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Behind LEED

Wednesday, August 14, 2019 3:17 PM | Douglas Shilo (Administrator)

Today, there are so many green building standards to choose from, including CHIPS, LEED, Passivhaus, Energy Star, Living Building Challenge, … too many to even try to list them all. So, what’s the right standard for your building? Well, that depends on what story you want your building to tell. Let’s take a look at a couple examples.

  • ·         Do you want to cut down on your energy bills? Well, the EPA’s Energy Star and Watersense programs are a great place to start. Get appliances with these labels, and you’re already doing better than most. Check for “Most Efficient” to get the really good stuff. But why stop there?
  • ·         If you want to go really low-energy, then Passivhaus is the way to go. When you get this efficient, you can downsize the equipment you get, and potentially start realizing savings immediately. You can even use Passivhaus as a way to make your building “net-zero ready”.
  • ·         If you add solar panels to that roof, and succeed in producing as much energy as you use, the DOE’s Net Zero, Living Building Institute’s Zero Energy, or LEED’s Net Zero programs would all be great fits for your project.

Thanks to energy models and accurate data, designers can easily make a compelling economic case for high-performance buildings. Building owners are savvy to this, and are mandating these standards (if not always for environmental stewardship, then at least for their pocketbooks!). For those that remain unconvinced, building codes are requiring more and more efficient buildings as a baseline. In fact, NH’s energy code will be updated next month. This is all encouraging news, and I hope this emboldens designers and building owners alike to create high-performance buildings. 

So, what’s next? Are we done? No way! LEED consists of 57 possible credits. Most of these have nothing to do with what we’ve talked about so far. In fact, if you remove all the credits that have to do with water and energy efficiency, it’s still possible to get LEED Platinum certification. Don’t believe me? Here’s a theoretical scorecard for you! So, there’s a lot left to explore, and the next step is convincing building owners there’s money in all these other credits. It’s easier than you think!

For example, let’s focus on the Indoor Environmental Quality credits. You can use daylighting, acoustic isolation, low-emitting materials, indoor air quality, ergonomics, and thermal comfort to boost productivity in measurable ways. All told, you can expect a 16% productivity gain in green workplaces vs. non-green workplaces. As new research about these gains comes to the fore, it becomes easier to quantify these previously “soft” decisions, converting them to “hard” ones. As you business owners know, employee costs increasingly dwarf operating costs. So, expand your focus to include wellness – or be left in the dust.


See you in the field,

Doug Shilo, LEED AP BD+C, AIA

USGBC NH Chapter Co-chair

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