LEED® Articles from Detroit ASHRAE Chapter Newsletter – Sept., 2004 to Present

LEEDing the Way to Tomorrow – Today


The Differences between ASHRAE’s bEQ Labeling Program and ASTM’s BEPA Standard, What They Accomplish and How They Are Going to Affect Your Business - April, 2012

ASTM’s Building Energy Performance Assessment (BEPA) became an ANSI Standard on February 10, 2011. ASHRAE’s Building Energy Quotient (bEQ) labeling program was published on March 2, 2011, after almost three years in the making.

BEPA provides a consistent methodology for collecting, compiling, and analyzing building energy performance by considering a building’s total annual energy use and cost of energy. Design engineers need to know the type of information that goes into this report as the BEPA report can provide much of the standardized information that goes into the bEQ report.

The bEQ is a report card of energy use and indoor air quality (IAQ) in an existing building - or prospective energy use for a building being designed. A building’s bEQ grade will range from A+ to F. All other factors being equal, if two similar, existing buildings are up for sale or are seeking tenants, the building with the higher grade will likely be the winner, as a buyer or prospective lessee will realize that building will have lower energy bills resulting in lower operations costs.

The bEQ also helps building owners and facility managers better understand the EUI (Energy Utilization Index) standards that may soon be applied to their buildings. These standards have been in place in the European Union for the past several years, and are already being mandated by a number of municipalities, counties and states in the U.S.

Newman Consulting Group was one of only 16 energy auditors ASHRAE selected to beta test the bEQ labeling program. We audited a 755,000 SF municipal building in Southeast Michigan that was constructed in the mid-1950s. The audit confirmed that measures they had previously taken were effective.

Whether you’re a design engineer, a service contractor, or a design-build firm, you need to be aware of the similarities and differences between the two programs. This is where we, as engineers, can help the client (or potential client) identify what they really need to know and what they need to do to improve their grade so they can attract buyers and/or tenants.  Used wisely, bEQ and BEPA can offer opportunities for creating new profit centers for your company or organization.

New Laws and Standards – April, 2011 

The State of Michigan adopted ASHRAE Energy Standard 90.1-2007 in early March, leap-frogging past ICC 2006, which referenced 90.1-2004. The state’s building code still referenced 90.1-1999.

The 2012 IGCC (International Green Construction Code) will be referencing Standard 90.1-2010 (much more stringent than -2007), as well as Standard 189.1-2009, the Standard for the Design of High Performance Green Buildings.

All the ASHRAE Advanced Energy Design Guides (AEDG) with their concepts for decreasing energy use by 30% for smaller buildings have been published. The new ones with concepts for 50% energy savings will be coming out soon. The 30% AEDGs are referenced in LEED 2009.

Many municipalities will be adopting ASHRAE Standard 189.1, written in code language, for new construction and major retrofits - as opposed to LEED Guidelines, which were never meant to be adopted as codes, but which have been put into the laws of many cities and even some states. Standard 189.1, with a lot of input from the USGBC, is heavily oriented toward the major concepts contained in LEED – and includes sections on commissioning and operations and maintenance.

The new ASTM BEPA (Building Energy Performance Assessment) Standards were released in February. It was developed to standardize the process of collecting building energy use data, compiling and analyzing it, and then disclosing it. ASHRAE’S Building Energy Quotient (bEQ) for rating the energy performance of existing buildings, which will make use of some of the aspects of the BEPA standard, may be out by June.

ASHRAE recently came out with their latest certification – Building Energy Assessment Professional (BEAP). This will be used to increase the credibility of those people and firms doing energy audits. In case you are not aware of what’s going on relative to this end of our business, there are many residential energy auditors, who wouldn’t know a boiler from a chiller, who are passing themselves off as commercial building energy auditors, much to the detriment of our profession. Further, many environmental firms, who perform Phase I and Phase II environmental inspections are moving into energy auditing areas. While some of the people in the environmental firms are engineers, they certainly are not HVAC engineers, but they have been working with municipalities for many years and are well-entrenched.

“Change” can now be added to “death” and “taxes” as one of the things that is inevitable – and change is happening at an ever-increasing pace. It is imperative that we all keep abreast of what is going on in the industry or we will be passed by. What’s one of the best ways to accomplish this? Be active in your local and national chapters of such organizations as ASHRAE, USGBC, etc. And “active” means more than just coming to meetings.

Get on committees, know what is contained in these new laws and Standards, get some of these new ASHRAE certifications to set yourself apart, make your voice heard, write to your legislators. Better yet, become involved at the municipal and state levels so legislators know what is going on from knowledgeable engineers rather than from attorneys and other lay people.

Carrots and Sticks - November, 2010

Are you keeping up with the new Codes and Standards that have just come out - or are about to come out?
We’ve written about the “carrots”, e.g., EPAct 2005 and ARRA 2009, etc. in previous columns, but what are some of the “sticks”?

Think about:

ASHRAE Standard 189.1 for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings that came out during the first quarter of this year, or
ASHRAE Energy Standard 90.1-2010, or
LEED 2009, all the variations of which reference the ASHRAE 2007 Standards, or
The ICC’s new International Green Construction Code (IGCC), which is scheduled to go into effect in 2012, or
ASHRAE’s about-to-be-published Building Energy Quotient (BEQ) Label, which should be out during the first quarter of 2011 (we were one of the 16 provisional energy auditors who performed the beta tests on this).  The building on which we worked, an Energy Star rated building in downtown Detroit with a score of 83, received a “B” on its report card that was automatically generated by the software in the program. What do you know about these? How are they going to impact your practice? What municipalities will be adopting, or already have adopted, some of these?

