Thursday, December 31, 2009

Case Study: Claire's on Cedros - Solana Beach, CA

Image: Claire's on Cedros - The Solana Beach, California located restaurant is currently on target for LEED Platinum.
Copyright: JLC Architecture

By Jill Bellenger, CPH | ASLA

JLC Architecture is enjoying their new home in Solana Beach, California. The firm, formerly located in nearby downtown San Diego, recently moved into the site of one of their newest and greenest commercial projects. The Claire's on Cedros property at 246 N. Cedros includes 2,500 square feet of restaurant space, 810 square feet of residential use and the 674 square feet retail/office space where Jean-Louis Coquereau and Tyler Van Stright of JLC Architecture now occupy. We recently interviewed the architects about the unique circumstances surrounding the Claire's project, including their decision to become its neighbor.

The town of Solana Beach is in many ways a model for sustainable practices, with a commuter and regional rail station located just across the street from the Claire's site, and adjacent walking paths all the way to the beach. Jean-Louis told us of the town's plan to create a "green" Chamber of Commerce, to include all its eco-friendly businesses. So it's no doubt a viable spot to design a cutting-edge green restaurant, complete with its own edible garden on site, where chefs routinely step out for fresh ingredients to add in their daily creations.

From the beginning, JLC Architecture's client had green features in mind, but the original plan did not include a LEED certification, let alone what is scheduled to be the first freestanding restaurant in the US to have the LEED Platinum designation. It is registered under the LEED-CS and LEED-CI categories and the firm hopes to have a USGBC ruling by early January 2010.

"We wish every client we work with would have the same vision," Jean-Louis says. He further explains that there is a bit of "tunnel-vision" involved when clients only consider the first-time costs of energy efficient building and site design. But with guidance from the project team, which in Claire's case included the locally-based LEED Consulting firm Drew George & Partners, they soon become committed to the long-term goals of conservation and human well-being. Jean-Louis feels that LEED Consultants have a unique role of "holding the hand of the architect" to keep all LEED elements in check.

While the original construction cost for Claire's on Cedros was about 6-8% higher than traditional construction, many of the more pricey components quickly provide energy savings. The total of fifty-four solar panels line the carport may be a high-ticket item, but they immediately cover 40% of the restaurant's power load. High reflective roofing brings in another huge energy savings overhead, while pervious concrete covers the parking lot, walkways, and patio space for no additional cost. Another creative green feature of the complex is the recycling of fryer grease, which cuts down on waste while crediting the restaurant.

Jean-Louis hopes that beginning with this month's first college tour by the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), more groups will see the Claire's project as a teaching tool. There so much to learn here, as well as being an excellent combination of sustainable architecture and horticulture. When asked whether they have any plans to continue the trend of moving onto their newest project site, he says no, "We like it here very much."

For more information, see or

Send suggestions of case study projects to Jill Bellenger at:

Renewable Energy Connecting LEED with International Climate Policy

Above: Offshore wind farm off the coast of Denmark.

By Ed LeBard, Associate AIA | LEED AP

With the upcoming United Nations sponsored Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, several countries are lining up with memorandums of understanding in developing policy designed to lower dependence on fossil fuels and lowering carbon emissions.

The best way to reduce reliance on fossil fuels is to harness renewable energy either on-site or off-site via green power. Renewable energy is one of the major principles of the US Green Building Council's LEED program as well as the Architecture 2030 Challenge adopted by thousands of firms in the A/E industry.

In the United States, for instance, there is enough geothermal energy to provide the nation's energy needs 2,000 times over; as a result, there are at least 132 geothermal power plants currently being developed in 12 states. With the addition of these new plants, the nation's geothermal capacity would triple. Also, the United States has more than 12 solar power plants currently under development.*

The state of Texas is providing an alternative to its oil and gas production by leading the nation in generating wind-powered electricity. As of now, Texas has about 9,000 megawatts of wind-powered capacity online with more than 40,000 megawatts under way. The roughly 50,000 megawatts total of wind provided energy will be enough to power approximately a quarter million to half million homes annually (between 1,000 and 5,000 megawatts powers 10,000 homes per year).* This will result in Texas leading the world in producing wind-power electricity when completed.

