Thursday, March 28, 2013

Daylighting in LEED v4

Scott Preston, Sustainable Building Associate

While technology allows us to artificially light a building’s interior, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best solution. Exposure to daylight has health and well-being benefits, especially indoors, where, according to the EPA, Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. For these reasons, there has been growing demand for a reduction in electric lighting and mechanical cooling through architectural daylighting strategies. Daylight has immense power that can overwhelm any designer with the best intentions. Even the best green buildings designed by world-famous architecture firms have examples of too much glare, overheating, loss of productivity and situations of blinds drawn and lights always on. 

A well-designed daylit building is estimated to reduce lighting energy use by 50%-80%. The 2009 LEED rating system encourages adequate daylighting in schools and commercial buildings by requiring daylight for 75-90% of regularly occupied spaces. In the current system, compliance can be calculated and documented by implementing one of four options: a computer simulation, a prescriptive method (demonstrating compliance of side and top lighting drawn and measured in sections), measurement (demonstrated through records of indoor light measurements) or a combination of the preceding 3 options. 

Daylight modeling software is the best approach to dynamic daylighting metrics.  This approach can predict daylight and glare within a building with incredible accuracy.  In LEED v4, the credit has been updated to address recent innovations in daylight modeling.  Moving forward, the most points will be awarded for a project that implements a more sophisticated and dynamic metric called spatial daylight autonomy or sDA.  This refers to the percentage of the “work plane” that is above 300 lux (28 foot-candles) at least 50% of the time during the spaces occupied hours over the course of the entire year.  This may encourage designers to overglaze the building and therefore the credit requires glare simulations as a counterpoint.  The intent of the credit is to connect building occupants with the outdoors, reinforce circadian rhythms, and reduce the use of electrical lighting by introducing daylight into the space.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Organizational Sustainability: Searching for the Switch

By: Stephanie Barr, Research Associate and Green Schools Specialist

In a recent report from MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group[1], the number of companies implementing and profiting from sustainability initiatives has increased significantly in recent years.  Sustainability is becoming an intrinsic part of corporations - practically synonymous with innovation. 
The results from this report illustrate interesting characteristics of organizations which have seen success through sustainability initiatives and those which have not.  A few of these key characteristics included the adoption of new organizational structures, effective communication, finding bright spots, and integrating charismatic leadership.
Of the businesses profiting from successful sustainability agendas, the researchers found that they were not integrating sustainability into their pre-existing organizational structure.  Instead, they had adopted new structures, introduced new lines of communication, and established new performance metrics.  In Chip & Dan Heath's book, Switch, they discuss that in order “to change someone’s behavior, you have to change that person’s situation”[2].  A sustainability agenda requires a shift in behavior and cannot be successful if the organizational structure does not evolve to support it.
In Switch the authors describe people as being motivated by their brains and their emotions, using the image of a Rider (brain) trying to control an Elephant (emotion) to illustrate the difficulty in shifting behavior.  They propose however - and this is apparent in the MIT report as well - that if organizations motivate employees analytically and emotionally, change is more successful. One important analytical motivation is the communication of an intrinsic link between sustainability, innovation, and profit.  The organization must have a unified focus that sustainability is a key to business growth and innovation, and this must be monitored and reported to stakeholders.
Another key strategy used was to increase collaboration and communication across business units.  An aspect of this was the identification of “bright spots” [2].  When one department, or branch, successfully implements a new sustainability initiative their methods are evaluated and replicated across other units. This strategy of focusing on bright spots is very effective because it shifts focus from problems to solutions.  During change initiatives our first inclination is to focus on the problems, on everything that is not aligned with the vision. The work seems immense and those leading the change can quickly feel overwhelmed and discouraged.  Finding bright spots – and publicizing the heck out of their successes – provides the energy and passion which will sustain the team.
Finally, the MIT report illustrated how critical integrated, charismatic leadership was to an organization’s success in implementing and profiting from a sustainability agenda.  The researchers found that the most successful companies had strong leadership buy-in, most having established a Chief Sustainability Officer and an integrated management team to support sustainability objectives.  Coupled with a vision with an emotional hook, integrated sustainability leadership provides the direction and clarity needed for the grueling change process.
If you are interested in learning more about organizational and behavior change for sustainability, I highly recommend reading Heath’s Switch, Kotter’s Leading Change [3], and MckEnzie-Mohr’s Fostering Sustainable Behavior [4].

