Looking further into LEED v4: Environmental Product Declarations

Photo credit: Michael Bednar

Environmental Product Declarations (EPD’s) are commonly referred to as the “nutrition labels” of the green building industry. Instead of showing fats, carbohydrates, and calories, EPD’s provide information on the environmental impacts of a certain product, such as global warming potential, water consumption, and smog formation. EPD’s take the nitty gritty of a product’s life-cycle analysis and condense it into one document. While it can take up to a year to produce an EPD, more manufacturers are releasing them as demand increases from building architects, consultants, and designers.

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LEED and the WELL Building Standard

Photo credit: International Well Building Institute

Everyone might know what is trending on social media, but do you know what is trending in the world of building design? While LEED is still the frontrunner of green building rating systems, a new standard is increasingly becoming all the rage among designers. The WELL building standard was developed by the real estate firm Delos in 2013 and takes a human-centered approach to the process of designing a building. Like LEED, the standard has various credits that projects must achieve to become certified. The seven aspects of the WELL standard are: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. These are centered around the concept of improving human wellness and how the office environment shapes our physical and mental health. While WELL certification may seem like just another trend to boost an organization’s brand, recent studies have shown that our office environment affects us much more then we know.

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A Discussion With Perkins+Will On Mass Timber

Photo credit: Perkins+Will

Concrete is the second most consumed substance on Earth after water. Now, that statement may not come as a surprise to you if you work in design, construction, or real estate. After the Industrial Revolution, the majority of the Western world’s buildings have been erected with concrete and steel. And, as urban populations grow over the next 30 years (L.A. is projected to gain an additional 1.5 million people by the year 2050), the use of concrete is expected to increase rapidly to meet the demands of urbanization. But at what cost to our environment?

Cement, the primary ingredient in concrete, accounts for around 5% of global carbon dioxide emissions, which are associated with climate change. As we build out our cities, making room for future populations, that percentage will only continue to grow. Cement production increases 2.5% annually, and is expected to rise from 2.55 billion tons in 2006 to 3.7-4.4 billion tons by 2050. In order to moderate the enormous greenhouse gas emissions associated with these urbanization projections , more efficient, economical and sustainable building construction materials must be developed.

Is there a superior alternative?

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The Center for Sustainable Landscapes at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Photo credit: Phipps Conservatory

It seems the bar for green buildings is being set higher and higher with every new project coming onto the radar. However, the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens may have set the bar at its highest level. Completed in 2012, the CSL is increasingly being referred to as the most sustainable building in the world due to the fact it’s obtained the world’s four highest green certifications. The building has met the standards for LEED platinum, Four Stars Sustainable Sites Initiative, WELL building platinum, and most recently achieved Living Building Challenge certification, the toughest of them all. Glancing into how the CSL was developed, it is easy to see how this building is earning the title of most sustainable in the world. Read more

LEED v4 Commissioning: More Requirements for Finer-Tuned Buildings

Photo credit: Ratcliff Architects

As we’ve noted in previous articles covering commissioning (Cx), it is an important key to the green building design process that should never be left out. For a little recap: commissioning (Cx) is the continual process during planning, design, construction, and building operation that aims to make sure quality is up to par, design is meeting its expectations, and systems are performing as they’re supposed to. This last part is crucial. Why spend the time, money, and effort on installing high-performance heat pumps in your structure only to later find out that they are improperly installed and thus wasting energy instead of saving it? Verdical Group’s very own commissioning agent (CxA), Frank Hooks, recently discovered within one of our projects that all of the economizers were completely shut (they were never set up to be operational) while a LEED flush out was supposed to be in progress—meaning there was no way the flush out was performed correctly. The quality control work that commissioning agents complete helps to find all sorts of errors in building systems—as large as the example formerly described or as minor as a toilet improperly flushing.

The USGBC clearly recognizes the importance of commissioning buildings; the energy and cost savings resulting from it are too great to ignore. The new LEED v4 rating system significantly improves upon LEED v2009’s fundamental and enhanced commissioning credits. In the proceeding paragraphs below, some of the major commissioning updates that have been incorporated into LEED v4 are discussed.

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