5 Lessons from GreenBuild 2014 | leed v4

5 Lessons from GreenBuild 2014Posted: Nov 2014 Posted by: Mats Inc.


After attending nearly a dozen educational sessions over the course of three days at GreenBuild 2014, I thought my head was going to explode. Seriously, I found that most of the sessions were interesting and thought-provoking. Some of the material was new and some information just confirmed what we already knew.

Following are lessons from 5 GreenBuild2014 sessions.


Apprehension and Concern

Many of the discussions regarding transparency seemed to reveal that there is still a great deal of apprehension and concern on nearly all fronts. In general, manufacturers seem to be lacking resources, designers are concerned with liability, and the ingredient disclosure programs leading the way are also still learning.

It was of little surprise when only three days after the GreenBuild2014 conference, the USGBC granted the extension for LEED users to register projects under the LEED 2009 rating system until Oct. 31, 2016.

Gearing up for LEED v4 is a major transformation. The pervasive demands to meet a wide variety of disconnected protocols with overlapping requirements have been extremely difficult for manufacturers to navigate. In the session, I’m Just a Bill, the panel of experts, Lisa Barnard from BASF, Paul Bertram of PRB Connect, Thomas Gloria from Industrial Ecology Consultants and Jennifer Princing from Dow Corning Corporation, discussed the challenges facing manufacturing companies as demand for transparency increases. During these past 2 years, manufacturers have spent a great deal of time and money gathering data, hiring consultants and producing documentation to prepare for the first phase of transparency. The panel expressed frustration around market confusion, the lack of PCRs available to develop proper documentation and the tremendous resources that are invested to produce HPDs and EPDs while they are not or cannot be utilized. They also voiced reluctance to disclosing proprietary information with worry about competitiveness. The good but not new news from this session is that the USGBC and Google have funded the harmonization project intended to eliminate marketplace confusion and lower the cost of disclosure by creating alignment between platforms including the Health Product Declaration, Cradle to Cradle, GreenScreen, and the Living Building Challenge. Over the upcoming 18 months, the harmonization team will work toward developing a new platform that will not combine the programs but instead establish compatibility.


Overcoming Challenges

In the session titled LEED v4 Lessons Learned, Susie Westrup of Balfour Beatty Construction, Peter Czerwinski of CH2M Hill and Michael Picone from Google discussed the challenges and achievements working through their first LEED v4 Beta projects. Some commonalities shared by the presenters were the lack of EPDs and HPDs available to tackle the materials and resources credits, the importance of bringing subject experts (such as energy and acoustics consultants) onto the project early, and the markedly increased difficulty to achieve credits and higher levels of certification.


Legal Non-Advice

During various sessions, I had conversations with architects and designers who expressed their anxiety about potentially being accountable for science and chemistry for which they were not trained. If manufacturers are making the information available, chemists and scientists are confirming the data and designers are requesting the documentation, then aren’t we all likely to share any potential liability?

Understanding the Legal Landscape of Transparency for Designers was the topic addressed by Russell Perry, Co-Director of Sustainable Design at SmithGroupJJR; Brodie Stephens, California Licensed Attorney, General Counsel & Secretary, Perkins & Will Inc.; and Craig Williams, AIA, Esq., Principal and Chief Legal Officers, HKS Architects, Inc. Without offering specific legal advice, the panel examined the potential liability of material ingredients disclosure. They discussed legal principles such as the Standard of Care, Hazard versus Risk and the Precautionary Principle. Standard of Care is the duty to act as any other similar architect or designer under the same or similar circumstances. It changes over time as new tools and information become available.   Therefore, as firms gather documents and gain knowledge, the Standard of Care will evolve. Hazard versus Risk is the possibility versus the probability that something bad will happen. The cases the panel cited seemed to infer that negligence may be more likely found with something that is a risk over that of a hazard. The Precautionary Principle is a risk management approach that indicates if something has a suspected but unproven risk of causing harm, the proof that it is not harmful becomes the responsibility of those taking an action. Simply stated, “it’s better to be safe than sorry”.


Ohio-schoolsThe State of Ohio

The panel leading the session titled, Leveraging Green Schools for Market Transformation was comprised of individuals mostly from Ohio including David Scott, Partner, Kohrman Jackson & Krantz; Lisa Laney, Sustainability Administrator, State of Ohio, Ohio Facilities Construction Commission; and Ian MacGregor, MS, Senior Research Scientist, Battelle; with one panelist from PA, Kelly Henderson, Advisor, Green Schools Academy, Green Building Alliance. Panel members delivered research statistics from LEED certified schools; operational data from green schools; and the status of legislation banning LEED in Ohio.

Hired by the Central Ohio Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, Battelle performed scientific research to determine if there is a connection between LEED-certified schools and student attendance rates, discipline and test results. They selected specific counties in Ohio with student data from sustainably-built and conventionally-built schools, used advanced statistic modeling and found the resulting data did not support a statistically significant positive or negative impact.

Ohio state policy requires all new K-12 public schools achieve a minimum of LEED silver certification and the state leads the nation in green school construction. It was reported that there are approximately 171 LEED certified schools in Ohio that include 94 silver, 71 gold and 3 platinum certifications. Additionally, there are approximately 340 LEED registered schools and $40 million in current construction. These LEED certified schools are designed to save 35% more energy and use 37% less water, and during construction they have diverted 188,114 tons of waste from landfills.

Despite the positive operational results and feedback from their schools, Ohio’s State Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed legislation that would ban LEED v4. If Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 25 passes, no state project in Ohio will be eligible for LEED registration and certification once LEED v4 goes into effect. The resolution currently resides in the Ohio House of Representatives’ Manufacturing and Workforce Development Committee. Panelists indicated that with the recent collaboration of the lobbyists with the USGBC, it is likely that SCR 25 will not come to pass.



Sustainability Beyond the Building Industry

One of the inspiring aspects of this convention for me was the presence of non-industry related people attending and presenting.

A representative from Amazon was in sessions as an attendee investigating the potential to incorporate green product attributes into the selection criteria for consumer evaluation.

In the session titled Marketing & Sustainability: The Tools and Tips to Tell Your Story, Trip Advisor’s Director Responsible Travel, Jenny Rushmore, presented the company’s GreenLeaders program that was developed in collaboration with the USGBC, EnergyStar and United Nations Environment Programme. The GreenLeaders program provides travelers with the opportunity to choose from a variety of eco-friendly hotels that have implemented green practices like recycling, local and organic food, and electric car charging stations.

Rear Admiral Boris D. Lushniak, MD, MPH, and Acting US Surgeon General was especially entertaining and uplifting during the Materials & Human Health Summit closing session. Dr. Lushniak’s message urged the audience to share in his mission to advance the health and well-being of our nation’s people. He suggested that within their roles as building design professionals, they have the potential to influence healthy behaviors by incorporating inviting stairways in buildings, sidewalks in neighborhoods and bike paths in communities.


One final thought:

I was pleased to discover that I wasn’t the only one to question why the USGBC got rid of the credit reference numbers with LEED v4. I’m sorry to report however, that I still do not have an answer.

What are your thoughts about LEED v4?

Categories: Architect & Designer News, Trade Shows & Events, Sustainability

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