The Implications of the 2016 LEED Price Increase

A popular topic of discussion recently among green building professionals has been the LEED price increase that the USGBC announced earlier this month for the registration and certification of LEED projects. This is the first LEED price increase since 2010. What does this mean for your project? Odds are, not very much – the increase is nominal.

What the price increase supports:

  • Continued development of LEED;
  • Development of tools, guidance and education programs;
  • Increased engagement with stakeholders including enhanced communication tools and protocols to better support owners of LEED projects.

What you need to know:

  • The new pricing schedule will be implemented on December 1st, 2016
  • You can lock in current rates for projects registered by Dec 1st and following up with on-time certification payments (by March 1st, 2017)
  • Need more time? It seems that some leeway may be given at the discretion of the USGBC. Doesn’t hurt to contact them or ask your building team if the registration of your project can be expedited.

Key changes:

  • USD300 increase for registration
  • New minimum thresholds introduced for fee categories
  • All currently registered or certified projects will have access to Arc as of December 1st.
  • All new projects will have access to Arc upon registration.
  • Optimized pricing considerations for large-scale projects, portfolios and campus and volume program participants.

The increase in registration fees will impact all new projects but for specifics on how this new schedule will impact your budget you can check the old pricing schedule.

The major value added tied in with this price increase is the implementation of Arc. The platform (announced in October 2016) is meant to integrate current and future standards, guidelines, protocols and systems that frame and support LEED projects. Arc is meant to simplify the comparison of performance metrics and allow for real-time monitoring of progress.

Arc will allow you to evaluate your building or project against other comparable certified buildings OR against its own past performance. It allows for the measurement of incremental improvement

The cost of certification is typically a minor contributor to the cost of building – especially for major projects. Don’t be overly concerned about this price increase and definitely don’t let it stop you from considering sustainable design options or certification.

If you have questions, please contact your design/construction team or the USGBC. They’re very quick to respond!


A Business Case for Healthy Buildings

There used to be a misconception that sustainability was expensive. While true that many of the practices involved in the process of building sustainably (for example, the use of new technologies and materials) required a higher initial investment, collection of long-term performance data and the increasing acceptance of life-cycle costing methods has allowed for the demonstration of the worth of the initial investment.

In the last decade or so, it has become accepted that designing and constructing our built environment for sustainability can positively impact bottom lines. Both in the construction and design community as well as among investors and consumers, “green” design elements are becoming an expectation. A new issue of concern is now coming into focus – the need for the design of “healthy buildings”, conducive both towards environmental health but also that of its occupants.

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is a recognized condition in which occupants of a building experience significant health issues that can be tied to the operation or design of a building. According to the World Health Organization, indoor air pollution causes 14-times more deaths than outdoor air pollution. Use of daylighting and availability of line-of-sight to the outdoors has been linked to mental health and productivity. Privacy, comfort control and ambient noise levels are all factors in occupant satisfaction.

Since most of us spend roughly 90% of our days inside, the indoor environment is a critical health factor.

While it is intuitively grasped that health is important, the move towards better living and work environments can be strongly supported by establishing strategic business drivers. Consider:

  • Financial Impact
    • Hundreds of billions of dollars lost worldwide due to low productivity, service quality, work absences, disability and health claims.
    • Market data shows that healthier building practices allow owners to lease space more quickly, charge a premium rent and increases building value
  • Public Profile and Perception
    • Public goodwill is arguably an important factor in determining the success of an organization.
    • Organizations becoming employers of choice will attract the top talent and achieve higher employee retention rate.
    • Desirable buildings demand higher market prices and attract owners and tenants more invested in the maintenance of the building.
  • The Legal Case
    • Requirements vary but generally establish the expectation that a building is safe for its inhabitants. “Safe” is an encompassing term.
    • Due diligence is the absolute minimum requirement but there is an increasing burden of responsibility towards owners and employers.
    • Some jurisdictions have or are considering instituting legislative provisions to protect the health of building occupants

These uncontestable business arguments trump any gut feeling.

