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Session 18: Green Building Evaluation Tools

Thursday, July 17, 1997
2:45 - 4:00 pm



This session presented tools to evaluate the environmental performance of a building and its components holistically, as a system.

Ms. Weber explained that "green buildings" are becoming a popular way of reducing humanity's global, regional, and local environmental impacts, but that tools need to be developed and implemented to determine how "green" a building is. She said that the Department of Energy is working towards the development of such tools, not just for buildings, but for other products as well. As an example, Ms. Weber suggested that everyone investigate the P2-EDGE software, a pollution prevention environmental design guide for engineers to compare environmentally preferable products. The software is described in greater detail and can be downloaded at http://www.pnl.gov/doesustainabledesign/.

Speaker 1: Juri Skopek, ECD Energy and Environment Ltd., Canada

Mr. Skopek is the managing director of ECD Energy and Environment Ltd., an environmental consulting firm whose prime business is BREEAM. Following postgraduate studies at University College, London, he became a planning consultant for the governments of Sultanate of Oman and Qatar on community development and government land use policies. In Saudi Arabia he designed the new town of Jizan and was the chief urban designer for the new campus of King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah. He moved to Edmonton where he was a city planner, responsible for Land Use Control and Urban Design.

Juri Skopek is the managing director of ECD Energy and Environment Ltd., a Canadian environmental consulting firm that has developed a green building evaluation tool called BREEAM.

Mr. Skopek explained that BREEAM is the most widely used international method of assessing the environmental quality and performance of buildings. It was originally developed in the United Kingdom by the British Research Establishment who worked with the members of the building industry, including Realtors, to develop the program. BREEAM has been used or adapted to suite local conditions in the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Norway, Greece, Spain, France, Holland, Canada, and now the United States.

BREEAM was originally developed to help architects during the design phase. It was recently expanded to evaluate existing buildings and provide recommendations for improving their environmental performance.

The BREEAM evaluation process issues credits for every aspect of a building that improves its environmental performance. The process examines two major parts of the building--the building itself and the operation and management of the building.

The building is examined to measure global, local, and indoor environmental impacts, including: Global issues: carbon dioxide emissions, factors that contribute to acid rain (NOx emissions), use of ozone depleting substances, and use of recycled materials. Local issues: water conservation efforts, microbial contamination, access to public transportation, and access to showers and bike parking. Indoor issues: lighting issues, air quality, hazardous material usage, radon, indoor noise, and avoiding microbial contamination due to hot water systems.

The building's operation and management system is similarly examined to measure global, local, and indoor environmental impacts. It includes an evaluation of the building's environmental policies, energy management plan, preventative maintenance issues, etc.

All of the factors related to the building's environmental impact are assigned points. The points are added and subtracted to assign the building a final score. The assessment process consists of an extensive questionnaire that is followed by a 1-day assessment. BREEAM prepares a provisional report that is reviewed by the building owners for their comments before a final report and certificate are issued. Certificates are available for the building itself and for the operation and maintenance of the building.

According to Mr. Skopek, the advantages to undergoing a BREEAM review are:

Mr. Skopek concluded with a brief slide show documenting some of the buildings that have undergone BREEAM reviews. He also mentioned that the base price for a BREEAM review is $3,500 Canadian and that the price increases in proportion to the size of the building up to a maximum of $6,000 Canadian.

Question & Answers for Juri Skopek:

Q: Is BREEAM a participant in the Green Building Challenge?
A: (Skopek) Yes, and is a very active participant. The Green Building Challenge folks are doing good things and promoting good ideas.

Q: Why undergo a BREEAM review? It sounds expensive.
A: (Skopek) We are still learning to quantify the bottom line benefits. Originally, the program was designed to help architects and engineers during the design phase. We are just now expanding it to evaluate existing buildings. There are still substantial benefits in corporate image and employee morale.

Speaker 2: Bill Reed, Hillier Group

Mr. Reed's practice originally focused on incorporating passive solar design principles into residential and commercial architecture. It has since expanded to include the integration of green architecture and sustainable design into not only building projects but as a way of thinking in the communities within which our buildings function. He is the principal of the Hillier Group's Washington, D.C. office. He serves as an officer with the US Green Building Council; as an instructor for the Passive Solar Industries Council; co-chair for the ASTM Task Group on Residential Green Building Standards; and is Deputy Mayor of the town of Chevy Chase, MD.

Bill Reed serves as an officer with the U.S. Green Building Council, which has also developed an environmental building rating system called LEED, a scoring based system similar to BREEAM, but with a slightly different focus.

The U.S. Green Building Council is a consortium of contractors, planners, architects, engineers, and the rest of the U.S. building industry. They decided that they needed to establish a threshold for identifying green buildings. This threshold will rise as new products, methods, and procedures are introduced.

The Green Building Council developed its own green building measure because it was concerned that other international measures, including ISO and BREEAM, would not be adequately applicable given the unique nature of U.S. culture.

The LEED system is less comprehensive and complex than other systems, including BREEAM, and focuses solely on the building envelope. LEED is less complicated, to help facilitate its use.

