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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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LEED v4: Upgraded, Redefined & Ready for Adoption

Photo credit: USGBC

The last day to officially register a project under the LEED v2009 rating system is on October 31st, 2016. That means projects failing to register before Halloween will have to sign up for LEED v4 by default. (If your project is already registered under LEED v2009, do not fear—you have until June 2021 to submit for certification under this rating system). So, what can we expect from LEED v4 that has some critics clearly spooked? Is it really all that scary? Keep reading below to find out more about the soon-to-be normal for USGBC’s LEED rating system. Read more

VG’s Emily Hand Discusses the LABBC 2016 Tech Showcase

With the rapid rate at which sustainable building technologies surface into the market, how can building owners and property managers possibly know what to choose from? Where can busy engineers, facility managers, and real estate professionals get a quick download of the latest energy and water efficiency building products? The annual Los Angeles Better Buildings Challenge (LABBC) Building Technology Showcase is the answer to these questions and more. VG’s Project Manager Emily Hand, who planned and managed this “Real Estate & Technology Event” was asked a few questions regarding their 4th Annual Tech Showcase on August 26th.
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Perspectives on Net Zero – What Does the Future Look Like?

Photo credit: The Bullitt Center

Verdical Group’s sold out Net Zero 2016 Conference, the largest net zero building design conference in the country, was hands-down the best yet. Not just because of the world-class lineup of speakers and exhibitors that captivated a packed SoCalGas Energy Resource Center in Downey, California. Not simply because all of the attendees seemed to leave the event with ambitious smiles on their faces, ready to venture out into the world to make their own mark on a net zero future. It wasn’t only due to awe-inspiring presentations such as “Net Positive Building Design for Higher Education” by Miller Hull architect Brian Court. No, the greatest aspect of the conference was the “Perspectives on Net Zero,” panel that convened gas, electric, and water utilities, municipalities, and a visionary nonprofit (the International Living Future Institute) to discern what a net zero future would look like.

How did each representative present their view on a net zero future? Below, the panelists’ various perspectives surrounding net zero energy and water will be reviewed. Based on their discussion, it’s possible to envision a future where net zero building performance is possible. Read more

Verdical Group Hosts 3rd Annual Net Zero Conference: Energy + Water + Waste

Photo credit: Nic Lehoux

Aggressive Strategies for a Changing Climate

Downey, CA— Buildings alone contribute almost 40% of total US carbon emissions, and Zero Net Energy buildings will play an aggressive role as we strive to mitigate the effects of climate change. California is leading the way with mandates that all new residential construction be net zero energy by 2020, and commercial construction to follow suit by 2030. The market is pivoting, and companies and designers are finding opportunity in these shifts. Gaining traction, Zero Net Water, and Zero Net Waste movements are taking hold across industries as well, as inefficient systems and industry waste are being more accurately seen risks and hidden costs, and value is extracted from streams previously identified as waste only. Read more

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Brock Environmental Center

Photo credit: Hourigan Construction

When it comes to green buildings, The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is no rookie. 15 years ago, in 2001, CBF was the first in the world to claim a LEED Platinum certified building as its own. Their Philip Merrill Environmental Center, CBF’s Annapolis, Maryland headquarters, incorporates composting toilets, rainwater harvesting, and various other water-saving strategies that enable it to achieve a 90% reduction in water use compared to a conventional office building. As CBF is a non-profit whose sole objective is to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, this is certainly one organization that walks the talk (or paddles the babble?) Now, in 2016, CBF has gone above-and-beyond the status quo once again, one-upping their Maryland office with a brand new 10,000-square-foot Living Building Certified center in Virginia Beach, VA. What is it that makes their latest Brock Environmental Center one of the greenest buildings in the world? Read more

California: Pushed to the Forefront in Sustainability

Photo credit: CA.gov & Damon Winter

Why is California so sustainable? Well, necessity really.

At first glance, California is the second largest greenhouse gas emitter in the country, with a whopping 353 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted in 2013 based on EIA reports. Taking a closer look at the per capita emissions, however, we can see that California is actually one of the lowest emitters of carbon dioxide, with only 9.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person compared to the national average of 16.7 metric tons per person. Interesting? In fact, according to state statistics California is 48th in the nation in per capital energy consumption, 2nd in net renewables, and 1st in solar and geothermal. California is leading the way in terms of energy efficiency and clean energy. Read more