Iceland receives 78 percent of its primary energy from renewable resources, with 62 percent coming from geothermal.27 percent of Iceland's electricity are provided from geothermal power plants, powering up to 90 percent of the country's homes. The country has been leading the world on geothermal power for energy use since 1755.**

Germany is the world leader in solar photovoltaic panel installations with 5,300 megawatts - enough to power roughly 15,000 to 50,000 homes annually depending on the average home user.* The country also has a 15 year advantage in solar panel technology over other countries due to its rigid requirements of natural gas and oil use. For instance, the German government imposes a renewable energy tax on oil, thus raising the cost per gallon to $8. This results in Germans driving less as well as adding renewable energy investments for the country to funnel out - such as increasing the number of solar panel installations, and developing wind power generators.

Relating to the U.S. Green Building Council, renewable energy is one of the leading principles of the various LEEDv3 ratings. For instance, wind power, solar, hydro power, and geothermal, biomass, and biogas energy can all be provided via either a 3rd party facility supplying green power or by on-site provided power. In LEEDv3 New Construction, renewable energy contributes to Energy and Atmosphere (EA) Credit 2-On-Site Renewable Energy as well as EA Credit 6 - Green Power. Both credits intend to encourage use of on-site renewable energy to supply a portion of the building's overall energy load.

EA Credit 2- On-Site Renewable Energy provides up to 7 points (New Construction & Schools) towards LEED. One percent of overall building energy that's provided by renewable energy tallies 1 point while 13 percent of overall building energy provided by renewable energy would result in 7 points. Building commissioning is required to measure and verify the performances of the renewable energy sources.

The objective of EA Credit 6 - Green Power is to include at least a 2-year renewable energy contract to provide up to 35% of the building's electricity from renewable sources. The contract must be based on the quantity of energy used, not cost. In a state with an open electricity market, building owners can pick a Green-e certified power provider. The power provider must be certified and licensed to provide green power in the state. In a closed electricity market, the government controlled utility company must have a Green-e certified program.

Lastly, the renewable energy race has powerful economical implications as well. Using on-site renewable energy technologies can result in cost savings. Rebates in utilities are available to lower the impact of first costs for equipment. The initial costs of installing and providing renewable energy on-site can be offset by life-cycle savings. In some cases, excessive energy provided by renewable sources can be sold back to the utility facility, thus providing profits to the homeowner or landlord. Also there are government-provided incentives for using renewable energy - like tax breaks for purchasing solar photovoltaic panels. Also to encourage development of on-site renewable energy systems, renewable energy certificates (RECs) are available.

By reducing funds needed for fossil fuel power and maintenance, the United States' government and private agencies can divert cash flow to other infrastructure needs such as upgrading the aging power grid, providing net-zero electric car lots powered by solar PV carport canopies, and funding renewable energy research. There is a ripple effect as return on investments on renewable energy would lessen the United States' dependence on foreign resources like oil, thus the dollars would stay in the US. When a nation re-invests in itself through renewable energy and green infrastructure, the return on investment will lead to a booming green economy and at the same time, lower our carbon emission.


*Washington Post, 11/22/09 (Earth Policy Institute)


Sustainability in the News


1) States Adopt BIM for Energy, Cost Savings

2) Brownfield Developer Jim Jacoby Is Aglow Over Alternative Energy Business

3) Green Broker 2010 Conference (Seattle, WA)

Green Tip of the Month

Wonder how a business in the heart of the bustling D.C. neighborhood of Georgetown can be powered entirely by wind? Or how your company can harness solar power without a single PVC panel on your roof?

Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) or Carbon Offsets can be purchased for any home or business, allowing them the energy savings they want without requiring on-site systems that may not be otherwise available or feasible. They can even be purchased to combat the electricity used by those clicking through your company's website, which facilitate a computer's carbon emissions.

- Jill Bellenger, ASLA | CPH

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Are We There Yet? Landscape Architecture and LEED

Image: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin, Texas
Photo copyright: Jill Bellenger, 3 Design Consulting LLC

By Jill Bellenger, CPH | Associate ASLA

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, can still be a bit of an enigma. Depending on who you're talking to, landscape architects are either considered an integral part of a project's LEED certification process, or a superfluous afterthought. And ironically, these views seem to come from some of the landscape architects themselves, as they ponder their implications in such a building-based program.

Just browsing through the LEED for New Construction (LEED-NC) credit template, it certainly does appear to be heavily weighted towards a building's interior systems. Kansas City landscape architect Brian Hochstein says, "I feel that our impact more often than not is much lower" than say for instance architects or engineers. But a closer look reveals the real impact and may help increase understanding of this 'green by nature' profession.

Under the new LEED-NC v3, landscape architects are the primary or secondary responsible party for the majority of the credits in the Sustainable Sites and Water Efficiency categories:

- Site Development (SSc5.1 & 5.2) for 2pts
- Stormwater Design Quantity and Quality (SSc6.1 & 6.2) for 2pts
- Heat Island Effect Roof and Non-Roof (SSc7.1 & 7.2) for 2pts
- Light pollution reduction (SSc8) for 1pt
- Innovative wastewater technologies (WEc2) for 2pts
- Water Efficient Landscaping (WEc1.1 & 1.2) for 4pts

As well as a major contributing party towards these critical areas when relating to site issues:

- Sustainable Sites prerequisite
- Site selection (SSc1)for 1pt
- Development density and community connectivity (SSc2) for 5pts
- Brownfield redevelopment (SSc3) for 1pt
- Alternative Transportation - Public Transport. Access (SSc4.1) for 6pts
- Alternative Transportation - Bicycle Storage (SSc4.2) for 1pt
- Alternative Transportation - Parking Capacity (SSc4.4) for 2pts
- Construction Waste Management (MRc2) for 2pts
- Materials Reuse (MRc3) for 2pts
- Recycled Content (MRc4) for 2pts
- Regional Materials (MRc5) for 2pts
- Rapidly Renewable Materials (MRc6) for 1pt
- Certified Wood (MRc7)for 1pt

Not including the innovation and design process category or the varying regional credits for each state (a total of 10 additional points), a landscape architect has a hand in attaining up to 39 of these 90 LEED-NC points, or over 40%.

Bringing it all Together

To further emphasize the importance of site design, the American Society of Landscape Architects teamed up with the Texas-based Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in 2005 to introduce a new comprehensive program based on sustainable land development and management principles. Called the Sustainable Sites Initiative, or SSI, the program is meant to be implemented whether there is a building on site or not, such is the case for parks and ecological restorations.

April Phillips, founder and principal of April Phillips Design Works based in Sausalito, CA, was instrumental in forming the SSI. She states that, "the SSI will be one of the first rating systems to consider human health and well being outside of a building. Its landscape aim is to design more regenerative sites and systems that ultimately could be net zero or better.

"[The Sustainable Sites Initiative] represents thousands of hours with input from 37 technical advisors in hydrology, vegetation, soils, materials and human health and well being. These credits were tailored to apply to any a stand-alone system, but is also being designed to fit into the future LEED bookshelf system."

Another big development coming from the US Green Building Council is the first LEED rating system to focus on the certification of entire neighborhoods, rather than one building at a time. LEED for Neighborhood Development, or LEED-ND, is currently monitoring nearly 240 neighborhoods through the pilot program, 43 of which have become certified as of October 26th, 2009.

Much like the LEED for Commercial Interiors, or LEED-CI, rating system is heavily reliant on involvement from interior designers, the LEED-ND system brings landscape designers and planners into the forefront. With credit categories such as Smart Location & Linkage, and Green Construction & Technology, this system aims to improve the way we design our communities, making them more sustainable for the future.

On October 16, 2009, members of the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) approved the current version of the LEED-ND rating system. Now it must also be approved by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the USGBC before it can be issued for official use.­­

For more information: , , and

Green Power & Green Building Design meet in VA

Above: A Waste Management landfill gas-to-electrical energy well in Ohio.
Copyright: Waste Management and Roadell Hickman/The Plain Dealer

By Ed LeBard, Associate AIA | LEED AP

With the completion of a new landfill gas-to-energy plant in Glenns, Virginia*, Waste Management is leading the recycling and green energy industry, not to mention amping up the efficiency of its facilities. If it acheives LEED certification, the Glenns, Virginia plant will be the first LEED facility for Waste Management.

According to a WM press release, they operate the largest network of landfills in the industry with 300 sites and directing the disposal of millions of tons of waste per year. The company also provides natural, renewable energy source such as methane gas to supply energy to 400,000 homes and removing 2 million tons of coal from the atmosphere per year.**

The old saying "One man's trash is another man's treasure" rings true in the landfill gas-to-energy arena. With the vast supply of methane, which is created naturally through the decomposition of waste in landfills, green power is becoming easier to attain. In the same category of green energy as wind and solar power, Methane can be used as a British Thermal Unit (BTU) gas for industrial use or sold through a third party gas-to-energy plants to fuel engine or turbine driven generators of electricity.**

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved of landfill methane gas as an environmentally-friendly option to replace the nation's fossil-fuel use (i.e. coal). The EPA has the Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) ***with clear objectives to protect the environment by promoting the recovery and use of landfill methane gas .The LMOP program encourages development of a renewable energy power plant like the recently opened Glenns, Virgina plant.