Remember, while LEED was meant to be only a “Guideline” for architects, engineers and constructors to use to design and build better buildings, it has been put into the laws of many building codes and has been used as the basis for many RFPs. But Standards are written in code language.  Standard 189.1 has already been adopted by some forward-thinking municipalities. Standard 90.1-2010 is more than 25% stricter than the 2004 Standard, and something similar to the BEQ label has been in use in the European Union for the past 2-3 years.

“Change” is happening at an ever-increasing pace. What are you doing to stay ahead of it – or even to keep up with it?

Thinking about the Future – and Being Ready for It - January, 2010

It’s a New Year.  What resolutions have you made to make sure you excel in your field of endeavor?

There are many new standards and regulations coming out – with ever-increasing frequency. We, as engineers, need to be aware of new developments in renewable energy as well as new developments in our field to conserve energy, such as hybrid systems that use less energy than standard systems. One example: hybrid geothermal systems that cost less and therefore have a faster payback than a standard full geo system. There are so many new innovations to know about.

The USGBC Greenbuild Convention held in Phoenix in November had 28,000+ attendees.  The ASHRAE convention in Orlando the end of this month will have more than 30,000 attendees and over 1,000 exhibitors. These conventions are filled with excellent speakers telling what they’ve done and what they’ve learned relative to what we as engineers need to know. It’s further education being handed to us on a plate. Remember what they say about technical education today, “When you’re out of college only 2 short years, half of what you just learned is already obsolete”.

If you can’t get to the national conventions, there are many other opportunities, i.e., regional and local seminars. The Engineering Society of Detroit (ESD), NextEnergy, Automation Alley and the local chapters of ASHRAE and USGBC as well as many other organizations, have seminars on an almost monthly basis from which you can learn – and at which you can meet new people and do some networking. And in today’s tough economic times, networking has assumed a new importance.

Many times it’s not only what you know but also who you know – and how well you know them.

Change is happening faster than ever.  It’s a difficult pace to keep up. Take advantage of the learning experiences that are all around you – they’re local, they’re not expensive and they don’t take up a lot of your time.

There’s a Chinese saying, “If we do not change our direction, we are likely to end up in the place we are headed.” Today, more than ever before, you have to get out of your “comfort zone”.

Make your plan and work your plan. Make this first year of the new decade a Good New Year – and a first-rate start for the next 10!

LEED 2009 - November/December, 2009

The new LEED 2009 has been out for several months.  It is divided into 2 parts: LEED Green Associate for those who don’t require a full LEED Accredited Professional designation, and a LEED AP in specific areas, e.g., Building Design and Construction (the old LEED-NC), Operations and Maintenance (the old LEED-EB), etc.

Those LEED APS who took the exam before July 1, 2009 and passed, will maintain their existing general LEED AP designation, but will be required to earn CEUs by 2011, similar to what is coming for PEs in Michigan.

The exam is now divided into 2 sections, similar to the P.E. exam.  Each section consists of 100 questions and is a 2 hour exam, as compared to the old exam, which was a total of 2 hours. The Green Associate is the first, more general part, while the second part is the specialization section where you have to decide whether you’re going to concentrate in new construction, existing building O & M, or something else.

Many building owners, municipalities, school districts, etc. are now asking how many LEED APs are on staff and what the LEED experience of the organization is – even if they’re not planning on getting their building LEED certified. We have experience in 17 LEED projects, on most of which we were the LEED Project Administrators, and have projects ranging from Certified to Gold, with several Platinum possibilities in the near future, one of which is a John Deere dealership in Des Moines, as well as some affordable homes for Habitat for Humanity.

The train has left the station and is picking up speed. Are you on it, or chasing it? If you need help, give us a call.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA 2009) - September, 2009

For anyone who hasn’t been following this act (and it ain’t easy), there is approximately $34 billion dollars moving from the Feds to the states for energy efficiency, weatherization, reduction of GHG emissions, etc.  It’s moving into the economy in stages through several different programs and is being administered primarily by states and various federal agencies.  So, the question is how do we, as members of ASHRAE, participate to ensure that the funds are spent wisely - and for their intended purposes?

It breaks down as follows:

  • Weatherization Assistance – for low-income family homes: $5B

  • Assisted Housing – improve efficiency of low-income, public and Indian housing: $1.76B

  • Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant – for energy audits, conservation, renewable energy and other initiatives: $3.2B

  • State Energy Program – to state energy offices for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, both public and private: $3.1B

  • Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds – to state and local governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: $3.2B

  • Green Schools – renovation of existing schools, including improving building efficiency: $9.75B

  • Federal Buildings – to a number of federal agencies, including DOD and GSA, to modernize buildings and make them more efficient: $8.5B

Note the total shown in bold - more than $27 billion dollars!

Are you positioned to take advantage of a portion of that? If so, congratulations!  If not, why not?

Be aware and be prepared

A word of caution is in order here. Think about it. With this much money coming down the pike, there already are people and companies out there representing themselves as energy auditors, retro-commissioning experts, “green” equipment salespeople, etc. These are people who know little or nothing about our industry but see an opportunity to make a fast buck.  With a laptop computer, a software program that spits out a fancy report, and a pickup truck (or perhaps a station wagon or a crossover vehicle – probably not even a hybrid at that), they are passing themselves off as experts.  In these areas. They will be our competition.  We’ve already seen it in the area of energy audits.

Be aware and be prepared to explain and to demonstrate your expertise.

Measurement & Verification (M & V) April, 2009

One of the credits in the LEED Rating System, in the Energy and Atmosphere (EA) section, provides for “The ongoing accountability of building energy consumption over time”.

There is an International Performance Measurement & Verification Protocol (IPMVP) for determining energy savings in new construction. The building and/or the energy systems are characterized through energy simulation or engineering analysis. This step must be done, as part of EA Prerequisite No. 2, Minimum Energy Performance, and in EA Credit No.1, Optimize Energy Performance, for all LEED projects.

The other technology that must be effected to attain this point is to install the necessary metering equipment to measure the actual energy use so that actual performance can be compared to predicted performance.

On June 26, 2007, USGBC instituted the prerequisite that LEED-NC certified buildings must surpass ASHRAE Energy Standard 90.1-2004 by 14%, and that LEED-EB buildings must surpass it by 7%. Prior to that time, many LEED-certified buildings had not been designed to perform any better, and consequently did not perform any better, relative to energy use than non-LEED-certified buildings.

The conundrum we are seeing is that the actual energy use in many buildings differs widely from what had been predicted. There are many reasons for this, some of which are as diverse as the personnel in the building and how they operate it, plug loads, hours of operation, HVAC equipment running when it’s supposed to be turned off, swings in HDD and/or CDD, etc. But the key ingredient in all of these is the actual energy used by the various components of the building.

What we truly need is a breakdown of the energy costs among the various energy-using systems in the building.  The only way to do this is by proper sub-metering. Years ago, to do this was almost prohibitively expensive. Today, that is not the case. Sub-metering the lighting, the HVAC systems, the elevators, and yes, even the “plug loads” so that performance can be tracked is essential to maintaining the energy efficiencies that have been designed into buildings by architects and engineers.

It is imperative to convince Owners that proper sub-metering, and tracking and paying attention to the information, is the only way they’ll be able to track the building and system degradation, or improper use, over time. A small cost when a building is constructed will pay off in large savings over the life of a building.

Sustainability – What’s It All About? – March, 2009

There are many definitions of Sustainability. Organizations such as ASHRAE, AIA and ASTM, the developers of building standards, all have definitions that are peculiar to their professions. But the one that has gained the most traction over the years came from the U.N. Commission on Environment and Development in 1987. It defines sustainable development as “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”.

What does this mean to the members of ASHRAE? In spite of the continuous automobile-bashing that’s always going on, buildings use more natural resources and contribute more greenhouse gases to the environment than the automobile industry. Buildings use more than 30% of the total energy, almost 70% of the electricity, create more than 30% of the greenhouse gas emissions and contribute approximately 136 million tons of construction and demolition waste every year, most of which ends up in landfills.

Architects and engineers have to be the ones who bring these numbers down – and we can and are doing it. More and more residential builders are building individual homes and subdivisions that are Green and Sustainable. There are neighborhoods being built in the U.S., Canada and Europe that are being built to be net zero energy and net zero waste.

And in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, an entire brand new city for 40,000 residents, set to be completed by 2016 on the Persian Gulf, similar to what we see in the middle schools’ Future Cities competition each year, is being designed and constructed. This city, called Masdar, will be designed to be a zero carbon footprint, zero waste settlement. It is planned to also have a carbon capture and sequestration project that will take CO2 emissions from industry in the emirate and store it in abandoned oil wells.

We are starting to see and hear new words like bio-mimicry, nanotechnology and others that are going to change how we live and work, and how we design, construct and retrofit buildings. As I said in my article in the July, 2008 construction issue of Technology Century, the magazine of the Engineering Society of Detroit, “The Industrial Revolution, which allowed us to enjoy our current standard of living, has also been a major contributor to many of the challenges we now face. But it will also be what allows us to solve the problems – and this period may very well come to be called the ‘Green’ Revolution.”

This is a period of great opportunity – position yourself to take advantage of it!

Look at all the options available to you today, both in equipment and in systems, relative to how systems are designed – and think outside the box!

Check out and go to ASHRAE’s Seminars on Sustainability (SOS for the Environment) at LTU on March 10, the ESD/DTE Energy Conference on May 5 at Rock Financial Center and USGBC – Detroit Regional Chapter’s Greening the Heartland May 31 - June 2 in downtown Detroit.

USGBC 2008 Greenbuild Convention – and LEED Version 3 – January, 2009

At this year’s convention in Boston, they had anticipated 25,000 attendees and actually had 29,873 – more than a 30% increase over last year’s convention in Chicago - and this while the Massachusetts AIA chapter was having its own major convention! It won’t be long until the USGBC conventions are as large as ASHRAE’s.

The completely revised version of LEED is right around the corner. It will bring the changes that will make LEED certification more transparent and more applicable to what is going on today in Green construction. LEED Version 3 is a reorganization of the existing systems, not a brand new system. In LEED 2009 there will no longer be all the separate rating systems: New Construction, Core and Shell, Commercial Interiors, etc., each with its own number of differing credits and points – but rather one system with a total of 100 points, plus 10 ID Credits, that will be familiar to those versed in the current LEED Rating System.

LEED 2009 utilizes what the USGBC calls a “weightings” process that will more accurately and consistently evaluate the environmental benefit of each LEED credit. Regionalization will take into account the differences and the issues in different parts of the country and the world.  For instance, the Southwest states (or Dubai, where I was when I wrote this column) would most likely value water conservation higher than the Great Lakes states, and will be able to get more points for better water efficiency under the Innovation in Design (ID) section. Eventually Life Cycle Assessment will be incorporated into the process. It will be started with some beta projects in 2009 with an expected introduction in 2010.

Of course, this means there will be some changes in the examination to become a LEED AP, to put it mildly. For those of you who have been thinking about it, now is the time to take the exam, as the new one will be very different and, of course, somewhat more difficult. That’s the way it always is…

The existing exam for LEED-NC and –CI will most likely be available until May, 2009 (the old LEED-EB is already over), with a final date to apply for them of March 31, but these dates are subject to change – so don’t wait. You can stay abreast of what’s happening and sign up for the exams on www.gbci.org.

Next month’s article will be on Sustainability and on the neighborhoods and cities that are being designed and built around the world to be net zero energy and net zero waste! We’re working on some of them. People are finally getting it!  Are you one of them?

Proper O & M Techniques and Processes – and Sustainability – September, 2008

The mantra of the new President of ASHRAE, Bill Harrison, is “Maintain to Sustain”.

What does this mean? It means everything we in ASHRAE and those of us who are engineers who are active in U.S. Green Building Council have been saying for years, i.e., we can design the most energy-efficient HVAC system on the planet but if it’s not operated and maintained properly and well, it will not perform anywhere near what it is capable of doing.

Many people today are talking about “integrated” design, where the MEP engineer is brought into the process early enough to have some say in the total building design. A lot of this has been brought about because of the increasing importance and knowledge of LEED-certified buildings, as well as the realization that if we’re going to be designing and constructing net zero energy buildings by the year 2030, we’d better pay more attention not just to design but also to operations and maintenance. Designing for zero net energy won’t do much good if the systems don’t work properly after a period of time.

When we are talking to an Owner about having their building LEED certified, we always mention the additional upfront cost involved with energy modeling and commissioning. At the same time we explain that these costs will typically save them more than they pay for them within the first 2 years. As the LEED consultants on projects, we do neither of these items, but rather recommend firms that perform them, so we have nothing to gain financially. Because of that, we are more able to gain the owner’s confidence and to convince them that it’s the smart thing to do.

In his Presidential address, President Harrison recommended that ASHRAE engineers become active in building organizations. We have been very active in some of those organizations for many years, and have done seminars, webcasts and podcasts on IAQ and Energy, and on Proper Operating and Maintenance for BOMA, IFMA, USGBC and others since 1990, as well as trade organizations locally and nationally. We have given O & M Seminars for the past 2 years at the Facility Management and Technology National and Regional Conventions, and will be doing our next one shortly after you read this article at their convention and expo in Las Vegas on September 16 and 17.

The new LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (called LEED-EB:O&M) Reference Guideline will be out by the time you read this article. Its emphasis is on proper operations and maintenance, and on green operating and purchasing practices, as well as on energy efficiency.

ASHRAE’s new Standard 180P, Standard Practice for Inspection and Maintenance of Commercial Building HVAC Systems, will be out soon. ASHRAE has information available at the touch of a button on energy audits, commissioning and most of the other topics we need to know about so we can do a better job. Make use of them – many of them are in the Handbooks, and the rest are inexpensive.

LEED Training and the Future – May, 2008

In the January Newsletter, we mentioned there were more than 12,000 organizations in USGBC as of the end of 2007. There are now well over 14,000 organizations and more people being certified as LEED Accredited Professionals every day. My company alone has trained more than 100 people at three different major General Contractors, their customers and their architects and engineers over the past several months to pass the LEED exam, and will be training another 100 architects, engineers and contractors during the next 2 months, both here and in other states.

LEED and Green and Sustainable design and construction has now reached the tipping point. It is not a fad – it is here to stay.  ASHRAE, USGBC, AIA and many other organizations, including the government, are firmly committed to the idea of net-zero energy buildings by 2030. ASHRAE Standard 189 for High-Performance Buildings should be out shortly and will be written in code language. As we mentioned in a recent article, many states and municipalities will be adopting it as part of their building codes. Even speculative developers are building LEED-certified projects. Why? Because they lease faster and, in many cases, for more money - and they sell faster.

USGBC has spun off their training and given it to a professional organization that will be changing the exams and be responsible for the training to take the exams. In the future it is expected that continuing education will be required to maintain LEED Accreditation, as may very well happen with the P.E. designation in the State of Michigan.

It is in your best interest to ”get with the program”. The local chapter of the USGBC is on the move, with interesting meetings and good programs, similar to ASHRAE.  Our chapter will be co-ordinating with them in the future even more closely than we have been to date. 

The Engineering Society of Detroit (ESD) is moving in July to a much larger space, with 3 large seminar rooms and smaller rooms for committee meetings. The new ESD headquarters will be LEED certified at a minimum level of Silver, with a potential of Gold Level Certification. We are coordinating that effort, as well as LEED Certified design and construction for Habitat for Humanity.

Our chapter has partnered with ESD to help us with marketing and chapter operations. This fall ESD will most likely be sponsoring LEED training with, or in addition to, the local USGBC chapter, including Technical Reviews for LEED-EB and LEED-CI.

There are many LEED training classes being offered, with the next USGBC-sponsored LEED-NC Technical Review class on June 18 in Ann Arbor. Additional classes that are being offered by the Detroit Regional chapter are as follows (dates are tentative):

  • LEED for Schools Technical Review . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  .October 15th

  • Understanding LEED Project Cost and Returns (1/2) day) . . . . . . .  November 6th

  • LEED-NC Technical Review . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..December 10th

Check out where and when classes are being offered and register for them by going to the link for Education on www.usgbc.org.

Have a great summer – and come back in the fall with a commitment to get your LEED accreditation, and to become more active in your ASHRAE and USGBC local chapters.

Potential Legal Complications of Green Buildings – February, 2008

At the ASHRAE Convention in New York City in January, there were several seminars on the legal ramifications of green buildings.  This spring there will be an article in Lexis Nexis, the reference guide of many attorneys. It will be Chapter 17D, entitled “Green Buildings and Sustainable Development”. This article will explain USGBC and LEED® Guidelines, mention various state and federal incentives for green buildings as well as point out some of the complexities for owners, architects, engineers and contractors relative to designing and constructing them.

Some of the legal issues brought forth are:

  • Who is responsible for the level of certification

  • Which party or parties are responsible for tracking, collecting, assembling and submitting the supporting documentation

  • Who is responsible if the project fails to achieve the desired sustainable rating, and what damages might flow from such a failure

  • Might green construction procedures, construction materials, systems or techniques not comply with existing state or municipal regulations.  Remember, codes and standards typically are behind technology by at least 2-5 years.

  • Might the time frame for completion of the project be extended

These are only a few of the potential complexities that are added to the already complex procedure of building construction.

For design professionals, there can be additional liability when signing credit submittal templates for certification under LEED. These could potentially trigger an exclusion in professional liability policies.

When I gave my first talk on IAQ at an IFMA Convention in Baltimore in 1990, there had been no jury trials in IAQ cases. By the mid-1990s there were entire floors of attorneys making lots of money on IAQ cases.

This same thing is starting to happen relative to Green building. Be careful!

USGBC Yesterday and Today – January, 2008

When I wrote the first column on USGBC and LEED for this newsletter in September of 2004, USGBC consisted of 4000 organizations. Today there are more than 12,000 organizations, more than 100,000 members and more than 42,000 LEED Accredited Professionals.

The first GreenBuild Convention I attended 5 years ago had 4000 attendees and 75 exhibitors. Last year’s Convention had 13,465 attendees and more than 600 exhibitors.  This year’s Convention, recently held in Chicago, had 22,835 attendees and 850 exhibitors. In a few more years, GreenBuild will be as large as ASHRAE’s winter convention.

You can’t pick up a technical (and many non-technical) magazines today without at least one, and usually more, article(s) on Green and Sustainable development. Today, USGBC is training an average of 75 people per day to take the LEED exam. LEED Guidelines, like ASHRAE Standards, are constantly changing. The Guidelines, like design and construction techniques, evolve constantly to not only keep up with the times, but to push the envelope for more energy-efficient buildings that are less environmentally damaging and better for people to live and work in.

This year ASHRAE Standard 189 for High-Performance Buildings should be released as an ANSI standard written in code language.  Forward-thinking states and municipalities will be adopting this Standard to go beyond their normal building codes. Society has mandated that Energy Standard 90.1-2010 shall go 30% beyond the energy standards set forth in the 2007 Standard.

The alliances that are being formed among the societies are truly mind-boggling. ASHRAE, USGBC, IESNA, BOMA, AIA, IFMA, the Clinton Climate Initiative and many others have Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) that will help each of them tap into the resources of the others to further sustainable development that will minimize the drain on our natural resources. President Clinton was the keynote speaker at this past GreenBuild Convention – and he is passionate about what he’s doing with his new organization.

Building owners and managers have realized that an energy efficient, sustainable building can be profitable and, as the article in the October 2006 CAM magazine stated, “Environmentally Conscious Owners are Forcing Reluctant Contractors to Go Green”. You could change the word “Contractors” to “Architects” or “Engineers”, many of whom are just now starting to realize the same thing.
As one major general contractor said recently during a LEED training session we were conducting, “We better get on the bandwagon before it runs us over”.

Are you on the bandwagon – or waiting to be run over??!?

The First LEED-EB in the State of Michigan – May, 2007

Tomorrow IS Today for the State of Michigan!  We recently received the first LEED-EB (Existing Building) Certification from the USGBC in the state – and it’s GOLD!!

LaSalle Bank Financial Services Center on Big Beaver Road in Troy, the former Standard Federal Headquarters, is a 20 year old building that received an Energy Award from ASHRAE in 1991 for being extraordinarily ahead of the pack relative to its HVAC design. It also received the TOBY Award (The Office Building of the Year) from BOMA in 2002 and 2005.

In line with their commitment to sustainable building practices to reduce their impact on the environment, the decision was made in 2005 by ABN AMRO, the parent company of LaSalle Bank, and Jones Lang LaSalle, the building managers, to become LEED Certified. It took more than a year, during which time the 20 year old roof, due for replacement,  was replaced with a “Green” roof.

Relatively soon into the project, we determined that a Silver Certification was attainable. LaSalle Bank decided at that time that they wanted to go for the Gold – and with a lot of extra effort by all parties involved in the project, especially the consultants ( yours truly and Greenworks Studio) – they accomplished it.

Just as an FYI, if you’re asked to work on a LEED-EB project, be aware that you’ll put much more time into it than on your LEED-NC projects. But you’ll learn a lot, too. It’s definitely a good experience.

USGBC GreenBuild Convention – November, 2006 – and the Future – January, 2007

Three years ago I attended my first GreenBuild Convention, held in the new convention center in Pittsburgh, a very Green Building. At that convention there were 4,000 attendees and less than 100 exhibitors. At this year’s convention in Denver, only 3 years later, there were approximately 13,000 attendees and more than 700 exhibitors!

In past columns I have stated that those A/E firms and contractors who get involved in Sustainable design first are going to have the edge on those who don’t.  At this convention one of the speakers stated that in the Pacific Northwest, which was involved in Green and Sustainable design projects earlier than most areas, A/Es and contractors who don’t have LEED® experience now cannot quote many of the RFPs.

This is starting to hit right here at home!  There are RFPs being written in Michigan that ask for the respondent’s LEED experience. We have partnered with a number of A/E firms and contracting groups because of our experience in LEED projects. You can’t afford to wait any longer - LEED is here to stay!  Not because it’s LEED – but because designing and constructing to save energy, to make buildings more pleasant to be in, to make the occupants of those buildings more productive, and to design for sustainability is not only the right thing to do but positively contributes to the bottom line.

Read the article entitled, “An Inconvenient Trend” in the October issue of the CAM magazine written by Dave Miller, one of the editors. While its orientation is primarily towards contractors, it tells the same story to architects and engineers.

The time to get on board is NOW!!

LEED-NC V2.2 and LEED-EB V2.0 – October, 2006

USGBC has made many changes in the Guidelines for LEED-NC which make the information required for Certification much easier to find.  All that additional information, along with websites and other references, are also included in LEED-EB.

As was stated in my April column, LEED-NC V2.2 was designed as a web-based platform to minimize the time-consuming amount of paperwork that was required for LEED-NC V2.1. In addition, standard downloadable templates were made a part of that innovation.

Because my company is now more than halfway through a LEED-NC 2.2 project and a LEED-EB 2.0 project, I have had the opportunity to observe how many of the points are related in both Guidelines. Much of what points are awarded for in LEED-EB can be designed into a project from the get-go. However, as stated in previous columns, having the Owner totally committed to the project is a MUST!

It is important that you become familiar with both these documents. Many architectural and engineering firms that have been involved with LEED projects are now using that as a marketing tool. If you’re not up the learning curve you will soon be left behind…

FYI – October 31 is the last day that the Accredited Professional exam will be given based on LEED-NC 2.1.

50 Ways to Save the Planet – May, 2006

I recently received an e-mail from a friend with this list from the magazine Vanity Fair, and thought it would be a good column with which to end the year.

We, as engineers who are looking to conserve energy, be more environmentally correct and save our natural resources, know most of the things that are mentioned here. But Filza, Sally and I thought you’d find it interesting that these ideas are being presented in this format by many different types of media.  We chose some of the more interesting ones, and modified them a bit.

You can see the rest, and read the complete article by going to www.vanityfair.com. It’s all in the May issue. Have a wonderful summer – and remember to conserve those natural resources.

LEED-NC 2.2 = Major Changes – April, 2006

The USGBC listened to the comments and complaints about the cost and complexity of LEED-NC (New Construction) Version 2.1, and unveiled Version 2.2 at its Greenbuild Convention in Atlanta in November, 2005. This version became effective for all new projects registered after January 1, 2006, and is optional for projects in process registered before that date.

There are many changes from Version 2.1 to 2.2.  Following are some of the more significant ones: 

  • Documentation is web-based, making it simpler and less expensive. Multiple thick binders filled with paperwork and pictures are no longer necessary.

  • The certification application can be split into two phases: first, potential credits for the design phase before construction begins. These credits will be shown as either “Anticipated” or “Denied” based on the plans and specifications shown. This gives the design team much more feedback before construction begins. The 2nd phase is the actual credits based on the construction.

  • Reference standards have been updated, and are found in the Guide for almost every point, so that design teams don’t have to spend a lot of time looking for the most current information.

  • Many of the credit interpretations are now incorporated directly as part of the Guide, making them easier to find and more understandable for owners, clients and design teams.

  • The Guide includes examples of strategies that can be used in each category, case studies of building that have implemented these strategies successfully and additional resources that will provide more information. This is another time-saver.

  • There is an “EB” icon shown next to some of the credits. This not only will assist projects that intend to certify with LEED-EB (Existing Building) in the future, but also identifies measures that are more cost-effective and convenient to implement during design and construction than after the building is built.

  • Projects registered under LEED-NC V2.1 can be changed over to V2.2 for no additional fee, and the fee for project registration has been reduced.

  • Version 2.2 is subject to continuous maintenance, similar to the ASHRAE Standards. As LEED continues to improve and evolve, these updates and addenda will be made available to substitute and augment the current material.

Web-based capability for LEED-NC 2.2 is supposed to be available by early April, so it should be on-line by the time this article goes to press. It is also anticipated that LEED-EB will have web-based capability by the end of April.

Air-to-Air Energy Recovery Systems 1 – The Wheel  - January, 2006

In the last article, we said we’d be discussing the pros and cons of the various energy recovery systems. One of the problems with using energy recovery devices in the past was that many engineers would size the thermal plants as if there were no energy savings attributed to the energy recovery devices. The reasoning for doing that was, “What if they should fail?”

This, of course, made the first costs of the systems higher than they should have been. As a result, many projects eliminated the energy recovery portions of the HVAC systems and, as a result, paid the higher costs of energy going forward.

That being said, with the experience gained over the years and with advances in technology, energy recovery systems today are relatively foolproof (not damnfool proof though, so keep that in mind), so engineers can (and have to) design systems above a certain size using energy recovery.

We’ll look first at the highest efficiency air-to-air energy recovery device – the wheel. Back in the 70s, most of the wheels used were sensible heat transfer only. While these were very effective in the cold weather, they were only minimally effective in the hot weather (think 50º?t vs. 10º?t). With the advent of enthalpy wheels and desiccant wheels, the effectiveness has increased tremendously in the warm weather conditions due to the reduction of the supply air wet bulb (read that as change in enthalpy) instead of only the dry bulb. This makes the wheel one of the most efficient and effective devices of all the energy recovery systems as it’s a direct heat transfer device rather than a secondary heat transfer device.

Wheels vary in depth in direction of air flow, in diameter, in rotational speed, and in the type of media they utilize. The air pressure drop through the wheel is dependent on the type of media, the depth of the media and the velocity of the air passing over the media, but is usually less than the other types of energy recovery devices. The wheel, as stated before, is also usually more efficient than the other types of devices.