Monday, March 4, 2013

LEED v4: It'll be here before you know it!

By: Becky Moriarty, Sustainable Building Associate

LEED version 4 is slowly, but surely on its way. USGBC surprised the industry when it announced last June that it was postponing the release of its latest version of LEED. According to an article published by Environmental Building News, building industry professionals complained that the new program was too much, too fast, the credits needed more refinement, and the resources needed to achieve certain credits were not readily available.[1] Appropriately, the name changed from LEED 2012 to LEED v4.

Despite the slight uproar, development of the program is moving along. In comparison to the updates for LEED version 3, this iteration will be much more technically rigorous than the foundational changes of the past. USGBC intends to simplify the process while simultaneously raising the bar for the building industry. As part of development, there have been multiple public comment periods (mark your calendars for the March 1st – March 31st 6th public comment session), responses from USGBC member committees, a beta testing period, and a ballot vote that will take place in the summer of 2013 among USGBC members. Click here to check out the 5th public comment responses. When the ballot is approved by the USGBC members, LEED v4 will become available to project teams, which is anticipated in the late summer or fall of 2013. USGBC has promised that LEED 2009 will also remain available for new registrations until June 2015.

So what exactly are the changes? The first is new credit categories, including new prerequisites and credits across all credit categories and rating systems. These new standards are strengthening what it means for a building to be LEED certified. USGBC is aiming beyond net-zero into net-positive and the new credits, prerequisites and categories will help the building industry to achieve this ambitious charge. The new categories include Integrative Process, Location and Transportation and Performance. New credits are currently being tested in the Pilot Credit Library and project teams’ experience and feedback has helped to improve and refine new credits. For a comprehensive look at the changes to specific credits in LEED v4, check out the "New Concepts in LEED v4" article published by Environmental Building News and the "LEED v4" article published by HPAC Engineering. Additionally, here is a look at the latest version of the LEED for New Construction scorecard, with stars next to the credits in which substantive changes are proposed.
LEED v4 Draft Scorecard

The next major change is to the technical content. In an effort to reduce CO2 emissions more than any other version of the LEED rating systems, LEED v4 has substantially improved the standards for building performance. The changes include: emphasis on integrated project teams, rewarding development in existing built environments, low-impact development, expansion of water efficiency, and promotion of lifecycle analysis of materials, just to name a few. Furthermore, impact categories were developed to help determine not only the technical requirements of the rating systems, but also the reallocation of points assigned to each credit. LEED 2009 focused on decreasing damage caused by the built environment whereas the impact categories for LEED v4 strive to promote projects that contribute positively to the environment and to the community. 
LEED v4 Impact Categories

In addition to the rating system changes, the website has been updated. In an effort to create a better online experience, the new USGBC website is simplified, informative and easy to navigate. It provides the languages of the rating systems in one place. Rather than the paper editions of the past, the website will have the most up-to-date information regarding the various rating systems, credit resources, and a forum for discussion, streamlining services for LEED practitioners.

USGBC's New Website
Finally, LEED v4 will reach new market sectors including data centers, warehouses and distribution centers, hospitality facilities, existing schools, existing retail and mid-rise residential. For updates on the changes being made to the LEED rating systems, check out:

With that, I challenge all building industry players to become familiar with the new rating systems and invest in the positive mission USGBC is promoting. We have a responsibility to our communities and to the planet to provide safe, viable and sustainable built environments and LEED v4 is helping to pave the way for our industry.

Lastly, be proactive and participate in the development process; don’t forget to submit your comments to USGBC between now and March 31st during the 6th public comment period.