Designing Green has Unique Challenges

  June 20, 2011

This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management. Today’s tip is that "common practice" doesn’t mean "common knowledge" when it come to green interiors.

Like a snowball gaining momentum as it rolls down a mountainside, the many facets of sustainable design have developed steadily over the last 11 years. Much of the credit goes to the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED rating. Today, with more than 150,000 LEED Accredited Professionals and a variety of other credible metrics, sustainable design has achieved critical mass worldwide. However, just because it is "common practice" doesn't mean that there is common knowledge, expertise or understanding of the various decision-making thresholds for facility managers.

To combat this problem, any decision about specifying a product or building systems component that may add cost or change performance should involve the facility manager.

In general, it's best to begin a project with a "sustainability opportunity assessment." While many of the considerations are focused on LEED, the assessment is also a useful tool for evaluating other benchmarks and strategies, such as reducing carbon footprint. An assessment should involve a discussion of all the pluses and minuses of each goal, as well as the cost.

The next step is to build a project team with proven sustainable design experience. Someone should have the ability to lead the team through the process of developing the schedule, budget and the necessary decisions to move forward or not. A good, green integrated design process involves the entire project team — including the facility manager, architect, designers, engineers, owner and contractor — to get an immediate understanding of how one component will affect another.

The operations staff should also be involved as they will inherit day-to-day responsibility for the completed space. As a result, they should actively consider operating procedures and maintenance processes, such as green cleaning, that will further extend environmental stewardship.


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