LEED “Certifiable” Specifications: 4 Approaches
Photo Credit – University of OregonEditor's note: Please enjoy another guest post from Mark Kalin—see more on Mark below.
Many owners and municipalities are requesting LEED “certifiable” buildings from their design teams. How is a specifier to respond?
In our experience with over 200 (real) LEED projects, we have seen four approaches.
Approach 1: Declare an early victory
The team completes the LEED scorecard and declares victory. There is no mention of LEED in the project manual and the contractor is asked to “make the right green choices.” There is no review of the scorecard after construction. While this is clearly a useless LEED approach, there are many who accept this result. In fairness, some are municipalities that are not able to mandate certification, others are architects who believe their professional training and personal commitment is the correct measure of sustainability.
Specifier’s Response:As always, at least include low-VOC products, high-performance products, and construction waste management in your specs.
Approach 2: Sprinkle in some requirements
The team completes the LEED scorecard, makes a determination of which design credits could be easily achieved, and includes only a few requirements in the specifications. Perhaps construction waste management, FSCIndependent, third-party verification that forest products are produced and sold based on a set of criteria for forest management and chain-of-custody controls developed by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an international nonprofit organization. FSC criteria for certifying forests around the world address forest management, legal issues, indigenous rights, labor rights, multiple benefits, and environmental impacts.-certified woodWood from a source that has been determined, through a certification process, to meet stated ecological and other criteria. There are numerous forest certification programs in general use based on several standards, but only the Forest Stewardship Council's standards, which include requirements that the wood be tracked through its chain-of-custody, can be used to qualify wood for a point in the LEED Rating System., and Green Label Plus carpet are sufficient to demonstrate some interest in sustainable design. Data-intensive credits such as recycled content, regional materials, and low-emitting materials are typically avoided. Again, the scorecard is not evaluated after construction.
Specifier’s Response: Match the specs with the LEED credits selected. Include submittals at the level of detail that a LEED audit would require, such as chain-of-custodyChain-of-custody (COC) is he path taken by raw materials, processed materials, and products from the forest to the consumer, including all successive stages of processing, transformation, manufacturing and distribution. A chain-of-custody certificate number on invoices for nonlabeled products indicates that the certifier’s guidelines for product accounting have been followed. A chain-of-custody certification is not required by distributors of a product that is individually labeled with the Forest Stewardship Council logo and manufacturer’s chain-of-custody number. Chain of Custody (CoC) certification requirements are determined by Forest Stewardship Council Chain of Custody Standard 40-004 v2-1. (CoC) documentation for FSC products and VOC levels for paints, coatings, sealantsA sealant has adhesive properties and is formulated primarily to fill, seal, or waterproof gaps or joints between 2 surfaces. Sealants include sealant primers and caulks. (SCAQMD Rule 1168. )Sealants are used on wood, fabric, paper, corrugated paperboard, plastic foam and other materials with tiny openings, often microscopic, that may absorb or discharge gas or fluid., and adhesives.
Approach 3: Everything but submitting for LEED review
The team completes the LEED scorecard, includes it and all relevant requirements in the project manual, and collects all the data from the contractor, but does not submit to GBCI for certification. The team makes an internal evaluation of whether the goal has been obtained, and declares success. This approach is frequently taken at colleges, where those that manage the projects need to respond to various faculty and student initiatives. There is some certainty that LEED Certification would have been achieved, but typically there is no energy model, no commissioning—generally, little attempt at any credit which involves increased expense.
Specifier’s Response: Again, match the specs with the LEED credits selected. Note that the credit numbering and language for all the different LEED rating systems is slightly different—be sure which LEED program the team is following.
Approach 4: Go beyond LEED
The design team is actually committed to sustainability, and regrets the owner can’t or won’t fund LEED Certification. The energy model is developed early and really informs the design. Products that meet the VOC limits, regional goals, recycled content are specified into the project without reference to LEED. The contractor is asked to include sustainability in their product choices. The contingency fund for construction includes sustainability as a reason for a change order. After all, isn’t that what design is all about—understanding the owner’s requirements and delivering the best result for the funds available?
Specifier’s Response: Same as Approach 3 above, but now there’s the opportunity to go beyond LEED requirements. Make sure environmentally committed firms like Interface and Kingspan have an opportunity to bid. Ask the project owner what their standard products are, to help minimize waste in the future. Look downstream and make sure the NFPA fire door inspections are actually done and documented.
Also read Six Things LEED Consultants Do Wrong in Specs, by Mark Kalin—and join the discussion there.
Mark Kalin is President of Kalin Associates Specifications and currently Chair of CSI’s National Technical Committee. The firm has completed specs for over 200 LEED projects. Free spec downloads and position papers at www.kalinassociates.com. Check out GreenSpec for guidance on more sustainable building products to include in your project specifications.