Green Idea: LEED heads to an efficient future

  • By M.L. Dehm SCBJ Freelance Writer
  • Thursday, March 31, 2011 1:00am
  • Business

EVERETT — All those “green” building standards people talk about don’t create themselves. We have them thanks to a national group called LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

LEED certification on building projects provides assurance that green building strate

gies developed by U.S. Green Building Council are being followed, as well as allowing individual projects to qualify for different government incentive programs.

The North Sound LEED Users Group helps to define the complex and ever-evolving rating system that’s known for having a reference guide as thick as phone book and a points system that can be more than a little bit confusing.

Each LEED group monthly meeting takes a different topic, condenses the information into understandable and usable chunks and allows for some question and answer time.

The North Sound LEED Users Group meets the third Wednesday of each month at noon at the Snohomish County Public Utility District headquarters in Everett.

“We try to keep it general,” said LEED accredited professional Scott Schreffler, who organizes the local North Sound LEED group.

This helps to make each presentation relevant to multiple professions. Contractors, engineers, public agency workers, designers and architects are frequent attendees. According to Schreffler, most pick and choose which presentations to attend based on the topic, but others try to make every meeting.

Schreffler himself is an architect and sustainable design coordinator with Dykeman in Everett. He is also on the board of the Sustainable Development Taskforce of Snohomish County. He describes the North Sound LEED Users Group meetings as a good way to network and a valuable link for a number of similar sustainable practices groups in the region.

“LEED for the Landscape” was the title of the North Sound LEED Users Group presentation on March 16. Elizabeth A.D. Powers, principal and part-owner of O’Brien & Co. in Seattle, was the presenter.

Powers began the presentation with a brief personal perspective about the development of green building initiatives before it was known as “green building.”

Her first LEED project with O’Brien & Co. was Merrill Hall at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture. As the first LEED Certified building on the campus, it was built with some obvious site and budget constraints.

Powers discussed the interconnection of various LEED points from different categories. For example, there is a link between the landscape and energy efficiency in a building. Heat gain and heat loss can be dictated by planting and site placement. Any production of energy on site has to be properly placed if it is to be efficient.

Water efficiency credits depend on how water will be collected on the site and where the cistern will be placed. After that, use for this collected water needs to be decided under other point guidelines. Will it earn more credits for watering the landscape or for use in flushing toilets?

Powers went on to say that recent site design focus has helped to address criticisms that LEED was too focused on buildings and not focused on the site or landscape.

Two recent changes to LEED were examined in detail. One was that the energy efficiency category, which used to be worth one-quarter of all LEED points, now accounts for one-third and makes it a more important category for those seeking LEED certification.

The other major change was that the sustainable site category, once worth one-fifth of possible points, is now worth almost one-quarter. Concentrating on development density and public transportation access can earn more sustainable site category points for a project now than it could in the past.

Changes to multiple-building or campus sites were discussed, as well as the distinct differences between neighborhood development and campus development within the LEED system.

Powers also discussed other sustainable rating systems in her presentation. Particularly noted was the Sustainable Sites Initiative known as SITES. It is a similar rating system to LEED and the two influence each other to some extent.

Those interested in finding out more about the North Sound LEED Users Group presentations can email Schreffler at ScottS@Dykeman.net. Meetings are held at noon at PUD headquarters, 2320 California St., Everett.

“The PUD is very gracious about hosting us,” Schreffler said.

Because most professionals are attending on their lunch break, attendees are invited to bring their lunch and every effort is made to keep the meetings to schedule.

On the web

Learn more about LEED from the U.S. Green Building Council at www.usgbc.org.

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