4 FM quick reads on LEED
1. LEED Dynamic Plaque May Lead To Better LEED Performance
Today's tip of the day is about the performance of LEED certified buildings, and the new LEED Dynamic Plaque.
One of the hallmarks of a high-performance building is one that performs, highly. If that sounds to you like some sort of Jedi Mind Trick of circular reasoning, you're not totally wrong. But there's still much to unpack there — especially when you consider the long-standing snipe about supposedly high-performance, LEED-certified buildings that they were more about the checklist, and less about the actual performance.
Last year, at Greenbuild, concurrent with its roll-out of the new LEEDv4 system, which emphasizes performance and human health, U.S. Green Building Council also re-introduced its new vision for how buildings will be scored and monitored in the future: the LEED Dynamic Plaque. (Video of USGBC's Scot Horst's presentation is here.)
The LEED Dynamic Plaque — the concept was first introduced at Greenbuild 2012, but now, there is actually a real, live plaque being piloted in USGBC's own Platinum space — gives users a real-time display of how the building is doing in the areas of water, waste, energy, transportation, and human experience. So now longer will LEED be a set-it-and-forget-it proposition - every user of the building from Day 1 forward will be able to see how the building is performing. And therefore, everyone will know whether or not it truly is a high-performance building as a LEED certification seemingly promises.
While transparency of data for all seems like a great idea in theory, the idea of the LEED Dynamic Plaque may make more than a few facility managers nervous. What if the building isn't actually performing as intended? Who gets the blame?
But progressive facility managers see any data as an opportunity, especially when that data specifically shows opportunity. The LEED Dynamic Plaque will show occupants and upper managers alike — far outside the confines of a budget-request power point or an energy data spreadsheet — that the organization has a building it can be proud of.
2. What Is High-Performance Building?
Today's tip of the day is about the meaning of the term "high-performance building." "High-performance" is actually a much more encompassing, and frankly, more accurate, term than "green" when it comes to describing the buildings facility managers own, manage, and maintain. But what does "high-performance" actually mean? Does it mean LEED-certified buildings that are energy and water efficient? Facilities that are people-friendly and get high marks from occupants for creature comforts? Highly automated, integrated buildings that turn big data into big efficiency gains with smart analytics? The answer, of course, is yes. A high-performance building is all of those things and more. The key to a high-performance building is optimization and integration of all things — whether fan speeds or fire safety, whether landscaping or lighting efficiency. It means thinking on both a micro and macro level about how building systems interact, and how building occupants interact with those systems. Yes, "high-performance" does tend to have a bit more to it than the traditional definition of green (a building that is environmentally responsible). Thinking about making a building "high-performance" means considering aspects of the building— fire/life-safety, ADA compliance, communication plans, even art work or other occupant-focused "bonuses" — that were certainly also considered in a green building, but may not have been emphasized. "High-performance" is how those in the industry will think about and define successful buildings in the future.
3. Have A Plan To Specify Green Interiors Products
At the Portland (Ore.) VA Medical Center, setting up a comprehensive guide to specifying interior materials has helped shape the facility's green interiors efforts. Here's the guide was developed.
To start, says Mielisse Kuhn, project manager, determine which product is specified the most and use that as the first product to develop standards for.
For the Portland VA, flooring was the place to start. Located in Oregon, meeting the LEED requirement for sourcing within 500 miles would have really limited the available flooring choices, so instead they looked at recycled content and recyclability and tried to look at benchmarks for what would be equitable with a product that was sourced from within 500 miles of the medical center, she says.
Kuhn acknowledges that making sustainable interiors decisions is not exactly cut and dry. The medical center used to specify VCT but stopped based on the impact of its manufacturing process and what is done with it at end of life.
When it came time to specify furniture, especially office furniture, which is what is most often ordered, Kuhn expected the 500-mile parameter to again limit their choices, as most furniture is manufactured in the Midwest. To her surprise they were able to source from well within the LEED-preferred radius, and the manufacturer sourced the raw wood and metal materials from only an hour south of the medical center. That allows the VA's clinics to say not only did taxpayer dollars go to sustainable choices, but they also went to support the local economy.
4. Environmental Reporting In Furniture Makes Slow Progress
Healthcare interiors choices have great potential to directly impact patient outcomes, both for the good and bad, and this is particularly true when it comes to sustainability steps. But prioritizing sustainability in the selection process in interiors for desired outcomes has to get in line behind all the other, more pressing issues healthcare has to address, such as an aging workforce, strapped budgets, and so on.
In addition, sustainability considerations are much more complex than those around energy efficiency, and pursuing sustainable interiors will only go a little ways towards a LEED certification. So it's not exactly surprising that healthcare has lagged behind other sectors in adopting sustainable interiors practices. Nevertheless, some key leaders are pursuing sustainable interiors despite all the challenges. Organizations like Ascension Health have gone as far as creating staffed positions to address sustainability directly. Even if a healthcare facility is still in its early stages of working out a sustainable interiors strategy, the good news is that incremental steps are the way to go, according to industry experts.
Here are some strategies for pursuing sustainable interiors in healthcare facilities:
Standardizing to modular furniture. When Theresa Besse, interior designer, started at Gundersen Health System, she had a warehouse full of mismatched furniture which could hardly be deployed and still have a professional look in a space. In addition, furniture did not have modular components so when an accident happened on a chair, the whole unit was thrown out. She has since standardized to furniture with replaceable components, and tracks the documentation of water-resistant features and proper cleaning steps, which helps keep individual pieces in service longer.
Demountable walls. With even clinic space being signed into 20-year leases, Melisse Kuhn, project manager for the Portland VA Medical Center, was finding that fixed walls just didn't accommodate the changing needs of the space. Now they specify architectural demountable walls that are prewired and retrofit easily into existing facilities. They create flexibility to reconfigure the space as frequently as needed while eliminating construction waste (and mess) and satisfying requirements in outpatient clinics.
Off-gassing off site. Before any of the furnishings or equipment crossed the threshold of Dell Children's Medical Center South Tower, they had first been taken to a warehouse facility, unpackaged, and allowed to off-gas for up to 30 days. "If there was any latent toxicity, it was important to let it off-gas in a way that wouldn't impact the facility," says Michele Van Hyfte, environmental stewardship manager for Seton Healthcare Family.
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