While general wisdom and best practice can be used to achieve a healthful building environment, designers and contractors that are well versed in current technology and market trends can bring huge value to a project. Established building certification systems, among which LEED is an industry leader, are a very useful tool that can contribute to project profile and success.

LEED has already established the economic benefit of healthy buildings. General improvements via retrofit design have been demonstrated to increase productivity by up to 6 percent. Of course, maximum impact can be achieved during the initial design process.

LEED sets prerequisites (minimum criteria) for indoor air quality performance, environmental tobacco smoke control and awards credits for features such as bicycle facilities, shower access, use of low-emitting materials, interior lighting, thermal comfort, integrated pest management, daylight and quality views. Expectations are more rigorous than ever in LEED v4.

Other trends in healthy building design include spaces that enhance social interaction, biophillic design principles, layouts that promote movement and encourage physical activity.

As an aside, it is interesting to consider how healthy building practices can be observed in the elements of traditional architecture across many cultures and regions. Consider ancient Moorish design and Chinese Feng Shui principles that both focus on the importance of air flow and quality and the use of water features and courtyards in quadrangle constructions to maintain thermal regulation and comfort. The world has a tradition of sophisticated design principles that have been abandoned but that we are slowly rediscovering.

Whatever the size and purpose of your project, discuss health and sustainability issues with your design team.

It is in the interest of owners and users to insist on the rigorous application of responsible and intelligent design. There is so much research and development ongoing and a wealth of information available. Partners in design and construction that are educated and experienced are invaluable assets to a successful project.


Building Performance Data: USA trying to catch up to China

The US Green Building Council (USGBC) – the organization that develops LEED certification for buildings – has just announced the upcoming launch of ‘arc’, a data driven platform designed to collect and report performance data of buildings. Once it is up and running, it will herald the dawn of a new era for buildings. During the launch, current and future supporting technologies were also announced, technologies necessary for this new era to rise.

Meanwhile in China, this is already well under way and the technologies are already available. While the USA is announcing the dawn of a new era, China is already moving onto lunch.

At the forefront of this is an innovative building standard called RESET. Born in China, it is the world’s first sensor-based, real-time, performance driven building standard. Over three years ago, RESET also developed the world’s first (and only) international standard for building monitors and sensors tracking indoor environmental quality.

But this is not just a China story: RESET is also the first building standard to grow internationally from the China.

Although this may seem surprising to many in the West, it really shouldn’t be. Necessity is the mother of innovation, and nowhere is the need for building performance data greater than in China, particularly when it comes to healthy indoor environments. The market adoption of RESET has been inspiring and provides insights for the rest of the world.

RESET is levelling the playing field for real-estate developers by providing a transparent monitoring and communication standard for the health performance of buildings. Several months ago, the standard was adopted by UBAN, the world’s largest commercial real-estate platform, providing them with the ability to benchmark buildings. The adoption cemented RESET as the market standard – a testament to the power of open and actionable building data.

UBAN has adopted RESET as a benchmarking and rating tool.

UBAN has adopted RESET as a benchmarking and rating tool.

Seeing as data from RESET certified projects is reported in real-time it means the data is actionable, aligning building owners, employers and employees towards achieving the most high performance spaces possible. Although real-time data may seem like a threat and liability to many building owners and employers in the West, in China it has proved to be the opposite, enabling these parties to take action and fix issues before employees monitor and report issues themselves. It is also enabling developers to attract tenants, as evidenced by UBAN.

The adoption of RESET’s monitoring standard has also been impressive – a subject the USA has not yet even breached. While the USA has primarily focused on how to get low-cost consumer grade monitors into buildings, the scale of China has allowed RESET to define a whole new tier of high-quality building grade sensors. At the time of writing, seven hardware companies are actively working towards the standard. So far only four have passed, with three being Chinese and only one being American. RESET has also correctly separated hardware and software standards, prioritizing platforms that are open to collaboration. This enables hardware agnostic platforms such as Qlear to stream data from the world’s increasing number of hardware makers, compare results, plug into the RESET cloud for certification analytics while also serving WELL and LEED projects. The future is here.

