5 Tips for a successful LEED project
LEED® AP, Senior Designer at Wolcott Architecture/Interiors, Culver City, Calif.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Green Building Rating System™ is constantly changing as strategies for improving building performance evolve with technology and innovation. In April, the third version of LEED was published, which includes advancements to the rating system, an improved user-friendly online component, and an expanded certification infrastructure based on ISO standards, administered by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI).
I was honored to be selected by GBCI as one of the professionals responsible for developing the LEED for Interior Design & Construction (ID+C) exam for 2009. In my experiences with LEED Version 3, and as a LEED Accredited Professional (AP), I have collected best practices from lessons learned and stories shared by my peers. I hope the tips provided below will help guide design professionals in preparing for and executing a successful LEED project.
1. Plan early
Prior to the conception of any LEED project, it is helpful to address LEED project requirements early in the process and select a project team based on experience level. Because it is fairly common for plan sites to be revised throughout the duration of a construction project, planning ahead also will help minimize extra costs, changeouts and scheduling issues.
2. Clearly define responsibilities for the LEED manager and LEED consultant
Due to the recent increase in the number of professionals receiving LEED AP credentials, it is likely there will be multiple designated LEED APs on each team. It is critical to define the roles and responsibilities of the LEED manager designated within the team, versus the LEED consultant, often a third-party consultant to the team.
The designated LEED manager on each team should:
- Function as the point of responsibility for all paperwork and communication throughout the LEED process for the design intent/credit
- Be involved in all conversations regarding LEED requirements, preparations and questions
The LEED consultant:
- Functions as the expert and the go-to person for all content pertaining to LEED during the project
- Handles advanced credits that require expertise, including daylighting, energy modeling and LEED documentation
- Provides guidance at the start of each project on the several synergies that exist within the different LEED systems
3. Set goals and aim high
All projects seeking LEED certification should draft a sustainability mission statement that governs the project, including the importance of hierarchy related to site, water, energy, materials and resources, and indoor air quality.
One way to define the sustainability mission is by conducting an eco-charrette. This is a half-day to full-day meeting in which all participants focus on ideas for efficient use of energy and resources in the proposed structure. The idea of an eco-charrette is to work as a team to understand the expertise of each designated LEED manager. This meeting allows all ideas to be considered and explored, and all sustainability goals to be addressed.
Never aim to meet the minimum threshold of a LEED certification category. There are many technicalities associated with LEED, and building extra LEED points into a LEED project plan can ultimately be the difference between achieving and falling short of the LEED goal. A good rule of thumb is to build in two to four possible extra points and document them the same as any other credit.
4. Include LEED requirements and specifications in bid packages and construction documents
Always include the requirements and costs involved with commissioning and LEED documentation in proposals and bid packages so building owners and project managers get a better understanding of what is involved in the LEED certification process. This information also will separate those with experience in LEED from those lacking experience. If an individual has had good experience with LEED and can provide a scope of how a building can be prepared for the certification process, then the bid should reflect that experience.
In addition, including requirements in the construction documents can prevent miscommunication and avoid future backtracking and adjustments, which can reduce costs and avoid scheduling issues.
5. Don’t wait until the end of the project to submit documents
Updating documentation throughout the process is extremely important. This is especially relevant when it comes to material resource (MR) credits. Due to the volume of information required for MR credits, it’s essential that team members provide LEED consultants with documentation to quantify recycled content, reuse of material and regional compliance, and other pertinent information.
By implementing continuous documentation, the consequences of greenwashing can be avoided. Performing due diligence of obtaining technical data of materials and resources early can reduce the possibilities of losing a credit further into the process due to misleading information.