18 January 2008

To LEED or not to LEED...

I finally got around to taking (and passing) the LEED exam this past Friday. For those who don’t know, this exam is sponsored by the US Green Building Council and is to help facilitate LEED-certified buildings in the USA. According to their website, "The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings." The standards lead to various levels of building certification by obtaining credits, with a Platinum building being the highest. Obviously the system is not perfect and is limited to the USA, but it is fairly comprehensive in what it strives for. There are six main categories that need to be tracked for all projects.

  • Site sustainability – choosing appropriate sites to develop and encouraging alternative transportation.

  • Water efficiency – reducing water use through better fixtures, reducing potable water use both in buildings and landscaping.

  • Energy and Atmosphere – optimizing energy performance of buildings and incorporating on-site renewable energy.

  • Materials and Resources – diverting construction waste from landfills, reusing materials and structure of existing buildings, using regional, recycled, and rapidly renewable materials.

  • Indoor Environmental Quality – utilizing appropriate ventilation, use of low emitting materials, control of lighting and thermal comfort, and maximizing daylight and views into spaces.

  • Innovation in Design – encouraging innovation to come up with new strategies for sustainability.

According to this link provided by latter-day sustainablist, the Church is looking at the feasibility of LEED-certifying their meetinghouses. The company, Ambient Energy, based in Colorado, used a typical LDS chapel and provided "energy modeling to support using LEED on all of the LDS future meeting houses." To my knowledge, there has not, as yet, been any LEED-certified buildings done by the Church, so this is good news. I can only hope they move forward with this.

On a similar note, the new City Creek Center development in downtown Salt Lake that is being funded by the LDS Church is considering LEED. Back in 2005, the Deseret News reported on this possibility in the article, Salt Lake mall project may go 'green'. All I have recently been able to find is in the FAQ of the City Creek website, where the question is asked, "Will the project be LEED Certified?" They responded that they "will follow LEED principles in design, construction and operation of the project. However, no decision has been made on applying for LEED certification."

My response to this is why wouldn't they seek certification? Remember that just to be certified is the lowest possible rating for LEED, having to achieve only 26 of the 69 credits possible. Upwards from this is 33 credits for Silver, 39 for Gold, and 52 for Platinum. So to not even be committed to a simple certification is disappointing, especially two years into such an enormous project. Following LEED principles on the project, as is stated that they are doing, would easily get them a certification or higher.


Latter-Day Sustainablist said...

Congrats on passing the LEED exam. I keep putting it off.

I like your idea of the church having standard plans for different types of climates. Another improvement they should consider: a trap door below the pulpit for long-winded speakers!

Even with a LEED certification on the City Creek Center, would they have been better off remodeling rather than demolishing the existing buildings? It seems a waste of all that embodied energy. That said, I think the project will do good things for downtown SLC.

Catherine said...

I applaud you (standing ovation) for passing the LEED exam and encouraging sustainable building practices in the Church. I stumbled upon your blog a couple of days ago, and I am very interested in these topics. I am an avid environmentalist and I also have MCS (multiple chemical sensitivities), so I have a personal interest in indoor air quality. Our two church buildings here in Helena, Montana are slated to have some remodeling done in the next few months (new carpet, upholstery and an elevator in one of the buildings). My husband is in the stake presidency and thus has some input. He has spoken with the area person (church employee) about indoor air quality (materials used, outgassing, ventilation), and I gave this person some information that I found about low VOC materials and ventilation during and after the remodeling. The biggest problem with our stake center is the HVAC system, which is inefficient and really just circulates the stale air from one room to another, without any true outside air exchange, so I am concerned about the outgassing of materials. I gave them some information about low VOC materials and using tacks, not glue. One of the buildings is scheduled to be done in March, the other in July. I am concerned not just for my own health, but especially for children. Do you have any other suggestions I could pass on?

green mormon architect said...

Thanks latter-day sustainablist and catherine. The project I'm working on is going for a Silver rating, so that helped motivate me to get it done. Great idea about the trap door - maybe it could lead to a recycling room. But, then again, we wouldn't want to recycle long-winded speakers!

Catherine - sounds like you are doing a great job giving them correct information. If you could find out who the local architect is, they will be specifying the selections, which will go a long way towards getting the quality of materials required. I would think a call (or lunch) from the area rep or stake pres (representing all the local users of the buildings) to the architect would go a long ways. They will want the building to be successful as well.

Hopefully they would put in a good carpet that is CRI certified (Carpet and Rug Institute is a good resource and website) as well as an appropriate adhesive. Obviously they will need to ventilate during and after construction.

If the hvac system does not bring in any outside air, one thing that will really help is installing better air filters (minimum MERV 13). This will remove almost all pollutants that keep circulating through the building.

Additionally, entrance grilles or mats go a long way towards keeping out dirt and moisture.

Finally, using appropriate cleaning products, including mops and vacuums will also make a difference in keeping out and removing unwanted air pollutants.

Catherine said...

Thank you for your suggestions. I will certainly discuss them with my husband so they get passed on to the right person(s). Keep posting.