Certification under programs like the LEED Operations and Maintenance (LEED O+M) rating system has become important as designers, owners and facility managers have begun focusing more closely on the energy and environmental impacts of their buildings. Four tips, including a look at the LEED O+M credits structure, can ease the way to LEED certification.
The growing concern over building impacts has come amid a steady rise in energy costs, a tighter economy, and greater public awareness about sustainability-related issues. Participation in programs such as green building rating systems has grown significantly over the past decade.
Existing buildings pose some of the greatest challenges and the greatest opportunities for conserving energy and water, and reducing our ecological footprint. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 72 percent of the existing square footage in the United States is at least 20 years old, and according to the Institute for Building Efficiency, over half of the buildings that will be in service in the year 2050 may have already been built. When all of these factors are considered together, it becomes clear why pursuit of certification under programs like the LEED Operations and Maintenance (LEED O+M) rating system has become important.
However, the unique nature of LEED O+M, which is driven more by policies and performance tracking than the physical assets of the building, can make it daunting for those trying to obtain a LEED plaque for the first time. The large number of required tasks, such as writing policies, developing tracking procedures, and scheduling the required surveys, audits, and testing, can seem overwhelming. Where do you start? The following four tips can be extremely helpful in organizing your LEED O+M certification efforts, and can help make achieving your certification less stressful and more successful.
LEED O+M credits typically have two components: Establishment components (physical assets and policies) and Performance components (surveys, audits, testing, and policy tracking).
Establishment components put in place the tools your team will need to earn LEED prerequisites and credits. These include physical assets like proper meters and efficient lighting and plumbing fixtures, as well as proper building operations and maintenance policies. Without the right Establishment components, teams will struggle to effectively earn LEED credits in the performance period.
Policies must follow the LEED O+M Policy Model, which includes seven key components: physical and programmatic scope, duration of applicability, responsible parties, sustainability goals and objectives, performance evaluation metrics, procedures and strategies for implementation, and a quality assurance process.
All of your LEED O+M policies must have well-defined sections for each of these seven elements. Be sure to involve the operations staff in drafting the policies. An engaged and enthusiastic facilities staff is the most effective asset an owner can have in achieving LEED O+M certification and improving building performance over time. Also, because policies are so important, strongly consider hiring an experienced consultant to assist in the drafting of policies if your team lacks experience or confidence with the LEED O+M process. Remember, these Establishment components are the foundations for long-term success.
Once your Establishment components are in place, the performance period lasts a minimum of 90 days and needs to be carefully managed to make sure Performance components like surveys, audits, and testing occur on schedule and that policies are executed effectively. The performance period is like the final exam for your new policies and physical assets to see how successful they actually are in improving building performance. Regular team meetings are recommended at least once every two weeks to track progress. These meetings should be at a regular time with ownership, staff, tenants, and vendors involved, as applicable, and should occur on time, rain or shine. Short of a meteor hurtling toward your building, there should be no excuse for missing this routine check-in on your projects progress. Respect the routine of the LEED-EB O+M process, and youll routinely get the benefits out of it.
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