This content allows LEEDuser members to see how the highest-scoring v4 project to date obtained some of the most difficult credits. Curious about the story behind the spreadsheets, LEEDuser spoke to the project team about what they found different in v4 and lessons they would pass on to other project teams.
“No pitfalls, no hiccups”
When StopWaste decided to recertify under EBOM, it chose the v4 system even though it might have been simpler to pursue LEED v2009 (which it was still eligible to register for) because it “wanted to be on the cutting edge,” Wes Sullens, policy and advocacy manager at StopWaste told LEEDuser. The building had been the first in the U.S. to achieve Platinum under LEED-NC v2.2 when it was renovated in 2007, and the organization, which is a public agency that provides source reduction and recycling programs in Alameda County, felt its mission compelled it to pursue the latest version.
When BuildingWise was recruited to be the project’s LEED consultant, Barry Giles, founder and chief executive officer of BuildingWise, said his team agreed because they “didn’t see huge changes in the [v4] rating system and what they did see, they didn’t view as detrimental. So we said, ‘Why not go forward? What’s the big snag?’”
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Generally, those initial judgments about v4 were correct, according to the project team. Certification did not take longer (though there was a delay with the documentation because LEED Online was not prepared for the beta projects) and there weren’t any surprises that derailed the project. “You still have roughly the same data to gather” explains Giles, so some credits take longer than others, but those experienced with LEED will find the patterns are the same. And from the owner’s perspective “the learning curve was the equivalent” says Sullens.
As a public agency, StopWaste had to develop and get its internal policies approved, which delayed the performance start period, but the project would have had to figure that out not matter what version they were pursuing.
Tightening the belt
The team says that there were noticeable ways the new version had become more rigorous. “The bar for water metering has definitely been raised” Levi Jimenez, project manager at BuildingWise told LEEDuser. StopWaste would have needed two subsystems to achieve the metering credit, but to do that beyond the irrigation system didn’t make much sense for such a small project.
The project team also found the Purchasing—Ongoing Consumables credit much more difficult, and even after much time and wrangling trying to get it right, was not awarded the point. StopWaste’s internal policies called for all paper—the organization’s single largest expense—to be FSC-certified with 100% post-consumer recycled content.
In earlier versions, when products were counted pass/fail by cost, that might have been enough but now products are weighted and other products that didn’t meet the criteria offset the paper. “In the end, it was a disappointment that we didn’t get the credit, but it did show that the rating system had tightened up” according to Sullens. The lesson, he says, is to get your policies in place before the measurement period. “Had we made sure our purchasing policy was being followed more closely, we might have gotten the credit, so you have to settle on those policies early and review them often.”
Nomenclature and calculations
The StopWaste team also sees certain trade-off with the changes to the system’s structure and calculation tools. The lack of shorthand numbers for the credits themselves (see our Poll – Should LEED v4 Credits Have Numbers?) which “can be a bit of a logistical pain” according to Giles, but on the other, the language between EBOM and the other rating systems has been harmonized making it less of a “brain-drain” to go from one system to another, according to Jimenez.
Familiar 24-hour storm rates are no longer used for rainwater infiltration in favor of a more complicated calculation and daylighting is now calculated in lux instead of footcandles, which can be jarring. However, other calculations are much more streamlined, like how ongoing consumables, food, and durable goods are all now inputs into a single calculator, according to Jimenez.
At the end of the day, it cost around $45,000 to do the audits, the consulting, and to go after a few innovation credits, “which is a hard stepping stone for small buildings,” Sullens admits. But it is comparable to other systems says Giles, “and there aren’t a lot of options to bring that number down further,” he says. “If you want to do it right, it is always going to be paperwork, time, and money.”
Editor's note: This post was co-authored by Tristan Roberts and Candace Pearson.
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