Sunday, December 14, 2008

Article: The New Green Standard

With the LEED™ rating system in place it is easier to make sure your new library saves money as it treads lightly on natural resources

Bill Brown / Library Journal / 12 / 15/ 2003

Libraries are on the cutting edge of green design. Long the lonely mission of environmentally responsible architects, green architecture grew out of a desire to lessen the negative environmental impacts of conventional buildings, which use nearly half the energy consumed in this country. Many other benefits have been discovered along the way. [snip]

Historically, this comprehensive, collaborative design process—variously labeled as green, environmentally sustainable, or high-performance design—has suffered from a lack of standards. In 2000, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) formulated the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED™) rating system to certify green buildings, ... .

Well-designed green buildings cost less to operate and maintain than conventionally constructed buildings. They use less energy and natural resources. They are better integrated into their sites and communities. They are more comfortable, enjoy more daylight, ... .

These spaces often require a slightly greater investment in design and construction costs, though there are exceptions. [snip]. In any case, these buildings pay off through a lifetime of return on that initial investment. LEED™-ing the way LEED™ scores projects in six categories including Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Innovation & Design. Of 69 possible points, projects must get 26 to be certified, 33 to be certified silver, 39 to be certified gold, and 52 to be certified platinum. Certification is given after the building is complete to assure that predicted performance has been achieved. [snip]

While a handful of high-profile green projects were completed prior to the establishment of the USGBC ten years ago and many continue to be completed without using the rating system, LEED™ is gaining momentum as the standard for green design. [snip]

Requests for proposals (RFPs) for public projects now routinely require candidates to list their LEED™ experience and expertise. This rapid entry of LEED™ into the mainstream has created a rush among architecture and engineering firms to gain competence and experience in green design, one of USGBC's goals. [snip]

Early Collaboration

The idea that all design decisions are interrelated is especially true with green design. This requires early collaboration among design disciplines (and possibly with community entities), which goes against standard practice in many architecture firms. [snip]

The selection of a lighter ceiling color, for example, can improve the performance of lighting, both natural and artificial. Thus, the library will need fewer fixtures or smaller window apertures. This reduces the heating and cooling load, which then calls for smaller mechanical equipment and ducts. [snip]

Site selection, important for any project, is critical for green design. LEED™ encourages urban redevelopment because of the infrastructure already in place. Alternative transportation is usually possible. [snip]. And an urban site contributes to the big picture: there will be lower impact on the urban heat island effect and a limited increase in light pollution. In turn, LEED™ discourages the use of greenfield sites, or undeveloped land.

Site selection also influences building design. Opportunities to orient the building for optimum solar exposure, for instance, can enhance the power of daylighting and significantly improve energy efficiency. [snip]

Energy is LEED™'s Middle Name

A core goal of green design is to produce buildings that use significantly less energy. Such buildings create less pollution. They also deplete fewer nonrenewable resources and cause less damage from the extraction and transportation of those resources.

Using existing industry standards as benchmarks, LEED™ awards points for energy efficiency savings. Up to ten points are awarded for besting the standards by 60 percent in a new building and 50 percent in an existing one. Other energy-related points come when buildings employ renewable energy like solar or wind power, undergo additional building commissioning (independent testing), eliminate ozone-depleting refrigerants, or measure and verify monitoring and use of green power ... .

The design for energy efficiency requires coordination with other disciplines to optimize the building envelope (walls, glazing, roofing), lighting, and controls. [snip]

[snip] LEED™ documentation requires research into material origins and life cycle, and the system awards points for use of materials with reused and recycled content. To support local economies and decrease transportation impacts, LEED™ values materials manufactured locally or within a 500-mile radius. [snip]

The system requires that green projects include areas dedicated to recycling. LEED™ also encourages the reuse of buildings, which means historic renovation projects can score as well as new construction. [snip]

Let Mother Nature Work

Andrew Carnegie asked that libraries designed under his grants include 'a representation of the rays of a rising sun, and above 'LET THERE BE LIGHT.'' Turn of the century libraries, like those built 2000 years earlier, made the most of natural daylight and natural ventilation, two hallmarks of current green design. [snip]

Now it is common knowledge that poor indoor environments can be life-threatening. However, few building owners consider the benefits of good indoor environments, which have a documented positive impact on health, productivity, human performance, learning, mood, comfort, and employee retention. [snip] LEED™ calls for a minimum for indoor air quality and control of environmental tobacco smoke. A building wins points for CO2 monitoring, increased ventilation effectiveness, indoor air quality management plans, use of low-emitting materials, indoor chemical and pollutant source control, controllable heating and cooling systems, thermal comfort, and available daylight and views.

[snip] Aided by new glazing technology, intelligent lighting controls, and sophisticated daylighting and energy analysis software, green designers can fine-tune building envelopes to take advantage of high-quality sunlight while controlling heat loss or gain.

What Are The Hurdles?

LEED™ certification can be complicated, and critics have found it cumbersome and sometimes inconsistent. It also adds immediate expenses to a project. [snip]. Prerequisites for LEED™ certification include basic building commissioning, which is not yet standard practice in many regions. In addition, design fees typically rise owing to the need to spend more time on design and construction phase meetings, research, and documentation. [snip]

The good news is that standard construction documents now incorporate LEED™ requirements, and new computerized reporting templates in LEED™ 2.1 have streamlined documentation. [snip].

When planning a project, consider hiring an experienced green design firm or at least make sure the design team includes a knowledgeable green design consultant. Then incorporate any additional certification costs into the initial project budgets. The USGBC has a listing of LEED™–accredited professionals [] Also, the American Institute of Architects [] offers an excellent tutorial on writing green RFPs, which includes guidelines and examples of actual RFPs and feedback from users of those RFPs.

A Greener Future


[snip] If we reach a point where all new and existing buildings are LEED™–certified, we will still be wasting our finite resources. Truly green architecture will exist when we are designing buildings that restore fresh water and air and produce more energy than they consume. That is a challenge that enlightened librarians can help us meet, one building at a time.


Bill Brown, AIA, LEED™ Accredited Professional, is Director of Architecture at Veazey Parrott Durkin & Shoulders, Evansville, INSource


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