Using LEED-EBOM on Campus Requires Managing Data, Defining Scope

By Dan Ackerstein  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: This PagePt. 2: What ISO 50001 Can Offer is a Framework for Continuous Energy ImprovementPt. 3: Five Steps to Green Campuses

A critical step in thinking about any LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (LEED-EBOM) credit from a campuswide standpoint is thinking carefully about what you really mean by "campus." The campus at the University of California, San Francisco, for instance, is actually three quite distinct campuses — Mount, Zion, Mission Bay and Parnassus. Perhaps more commonly, other campuses include privately owned property intermingled with campus property, or have satellite outbuildings and areas outside the contiguous natural campus landscape.

Often, the departments in charge of management and service of a building overlap and blur across a campus because academic departments are spread among many buildings. And because funding sources often dictate service provisions and practices, these can vary even within the same building. For example, at University of California, Davis, the university maintains six different custodial "cores," or service territories. Each core has its own staff and management, and the cores vary significantly in cleaning practices. The cores are somewhat geographically oriented, but not always.

On the other hand, UC Davis is in many ways a coherent whole. The campus rests on a large, relatively contiguous parcel due west of the city of Davis itself. It isn't intermixed with non-university buildings in the way a more urban campus might be, nor does it have numerous satellite building clusters across town. This makes drawing a campus boundary a relatively manageable undertaking — not without complexity or challenge, but manageable given the following two suggestions for establishing a reliable campus boundary:

1. Start with lines that make sense on the ground, on a map and to a complete stranger. Nothing casts suspicion more quickly on a LEED project review than a project (or campus) boundary that appears counter-intuitive or wildly removed from major features like roads, geographic features, and large expanses of area that clearly serve a shared purpose. If a certain building or cluster of buildings' status is in doubt, consider asking the building occupants if they are on or off campus; their perception of inclusion or exclusion from the main campus provides valuable insight into the building's integration with the campus as a whole.

2. Think carefully about the functional realities of your campus and how variations in your boundary lines will complicate your project. It can be tempting to be creative with determinations around parking lots, perimeter buildings or open spaces, and similar features. More often than not, this kind of cleverness will cause headaches down the road. Excluding that building across the street may save a few surface parking spaces from one calculation, but it will also cost you building footprint in another, and may complicate your efforts to document alternative transportation use on a campuswide basis. When in doubt, include it.

Purchasing Challenges

Perhaps the biggest challenge related to a campuswide LEED-EBOM initiative is managing data associated with purchasing policies. Just ask Carlowe Connelly, LEED EB coordinator at UC San Francisco. With literally dozens of departments, purchasing managers, vendors and product choices — all in the context of a campus that is primarily a medical teaching institution — many folks in these buildings have more pressing issues on their minds than the recycled content of toilet paper.

Connelly's situation is hardly unusual — on many campuses the adoption of policies on a campuswide basis can be problematic. Of course, these challenges are not unique to campuses. In purchasing, for example, any multitenant office building faces a very similar situation: It is the diversity of purchases, purchasers, and vendors — more than the sheer volume of products — that is the source of the challenge. Moreover, in many organizations, there is a resistance to the centralization of purchasing flows that would directly benefit the LEED process: Departments and individuals are wary of restrictive purchasing channels that limit their options or somehow ignore their unique product preferences. Combine all that with potential resistance to initiatives that add the issue of environmental performance to a formula that already includes product performance and price, and effective implementation becomes even more challenging.

The secrets to making policies work on a campus are no different than in any large organization; they simply become even more critical to the long-term success of the effort. For purchasing policies (or any policy) to work at scale, it is essential that they:

a) Make compliance easy. The majority of implementation steps related to a policy being predictable — providing clear compliance routes, be it product selections, cleaning procedures, waste management protocols, etc. — will enable the vast majority of users to achieve easy success. Nothing is more helpful to purchasers than a preferred products list that provides default selections ready-to-go.

b) Maintain flexibility for implementers. At the same time, it's important to balance ease with flexibility. Decision-makers can be boxed in by highly specific pre-selected products, vendors or even procedures. Policies that provide clear information about the end goals of the policy and empower individuals to make choices to achieve those outcomes will have better results — and less frustration among users.

c) As always, enroll vendors and service providers to help. As activities and policies are scaled, vendor and service provider understanding of sustainability goals becomes even more important. And their participation in data collection and analysis may be the key link to managing an otherwise overwhelming volume of information.

Managing Data on a Campus Level

For campuses that do track, record and report sustainable purchasing, or even waste diversion rates, particular challenges can arise in determining building-specific allocations of those materials. Although USGBC has shown some willingness to consider campuswide purchasing and waste data, to date there is no formal guidance that ensures the allowance of such information. Purchasing and waste are still expected to be analyzed on a building-specific basis.

Breaking building-specific figures out of purchasing records that may cross the boundaries of multiple buildings, or pulling building-specific numbers from multibuilding waste collection routes can be extremely difficult; sometimes prohibitively so. In buildings that host multiple departments with relatively distinct purchasing practices and tracking, tackling these credits can be more effort than they are worth. On the other hand, a case can be made that tracking waste diversion rates at the building level, although a significant challenge for creating reliable measurement methods, has more compelling rationale from a management standpoint. Understanding where a specific waste-flow is generated, and potentially the sub-population responsible for its generation, would be valuable information in seeking to divert that flow.

Dan Ackerstein, LEED AP — O&M, is principal of Ackerstein Consulting, LLC, a firm he founded in 2008. Ackerstein has been involved with LEED for Existing Buildings since the program's origination. He served as lead developer of the online LEED-EBOM submittal templates and is the co-author of the LEED-EBOM Reference Guide. Ackerstein can be reached at

To learn more about LEED-EBOM on campus, check out this article from the September 2011 issue of Building Operating Management:

For a free download of the Application Guide for Multiple Buildings and On-Campus Building Projects, visit:

Continue Reading: Green Building Report: LEEB-EBOM, ISO 50001, Green Schools

Using LEED-EBOM on Campus Requires Managing Data, Defining Scope

What ISO 50001 Can Offer is a Framework for Continuous Energy Improvement

Five Steps to Green Campuses

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  posted on 10/7/2011   Article Use Policy

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