Design teams, owners, and builders spend months or even years preparing for LEED® certification, but that is no guarantee of success. There is nothing more frustrating than losing a credit that should have been easy to achieve with closer attention. When first reviewing the LEED checklist it is tempting to quickly check off strategies as design criteria for the project. But how do you ensure that a simple check mark will get into the construction documentation and ultimately into the building?
The following guidelines will help you sidestep common pitfalls.
There are four primary ways that LEED items can slip through the cracks:
1. Insufficient team coordination
2. Construction document omissions
3. Failed execution
4. Incorrect LEED documentation
The first step to effective LEED coordination is to make sure LEED activities are written into consultant contracts. Activities include:
• Site photometrics: needed to document Light Pollution Reduction
• Design-Assist Energy modeling: While not specifically required by LEED, projects will maximize Energy Optimization points when energy modeling and architectural design are done together in an iterative process.
• Daylighting simulations: the prescriptive method in the newest LEED, version 3, is very limiting, making simulations practically mandatory
• Commissioning: the owner must hire the commissioning authority in time to review design phase documents for Enhanced Commissioning
Once the team is assembled, reviewing the LEED checklist in a consultant coordination meeting or even a meeting exclusively devoted to LEED is not enough. Follow-through is essential but should not rest solely in the hands of the LEED coordinator. The entire project team should be engaged, especially the project architect and project manager. Here is a list of LEED design strategies that are easy to miss, but also easy to address if monitored early in the project.
• Irrigation systems with non-potable water: The landscape design must still use 50 percent less water than the baseline through planting selection and/or high-efficiency irrigation systems.
• Window to Wall Ratio: When designing the fenestration, keep in mind that your building’s energy consumption will be compared to a building with 40 percent glazing.
• Metering: Put in separate meters for lighting and power for Measurement & Verification.
• Recycling: Include satellite collection points in addition to a central collection space.
• Task lighting: If they are your method of individual control watch for them on a VE list.
• Glare control: You can’t get credit for Daylighting without it.
• Innovation: Innovation credits must be comprehensive (at least three different components towards the same objective) and have quantifiable environmental benefits.
LEED points can fall off the table when design strategies aren’t adequately covered in drawings and specifications. Items of note to review are:
• General conditions: Clearly define which submittals must be reviewed for LEED (i.e. VOCs) and which items are the contractor’s responsibility (i.e. meeting regional materials thresholds). Spell out expectations for the general contractor (GC) to upload documentation to LEED Online.
• Products: If sole-sourcing isn’t possible, provide performance guidelines. For example, give a maximum gallons/flush for each plumbing fixture type in addition to an overall water reduction target.
• CO2 sensors: They must be wall-mounted, not located in return ducts or under-floor air plenums. The MEP specifies sensors, but the architect indicates placement on elevations.
• Wood products: Certified wood and no added urea-formaldehyde are two credits that must be considered together.
• Low-emitting adhesives and sealants: Mechanical and plumbing products must comply.
• Indoor pollutant control: Rooms to be isolated must have self-closing doors and partitions spanning deck-to-deck. The mechanical equipment must be able to accommodate MERV 13 filters.
All of the above work can be negated with on-the-fly paint substitutions or lost dumpster tickets. Make certain that the LEED baton is passed cleanly to the construction administration team. Use a checklist of critical submittal items and educate the GC and prime subs on the sustainability goals and expectations. The concrete sub will almost always need a tutorial on the specialized recycled-content calculation when fly ash or other supplemental cementitious materials are used.
To maximize the number of earned credits when completing templates (or forms as called in v3), follow the three C’s: Consistency, Clarity and Completeness.
A red flag for reviewers is finding discrepancies in what should be the same information on two different credits. The most common mistake is an inconsistent LEED boundary line. Other definitions that should remain constant are:
• Site and building areas
• Building Occupants: used for bike racks and showers, and water use
• Regularly Occupied Spaces: used for Daylighting and Views
• Number of Workstations: used for Controllability of Lighting and
Thermal Comfort in version 2.2
LEED reviewers want to determine credit compliance quickly. The answer should jump off the page and not be buried in lengthy supporting calculations. Use the narrative boxes or attach a short summary to highlight your approach.
Before hitting “submit,” review every template and backup document one last time for typos and empty check boxes. If the form shows 0 points documented, look for an omission.
Many things can go wrong with LEED along the way, but most will not impact project cost and schedule if caught early. Using these guidelines, together with good communication and follow-through, should set you on the right path to successful LEED certification.