reduces the urban heat island effect and cools the first few floors under the roof.”
Either paint or a membrane works, Dengler says, as long as it covers at least 75% of the roof surface and meets the high solar reflectance index (SRI) defined in the official EBOM guidelines. Normal aging will lower the SRI value, she adds, so choose a product that can still achieve high reflectance after a couple years of weathering.
6) Enlist Tech Tools
Your building management system (BMS) can help you target efficiency – and the points that come along with it – more easily, Dengler says.
Start with real-time data from the BMS (if your system can support that) and add historical records, such as utility billing information, to present a more comprehensive picture of your annual energy consumption. Context is key, because a season that was notably extreme or surprisingly mild will affect your calculations.
“The most important thing you can do to understand your energy usage is either monitoring it in real-time or looking closely at your records to see trends over time,” Dengler explains. “You’d think it would be straightforward, but it’s not. You might have a hot summer one year and a cooler summer the next year. You have to compare your consumption against what your systems are able to provide in a certain scenario, so having software or a consulting firm in place to analyze this is key for energy efficiency.”
A BMS can also help track generation from renewable energy sources and substantiate claims of lowered energy consumption after you hone the building’s efficiency, Dengler notes, making it a valuable tool in documenting performance for your LEED application.
7) Green Your Purchasing Process
Of the 10 points possible in the Materials and Resources category, six cover sustainable purchasing policies, as does one of the prerequisites.
On top of that, your pest treatment choices affect your ability to earn a Sustainable Sites credit, and several Indoor Environmental Quality credits focus on sustainable cleaning solutions, equipment, and more.
To meet the prerequisite, you’ll have to implement an Environmentally Preferrable Purchasing policy in your organization using USGBC’s policy model, provided free in its official guide to EBOM. (The current EBOM standards were issued in 2009, and the next update, LEED v4, is set for release in 2013. LEED 2009 will remain available for three years after v4’s release.)
To give your building a fighting chance with the optional credits, though, you need to make sure your vendors and outside service providers are on board with stricter purchasing policies covering everything from recycled content to labeling. Cleaning in particular offers many opportunities to substitute healthier materials, Ackerstein notes.
“With green cleaning, the marketplace has really responded and the main product providers have been exceptionally aggressive in providing cost-effective alternatives to meet marketplace needs,” Ackerstein says. “Integrated pest management is developing more slowly because of the regional nature of pest control and the need to develop long-term, effective solutions in every microclimate and ecosystem.”
The policy template USGBC provides is easily adaptable to vendor agreements, Thomas adds. For example, the integrated pest management section offers a great outline for a pest control provider. You’ll also use this template to update internal policies and procedures.
“I would suggest that a site take the integrated pest management plan that’s part of the LEED certification process and attach it to your vendor contract,” Thomas says. “You could pull pieces out and try to embed it in the contract, requiring the vendor to abide by that plan in addition to what that vendor is already doing with you. In most cases, a good quality vendor’s going to say, ‘Yes, we can do that.’”
8) Remember the Big Picture
Five years after earning certification, you’ll have to get your building recertified by LEED if you want to maintain your designation, so don’t let your sustainable practices lapse. This requirement is unique to EBOM and underscores the importance of operating and maintaining facilities sustainably. Keep enforcing those green policies and monitoring energy and water consumption – records can only help you as you move closer to recertification time.
Good management is the key to this, Ackerstein says. Prepare your staff to operate the building sustainably for the long haul by providing the time, resources, and education they need to work efficiently in your newly certified building. And don’t forget the core message – LEED is a vehicle for sustainability, not just prestige.
“When you’re thinking about all the mechanics of the certification process, asking, ‘Can I earn this credit? Can I get this point?’, it’s easy to become focused on the credit requirements, calculations, and the semantics of credit language,” Ackerstein explains. “But even if you can’t earn a LEED point, ask yourself if you can make progress toward that point that will benefit the environment. Fundamentally, the environment doesn’t care if you earn a LEED point.”
Janelle Penny email@example.com is associate editor of BUILDINGS.