The Heartbreak of Green Building Consulting for LEED

ChuckLohreLEED Platinum Home/Office Project

You’ve submitted the required materials — dotted all the “i”s and crossed those “t”s — and now you wait. The anticipation of getting your LEED review back from the USGBC is high. When you get the email you’re hoping for the best. After you start reading the review, your heart sinks because the sustainable sites prerequisites wasn’t met. The PDF file was corrupted by a computer, somewhere. Why didn’t they ask for it again? The plans were perfect and everything was duplicated on them anyway. You’re in a knife fight and they just knocked your knife away.

So here’s our story. On water efficiency, we really screwed up the full-time equivalent flush and flow calculations. Easy enough to fix.

Green Building Consulting LEED PlatinumDidn’t get the two minimum points for energy. That sinking feeling sets in. It would have been so easy to use an HVAC system that had an exterior fresh air supply, but those systems are unheard of for small office projects. We’ve never seen them used except for large public buildings. Some mumbo jumbo about baseline fan power that you’ve never heard of before.

Where do they get this stuff?

No mention of it in any reference manual. No third party resources. No engineer you’ve spoken to even wants to speak about it. There must be a secret green room somewhere that gold colored engineers hang out. Funny, it doesn’t seem like any of the local chapter members are hiding anything. And don’t look to any HVAC manuals to help. The ones that are used for educating today’s journeymen were written in the ’40s and have nothing to do with smaller systems. In the end, we’ll sort it out. Carefully solving the riddle character by character. The reviewers know what they are talking about and know exactly what is needed. It will take you several days to let the comments sink in and then you will start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But you only have one bullet left in your gun, and it’s $800 to appeal. That’s 20 percent of our fee. We’re going to have to suck it in, clear our head and launch eQUEST.

There’s a supplemental heater on the third floor for conditioning the kitchen. We pretty much ignored separating it in eQUEST and combined the capacity to one system in eQUEST as we had done before for another project. USGBC doesn’t like that. We don’t know how to do that in Wizard view. And, it just gets worse in Detailed view. I don’t think we have the brain power for it. Pray for us. As with most LEED reviews, what worked for the last project won’t necessarily work for this project. And the final insult, we use Cincinnati’s 100-percent, Green-e renewable electric provider, but the USGBC acts as if they have never heard of such a thing and we’re not sure how to explain it for the third time since we only have one bullet left.

Materials no problem. A monkey could do it.

Interior environmental quality runs into another road block with the minimum air supply. What are you to do? There is no exterior air supply. The common way engineers calculate fresh air is by how leaky the building is! Pretty ludicrous but don’t try to find any place to read about it. Once again, we’re going to have to read, read, read and read again the reviewer’s comment and sleep on it, to uncover the riddle that needs to be solved. What do they mean our design doesn’t meet thermal design criteria? The plans call for 21 fulltime equivalents and that’s what we are using, but there are only two persons in the whole building now and no offices or plans for how all those other folks would occupy the rest of the empty building.

Green Building Consulting PlaqueBut we’re confident, that’s part of the challenge and the fun. We have achieved LEED Platinum on our first two projects and we’re only trying for Gold on this one. And we get the problem children. Projects that are so screwed up and abandoned. Way over budget. We only do it because the owners are well intentioned and they are wonderful projects. We may get the opportunity to create the first LEED Platinum Certification Version 4 in the city from the start. That would be a relief. Then we could only blame ourselves instead of the darkness. LEED is extremely difficult to achieve high levels. There are only a handful of professionals that know how to do it in any major city. But, if it was easy everyone would do it. And the USGBC is nearly bulletproof. That’s why it’s such a valuable certification. Recognized world wide as the highest standard in sustainable design. We’ll come out of this knowing more and proud of our achievement.

We hope the new Version 4 reference guide will be able to help us understand the HVAC systems and the credit documentation requirements for energy modeling. Forums are great, but most times you just go to a room with other people with the same problem. We depend on the USGBC to provide us with the educational material to achieve their goals. Now if the client will understand that you only get two out of three. High quality and low cost. The time component will suffer.

If you don’t want to make the same mistakes, you would like to read, “A Step-by-Step Guide for Finding a Green Building Consultant”

unknown-6320450For a no obligation green building consultation for your home or office please contact Chuck Lohre, LEED AP ID+C. He’ll go over the U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Reference Guide with you and offer helpful suggestions for Green Building Consultants, Architects, Interior Designers, Building Material Suppliers and Contractors. You can even borrow the Reference Guide if you like. Article from the Cincinnati Business Courier.

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