But there are downsides. The wheel is a rotating device, where the others just sit there and do their thing, so there is somewhat more maintenance required. Most wheels can entrain gases and particulate, which can then re-entrain into the supply air stream, even when the wheel is equipped with a purge system.  In most cases, and yes, even in hospitals this is not usually a problem when the system is properly designed. But it is something the designer must be aware of, depending on what is in the exhaust air stream.

For further discussion and more detailed information, look in the ASHRAE Handbooks (always a good place to go).

Energy Efficient HVAC Systems – November, 2005

In the September column, we promised to show you how to design HVAC systems that are more energy efficient and will deliver better indoor air quality, while at the same time costing no more than equivalent standard systems. The potential for LEED points for doing this can be from 2 – 16 points, depending on the energy savings, as points can potentially be picked up for IEQ and for Innovation in Design (ID) as well as for the energy savings aspect of Energy and Atmosphere (EA).

ASHRAE Energy Standard 90.1, Section 6.5.6, says that “Individual systems with design air capacity of 5000 CFM or greater and minimum outside air supply of 70% or greater of design air supply quantity shall have an energy recovery system…”

By making use of dedicated outdoor air systems (DOAS) with one of the many types of energy recovery systems available, whether enthalpy or desiccant wheels, flat plate recuperators, heat pipes, run-around systems or indirect evaporative cooling, and using these to pre-treat outdoor air to multiple air handling units, even when each individual unit may not be handling 70% or more, you can minimize energy use and improve indoor air quality (and get points). And if you downsize the thermal energy plant appropriately, the first cost does not have to be higher. Remember that downsizing boilers and chillers also means smaller pumps, piping, starters, wiring, etc. etc. etc.

Back in the mid-‘70s, after the oil embargo of 1973, when we first began using energy recovery wheels for commercial applications, there were admittedly some problems caused by too many unqualified manufacturers trying to get a piece of the action. Today that is no longer the case, and engineers can be comfortable in downsizing systems accordingly when using wheels and other energy recovery devices.

By doing this, and designing for only what is actually required rather than oversizing the thermal energy plant, the first cost should not be any higher, and the ongoing energy costs will show considerable savings to an owner’s bottom line. Remember, “Do what’s right, and the points will follow”.

In future columns, we will be discussing the pros and cons of each of the different energy recovery systems, as well as other types of systems that save energy, such as geothermal heat pumps, underfloor air systems, etc. 

HVAC Systems – September, 2005

In the last column before the summer break, we had mentioned a project team who was attempting to change the HVAC system at the last minute to try to gain additional points for a LEED "Gold" certification. The problem here is the lack of time (and money) available to the design team to research new methods and design new systems that are more energy efficient and user friendly than what has been used before.

In previous columns, we had commented that HVAC engineers can affect up to 40% of the total number of points required in the LEED-NC (New Construction) Guideline. In the recently released LEED-EB (Existing Building) Guideline, the sections on EA (Energy and Atmosphere) and EQ (Indoor Environmental Quality) can attain up to 44 points. The minimum number of points required in LEED-EB for the various certifications are: Certified – 32; Silver – 40; Gold – 48; and Platinum – 64.

Do the math! While all 44 points would not typically be attainable, the USGBC realizes that HVAC systems, proper operating and maintenance practices, etc. are extremely important to the economical and healthy operation of buildings. Energy consumption can be dramatically reduced through practices that are not only economical but also readily achievable. Designing for better IEQ can potentially reduce liability for building owners and designers, increase the health and productivity of the building occupants and increase the rental and resale value of buildings.

Future columns will address these issues – and show how lower energy consumption and better IEQ can be achieved without additional first cost. You don't believe it? Watch for the future columns…

How to Get Started – on the Right Foot – March, 2005

In the last column, we mentioned that a LEED "Certified" or even a "Silver" rated building can be designed and built at little or no extra cost over a standard non-rated building. In this column, we'll look at some of the ways that can be accomplished.

The primary key to a successful "Green" project is to have the unwavering commitment of the Owner. Without this commitment, the probability of the project getting the desired rating is relatively slim. The Owner must be willing to look at more than simply the first cost of a project – the long-term owning and operating costs have to be analyzed and understood.

The establishment of the green design goals before the design process even begins, a commitment from the entire project team to meet these goals after the project begins, and continuous re-commitment during the life of the project is imperative to the success of a green project.

How is this accomplished? By establishing what are called "Design Charrettes", one of the terms you will have to know when you get involved in green design. While architects are familiar with this term, as you will read in the next paragraph, it is a new one to most mechanical designers.

The term "charrette" was coined over a hundred years ago at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. Students in the School of Architecture were expected to meet strict deadlines for the completion of design projects. When the deadline arrived, a small cart (in French a "charrette") was wheeled down the aisles of the studio for students to throw their drawings into, whatever their stage of completion, for the failure to do so was to get a zero on the project.

Today, one definition of charrette might be "a time-limited event in which a diverse group of experts (and lay people) strive to produce a mutually agreeable answer to a complex design problem."

These design charrettes have proven to be an exceptionally effective tool for creating more suitable and integrated projects, provided they are led by people who are intimately familiar with the principles and the process, and can transmit that knowledge and commitment to the others in the group.

Designing Green Doesn't Have to Cost More – February, 2005

There is a common misconception that, in order to design and construct a "Green" building, it has to cost considerably more than a standard design. While this was true in the early days of the USGBC LEED® Guidelines, it is no longer the case.

With hundreds of LEED certified buildings in the United States, there is now a body of statistical evidence that demonstrates that the LEED "Certified" rating, and even the "Silver" rating can be attained at very little or no additional cost. Of course, the A/E and the General Contractor must all have had experience in designing and constructing buildings to LEED Guidelines in order for this to occur.