Another major difference between LEED and BREEAM is that the Green Building Council allows individual architects to evaluate their buildings, rather than relying on outside experts to certify the building. Architects must stamp their self-evaluation with their license, as they do to certify their building designs. This introduces a comfortable level of integrity into the system.

LEED also has some of the highest thresholds for determining "greenness." There are actually several awards under the LEED standard: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. Before being eligible for an award, buildings must meet 13 prerequisites in the following categories: asbestos, building commissioning, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, ozone depletion/CFCs, smoking ban, storage and collection of recyclables, thermal comfort, water conservation, and water quality.

Buildings meeting the prerequisites are rated based on "credits" that can be accrued from the following categories: building materials, construction waste management, energy use, renewable energy, existing building rehabilitation, indoor air quality, landscaping/exterior design, occupant recycling, operations and maintenance facilities, ozone depletion/CFCs, siting, transportation, water conservation, and water quality.

A total of 44 credits, plus 3 bonus credits are available. Buildings receiving the platinum award must receive at least 91 percent (41) or more of the available credits; gold buildings 81-90 percent (36-40) of the available credits; silver buildings 71-80 percent (32-35); and bronze 50-70 percent (22-31).

Mr. Reed concluded his presentation by repeating that all other measurement tools are also effective. The U.S. Building Council developed their own to help promote use of them throughout the United States. They were concerned that the other tools being developed were too complicated to be easily integrated into the U.S. corporate culture. He hopes that at some point in the near future there will be a general understanding of what defines a green building and a strong effort to "green" all buildings.

Questions & Answers:

Q: What percentage of buildings currently meet LEED certification?
A: (Reed) Obviously, not all buildings have been evaluated. Current estimates suggest that only 10 percent of the buildings in the United States are capable of meeting the bronze level, the lowest of the four categories.

Q: What is the cost of getting LEED certified?
A: (Reed) Architects are supposed to use the criteria when they are designing buildings so there aren't costs involved from that perspective. However, like the BREEAM system, you can use the LEED criteria to evaluate existing buildings. The price is comparable to the prices Juri Skopek cited.

Speaker 3: David Aiken, General Services Administration

David Aiken works with the General Services Administration, which oversees a wide variety of federal procurement needs, including building acquisitions and design. He is currently examining the acquisition of 115 new federal courthouses over the next 15 years at a cost approaching $5.1 billion. GSA will be maximizing sustainable design principles within current budgetary constraints.

GSA has been green for a while. Mr. Aiken showed slides of a 1971 environmental demonstration project that incorporated several banks of solar panels. GSA hasbeen involved with solar programs, advanced technology buildings, intelligentworkspaces, and "sustainable" green buildings throughout the years.

GSA is currently examining how green they can afford to be. They are examining numerous issues, including:

To develop a strategic plan for integrating sustainable design principles into the new federal courthouses, GSA gathered a group of experts who created a list of 150 recommendations and divided the list based on a benefit/cost analysis into three cost categories--low, moderate, and high. Proceedings from this November 14, 1996, meeting should be available in a few more weeks.

The expert panel examined sustainable design issues as they would be applied in Denver, CO, and in Washington, D.C.. Their reasoning was that these represented two extremes in local environmental conditions, not the least of which was weather patterns. GSA is hoping to use this information to create a green building criteria for GSA to incorporate into a GSA facilities standards document that would be used to design and acquire all new buildings.

Some of the low cost options that GSA examined include covered walkways, increased windows, xeroscaping, mass transit, pressurized entryways, energy efficient lighting, low flow toilet fixtures, recycled materials, and the use of low VOC products.

Some of the more moderate costs GSA examined included geothermal groundwater heating, active solar displays, videotaped operation and maintenance training, waterless toilets, secure cyclist parking, occupancy sensors to control lighting, HVAC controls, infra-red low flow faucets.

The more high cost alternatives included fuel cells, gray water systems, extensive environmental control sensors, light tubes to convey exterior light indoors, photovoltaic fan power, and a dynamic building envelope.

All of these options present both economic and environmental tradeoffs. Just as an example, while increased window space reduces the need for artificial lights, it increases the strain on the HVAC system.

Mr. Aiken also explained that courthouses have their own unique design specifications. For example, each must be designed as three interconnected buildings so that the judges, criminals, and public only interact in the courtroom. All entrances, offices, and corridors must keep the three types of occupants separate.

Questions & Answers:

Q: Has anyone contacted the financial community to explain the advantages of paying more for a green building?
A: (Reed) Yes, the Green Building Council is actively working with members of the financial community to explain that it is less expensive to maintain green buildings and that they will have a higher resale value. The finance community is waking up, particularly the insurance industry. The insurance industry stands to lose $1.7 trillion if the ocean rises 6 inches. As a result, the insurance industry is promoting efforts to curb green house gases and other things that might affect the global climate.
A: (Skopek) Yes, the same thing is true in Canada. The financial and insurance companies are more likely to concern themselves with environmental issues now than in the recent past.

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