RESET links with data aggregators such as QLEAR and helps with LEED and WELL certification.

RESET links with data aggregators such as QLEAR and helps with LEED and WELL certification.

The world is increasingly becoming flat and large scale innovations are now flowing out of China – in areas the world does not associate with the country – such as open data and transparency. While the USA is busy thinking through how all the pieces of a green/healthy building data ecosystem will fit together, it is worth taking a moment to learn from what is happening in China – and now flowing to the rest of the world.


3 Ways to Make Your 2016 Resolutions More Realistic and Attainable

Okay, we’ll skip the traditional holiday gift lists because, frankly, if there’s one thing you can do for the planet during this most hectic and commercialized season of the year, it’s to buy nothing at all. We’ll just go right ahead with the New Year’s resolutions because we all could use one or two.

Image courtesy of Calvin and Hobbes

Image courtesy of Calvin and Hobbes

The problem is—and this is almost always the case with resolutions—resolutions are so challenging to keep. It’s as if they’re bound to self-destruct the moment you decide on getting one. Here are the three reasons why resolutions fail, and what you can do about them.


Ditch the Element of Suddenness

When making resolutions, we often mistake the element of suddenness for urgency. Come December, we start committing ourselves to doing (or refraining from doing) something all of a sudden without any thought or preparation for it, thinking the ending year is enough to inspire and prod us.

Last-minute resolutions ask you to plunge yourself to a life-altering decision you may not actually be ready for—be it a going on a strict diet, engaging in a more active lifestyle, or managing one’s finances. Don’t just suddenly embark on a resolution in one fell swoop come December. Instead, take it easy and one at a time.

If you resolve to quit smoking next year, it’s more realistic to start cutting

Image from https://kellyjohnsongracenotes

Image from https://kellyjohnsongracenotes

back on it a few months earlier, say even before June or July sets in. So by the time December rolls by, you’re more prepared and less likely to break your promises. The result: The resolution you create in December is thus backed by a habit you’ve built earlier.


Installment Basis

One other reason why resolutions fail is because we turn them into all-encompassing pledges that can either be limiting to our current lifestyle, overwhelming, or just plain unrealistic. Big-time resolutions can seem well-intentioned, but once we fail on just a single aspect of it, it can go downhill from there.

For example, eating healthy is a good resolution to have, but it’s too broad. If you’re used to a convenient diet of fast food and instant snacks, that can be downright impossible. Instead, focus on a manageable portion that you can sink your teeth on (pardon the pun).

Making resolutions VS Not making resolutions

Making resolutions VS Not making resolutions

What’s the alternative?  How about cutting back on colas, energy drinks, sweetened fruit juices and other beverages?  It’s just one component of the eating healthy goal, but you’ll have to admit it’s way more achievable. Next year you can tackle another aspect of your healthy diet goal, such as getting more fiber or eating more fermented foods, while still retaining your No to Sugary Beverages policy.  New Year resolutions don’t have to be grand, you can do it by installment basis.


Get a Support Group

A third reason for failed New Year’s resolutions is the lack of support group.

Resolutions don’t have to be private, secret undertakings that you should be embarrassed about. Let  your friend and family know what your goals are for the next year so they can guide you along and remind you when you’re straying from the path. They can even share their own resolutions with you, so you guys can help each other out.

Having a support group helps because it keeps everyone honest, it makes the resolutions less challenging than they should be, and actually makes them more fun to pursue.

 * * *

Let’s face it, New Year’s resolutions are traditionally meant to fail right from the start, but that’s only because we’re tackling them the wrong way. By modifying our resolutions to more realistic proportions, we’re more likely to keep them for a much longer time.

But don’t worry, if ever you break them prematurely. Forgive yourself, move on, and resolve to do better the next time.