That having been said, with the changes in the LEED Guidelines, and the simplification of the reporting requirements with the release of LEED NC 2.1, it is really not that difficult, or expensive, to achieve the Certified or Silver ratings. There must be personnel assigned to the project, who are familiar with the LEED system of prerequisites and credits throughout the six categories. These people must be able to guide the team in achieving the certification requirements. This will minimize the additional time required to coordinate the design, the trades and the paperwork.

The key is to get everyone involved in the project on the same page, and working together - from the beginning of the project. The next column will address how to do this.

November, 2004 USGBC Greenbuild Convention – January, 2005 article

The 4th annual convention of the U.S. Green Building Council was held in Portland, Oregon from November 9-12, 2004. The 1st convention, held in Tucson in 2001was attended by 409 people, many of whom were involved in the forming of the Council. The previous convention to this last one, which was the first one I attended, held in Pittsburgh's new convention center, a LEED certified Gold building, and a fantastic venue, had 5400 attendees. This one had 7867 attendees and 400 exhibitors. That's an increase in attendees of 46% in one year, and over 1900% since only 3 years ago!

The people who were the founders of the USGBC spent the first 5 years developing the concepts that were to drive the organization. In the past 3 years, the membership of the USGBC has gone from 1200 organizations to more than 5000. Unlike ASHRAE, which counts its membership by the individual persons, USGBC counts its membership by organizations.

More and more owners and government agencies are taking an interest in designing and constructing more energy- efficient buildings that are more user-friendly.  We, as the people who directly and indirectly control almost half the points that go toward LEED certification of buildings, need to become more involved in the activities of the U.S. Green Building Council – NOW!
We have, in our area, a new local chapter called the USGBC Detroit Regional Chapter (DRC), which you can access by going to www.usgbc.org/chapters/detroit.

It's your ball - take it and run with it! But remember, your company must be a national member in order to be a member of the local chapter, so make it happen.

What is the LEED Rating system? - October, 2004

LEED™ (not LEEDs) stands for "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design" and is a rating system or guideline, not a Standard. The first version of LEED came out in early 1999, but had many shortcomings. Version 2.0, entitled LEED NC (for New Construction) was approved in March 2000.

Further refinements were made to LEED NC in early 2003, the most notable being significant administrative updates and templates that cut red tape, and thus the time and cost of making the reports, in the submission of projects for LEED certification.  The resulting LEED NC version 2.1 is what is being used today.

There are new guidelines being developed for Existing Buildings (EB), as well as Core and Shell (CS), Contract Interiors (CI), Homes (H) and Neighborhood Development (ND). LEED NC is going to have an interim 2.2 version in 2005, prior to a major revision for version 3.0 anticipated for completion in 2006.

So what is this LEED rating system? To achieve one of the four possible LEED ratings – Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum – a project must earn a predetermined number of points from a detailed  checklist of environmental features.

There are 5 sustainable categories, including 7 prerequisites that must be met for a building to gain certification. Within the 5 categories, there are a total of 64 credits that can be attained.  There is also a sixth section entitled Innovation and Design, which has 4  additional credits for design process and innovation, plus another credit for having a LEED Accredited Professional on the team. So the total number of credits possible for a project is 69.

The fact of interest to members of ASHRAE is that 32 of the 64 credits, and 5 of the 7 prerequisites, within the 5 categories relate to Energy and Atmosphere and Indoor Environmental Quality.  50% of the total credits available are in our field of expertise! To get the "Certified" label requires a minimum of only 26 points, "Silver" requires 33, "Gold" requires 39, and the highest level, "Platinum", requires 52.  Do the math - you'll quickly see that HVAC engineers can influence enough credits to help design to the "Certified" level.

Future columns will show how to do this.

What is the USGBC and the LEED Guideline? - September, 2004

The "Tips from the Fan Man" column will appear only a few times this year, as we will be bringing you information in this new column on sustainability and on what it takes to design buildings for LEED™ Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). This first column will explain what the USGBC is and what the LEED™ (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program is all about.

The USGBC was incorporated in 1993 with less than 30 member firms. The concept behind it was to have a coalition consisting of professional firms, builders, manufacturers, government agencies, building owners, nonprofit organizations, utilities, and corporate and retail firms.  This coalition would develop guidelines for the design and construction of sustainable, energy-efficient buildings which would have minimal impact on the environment.

The USGBC today consists of more than 4000 companies, of which approximately 2/3 are architectural, engineering and other professional firms.  The U.S. Government is also very supportive and very active, with involvement from agencies like DOE, GSA, and EPA as well as all branches of the armed services.

LEED certification recognizes innovative building designs that are environmentally responsible models for energy efficiency and resource conservation.  Even though the LEED rating system is not a Standard, LEED promotes a national "standard" for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings that protect the environment as well as the people who inhabit the buildings. Third-party LEED certification is awarded to buildings that demonstrate a commitment to long-term sustainability in accordance with established criteria.

With support from the government, large corporations, and building owners and developers, the LEED rating system has begun to transform the $315 billion U.S. design and construction industry.

The General Services Administration (GSA) requires all new GSA construction to seek LEED "Silver" status, and many other federal, municipal and institutional entities are either adopting LEED or modifying it to meet their own specific requirements.

Many corporations and institutions have embraced the LEED concept - by now just about everyone in our industry is aware of what Ford Motor Co. has done at the Rouge manufacturing complex in Dearborn, MI.  Even speculative real estate developers have taken the LEED challenge. There was a commercial office building in California that was almost 80% rented - before construction had even begun - just because it was promoted as a LEED building.

In the next column, we will discuss just exactly what the LEED™ rating system is, how it came to be, the revisions that are going on right now, and explain the rating system.

Follow Me