Friday, November 30, 2007

Keeping the Green Momentum

The first step in green building is starting with a beautiful, healthy, energy & water efficient, overall high performance building.

Many LEED projects have come on line to date and have had a chance to 'prove' themselves in the marketplace. While many are lauded in the media for delivering the results promised, there are still many others that aren't delivering. Why not?

There are several answers, but here are the top two that I see the most often:

1. Often building occupants end up using a space in a different manner than it was designed for. If people are sharing offices meant for single occupant use, or using spaces designated as meeting/conference rooms as office space, or partitioning open office space, then some of the benefits of 'green' features such as occupant controls, daylighting and views may lose their efficacy. Building in the flexibility and the capacity to change/shift/expand contract/move/transform in a space while still maintaining the environmental quality to maximize the workspace for occupants is key. It can not only help maintain quality of workplace, but can save money in alterations and reorganization.

2. Another hugely influencing factor on the performance of green buildings is operations and maintenance. While the typical LEED charrette is doing a great job of bringing the architects, owners, engineers and even contractors to the table early on, it is very rare that facility operators are included in the discussion. Building staff have much to contribute to the optimization of building use and performance and their involvement in the creative, integrated thought process can help the team make useful decisions about where to invest green building capital. Continuing education and training for facility managers and their staff can also ensure consistent quality of operations as well as the energy savings the building was designed to achieve.

The market has evolved to a point where we are labelling the environmental attributes of new construction and major renovations with a LEED plaque (or Green Globes, etc), but we haven't yet begun to address the same level of accountability in operations.

Food for thought:

In the UK there is a labelling program for public buildings that makes it very visible to both the tax-paying citizens and to building occupants how the building was a) designed to perform and b) how it is operated. See label graphic above and check out this site for more information: I have been told that there is a level of accountability derived when the Minister from some department or other has to host their colleagues in the building and it is plainly evident if the building is underperforming.

What if we developed some system for accountability as well? We give green building tours as part of the Education and Outreach credit in LEED, what if we had to show tour guests our actual energy bills and occupant survey results? What if we had to report building performance back to the USGBC every year in order to maintain certification - and it was posted on their website?

I am really fascinated by the idea of accountability - in taking it beyond green design and construction. I would love to hear thoughts on what this might look like.



Leigh Stringer (aka Greenette) said...

I really believe every green initiative needs change management. Pursuing LEED is done by a few, keeping a truly green office for the long haul requires participation and engagement from everyone.

GreenEileen said...

I love this! It's like a food label for buildings. I've seen common area signage used to indicate that a building is powered by a percentage of renewable energy sources, but this is a display that reflects the performance of facility management AND the building occupants. Great idea.

GoSustaino said...

Great post! I've been following your blog for a while and have recently purchased my materials to take the LEED-EB exam. Thanks for the helpful point of view.


Environment Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory