Making LEED for Existing Buildings certification fit into a long-term capital plan
Across the United States, owners are looking to have their existing buildings certified under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System without bankrupting their operation-and-maintenance budgets. The only way for them reach that goal is to meet the requirements of LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (O&M) 2009.
LEED for Existing Buildings: O&M 2009 verifies that a facility is reducing global warming by curtailing carbon emissions and enhancing U.S. energy security. “Low-cost/no-cost” upgrades can be worked into a capital plan, earning a three- to five-year energy-savings payback while reducing maintenance and obtaining LEED certification.
Prior to June 27, new LEED for Existing Buildings: O&M projects could be registered for the old or new program; now, any new projects must be registered under LEED for Existing Buildings: O&M 2009. If a project is registered under the old program, it can be transitioned to LEED for Existing Buildings: O&M 2009 free of charge until Dec. 31. LEED for Existing Buildings: O&M 2009 offers different point counts, such as:
Energy & Atmosphere (EA) Credit 1, Optimize Energy Efficiency Performance. Energy-smart boilers, chillers, and cooling towers can help a facility earn up to 18 points under EA Credit 1 while fitting into a long-term capital plan. A central building-management system allows scheduling and provides remote access by off-duty members of the maintenance staff. Remote monitoring allows staff members to make sure lighting, heating, and cooling systems are off at night and on weekends.
EA Credit 4, Renewable Energy. Facilities can make a strong pro-environmental statement by adding photovoltaic or solar-thermal collectors to roofs. Tax credits and incentives from utilities and state energy offices stretch capital-plan dollars for paybacks as short as five to seven years, and low-maintenance panels are a hedge against rising power prices. Solar panels can yield up to six LEED points (plus regional bonus points) under EA Credit 4.
Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) Credit 1.1, IAQ Best Management Practices — IAQ Management Program, and IEQ Credit 1.2, IAQ Best Management Practices — Outdoor Air Delivery Monitoring. The best way to save energy dollars and earn LEED points related to ventilation is to have a plan that calls for inspecting and cleaning air intakes, fans, and filters. Clogged filters and air intakes cause fans to work harder, while grit deposits on fan blades reduce efficiency, increasing electricity costs. Clean equipment is quiet and reduces capital expenses by working longer. Even better, this type of indoor-air-quality- (IAQ-) management plan earns a point under IEQ Credit 1.1. If the plan calls for an HVAC upgrade, carbon-dioxide (CO2) monitoring can trim outside air appropriately. CO2 control saves money by avoiding the heating and cooling of excessive outside air and earns a point under IEQ Credit 1.2.
EA Credit 1 and IEQ Credit 2.2, Occupant Comfort — Occupant Controlled Lighting. Turning off lights saves energy and maintenance costs and earns points under EA Credit 1. Motion sensors, timers, and exit master switches can do wonders. Building perimeters usually experience plenty of daylight, so photosensor-based light controls automatically can reduce fixture power when the sun is out. The same system can provide a selection of pre-defined light levels that fit all working requirements. These types of lighting systems also can earn a point for controllability under IEQ Credit 2.2.
IEQ Credit 1.4, IAQ Best Management Practices — Reduce Particulates in Air Distribution. Janitorial costs can be controlled by installing more efficient filters and reducing the dust brought into a space by a ventilation system. If a facility is equipped with low-efficiency filters, the janitorial staff may be dusting too frequently. Filters with a minimum-efficiency reporting value of 13 can fit into the same space as other filters and earn a point under IEQ Credit 1.4.
Water Efficiency (WE) Credit 1, Water Performance Measurement; WE Credit 2, Additional Indoor Plumbing Fixture and Fitting Efficiency; WE Credit 3, Water Efficient Landscaping; and WE Credit 4, Cooling Tower Water Management. Simply monitoring a building's water use earns one point under WE Credit 1, while providing sub-metering for cooling towers, irrigation, and other specific uses earns another. Replacing old faucets with new water-conserving fixtures earns a point under WE Credit 2. Five points are possible under WE Credit 3 when landscaping is replaced with natural plants that require little or no water beyond normal rainfall. Points under WE Credit 4 can be obtained when rain runoff from a new roof is captured and stored for cooling-tower makeup.
EA Credit 2.1, Existing Building Commissioning — Investigation and Analysis; EA Credit 2.2, Existing Building Commissioning — Implementation; and EA Credit 2.3, Existing Building Commissioning — Ongoing Commissioning. Commissioning (Cx) can reduce energy consumption while increasing building health and safety. EA credits 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3 offer a total of six points for Cx, plus a bonus point in most regions. Credit 2.1 can be used by creating an energy audit or Cx plan to help guide energy options for a long-term capital plan. Credit 2.2 is automatically earned as the previously mentioned low-cost/no-cost energy-savings ideas are implemented. Credit 2.3 only requires the creation of a long-term recommissioning plan and the completion of half of the scope of work. Continuous recommissioning can be made part of a capital plan by updating cost estimates and energy savings.
A member of HPAC Engineering's Editorial Advisory Board, Ron Wilkinson, PE, LEED AP, is an authority on commissioning Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects and sustainable buildings. LEED-commissioning project manager for AKF Group LLC, he is the author of the first commissioning training program for LEED for New Constrution and Major Renovations.