I had the privilege to interview Douglass L. Whitehead, Waste Management's Director of Operations in Virginia and a 13-year industry veteran:

EL: Can you give us a little history on Waste Management's landfill gas-to-energy program and how many such facilities are up and running throughout the country?

DW: There are over 100 such facilities around the country, including 4 operating in Virginia and 1 under construction. The landfill gas-to-energy program was developed in the late 1980's with research development taking place. Construction for the plants took place in the mid-1990's with tax credits first as an incentive. Then around 2004, Waste Management took off on their own without the tax incentives and by 2009, we have doubled the number of gas-to-energy plants around the country due to the rising price of electricity.

EL: The EPA supports the landfill gas-to-energy movement; where do you think Waste Management's future lie in the recycling and green power arena?

1--We are number one in the industry in terms of processing and packaging recycling plants. We pioneered "single-stream" recycling where we divide recyclables at a central plant with little waste, rather than attempt to sort materials at the curbside.

2--Waste Management is also leading the field in the number of gas-to-energy plants. We are currently number one in waste-to-energy plants. Waste-to-energy is a result of placing garbage in a combustion pit, where it is burned, and the resulting steam is used for both steam heating and to create electricity, 60 megawatts. The waste-to-energy plant in Baltimore, Maryland produces enough recycled green power to provide electricity for 30,000 homes per year.

3--The new landfill gas-to-energy plant in Glenns, Virginia takes in regular garbage which decomposes over 6 months into primarily methane and carbon dioxide gases. We then extract out the methane gases to be provided to our customers. We have blowers and flares that suck out the methane gas through a large pipe and by law, its required to have a vacuum in the well.

To reiterate, Waste Management currently have 110+ gas-to-energy plants and 16 waste-to-energy plants. The gas-to-energy plants burn methane and provide on average 6 to 12 megawatts and average around $10 million per plant. The waste-to-energy plants burn roughly 2,400 tons of garbage (municipal solid waste)per day and provide 60 megawatts. However there have been no new plants since the early 1990's. These plants are quite expensive at $500 million roughly each. They are far cleaner than coal or oil. Waste Management plan to build 2 more plants in the next 5 years and both projects would aim for LEED-NC certification.

Since we took on the green energy initiative back in the late 1980's, we have been leading the industry in all these categories.

EL: It's noted that Waste Management also sell excess green power from methane gas to other third-party industries to supply homes and commercial buildings; is this something that would further impact any company's bottom line and profitability over time?

DW: We ship methane gas to third party customers, for instance, we sell landfill generated gas to a BMW manufacturing facility. The BMW facility uses the gas to provide power to the turbines and bake the finishing paint on the assembled cars. It's difficult to achieve a project of that magnitude as it demands intense energy use nearby. The pipeline to the BMW plant was 9.5 miles, just about the outer limit for LFG (landfill-gas) pipelines.


** and


Sustainability in the News

1) Florida solar panel plant:

2) Los Angeles to build sustainable NFL stadium

3) Maryland Hospitals for a Healthy Environment and the University of Maryland School of Nursing present: A National Conference for Health Care Professionals

Friday, November 6, 2009
7:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.
University of Maryland School of Nursing

Join regional and national health care professionals, environmental industry experts, and educators for this learning and networking event whose purpose is to create a healthier and more sustainable environment for hospital staff, patients, and communities. Topics will include purchasing environmentally preferable materials, taking action to reduce the impact of climate change, developing and implementing an integrated waste management program, and purchasing and promoting sustainable foods

4) Go Green Expo, Minneapolis, Minnesota (November 6 - 8, 2009)

Business-to-Business Expo
Friday, November 6th · 10am - 5pm
Business-to-Business & Business-to-Consumer Expo
Saturday, November 7th · 10am - 6pm
Sunday, November 8th · 10am - 5pm

Minneapolis Convention Center
1301 Second Avenue South
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55403
(612) 335-6000

Green Tip of the Month

November is a great month for reflecting upon the past year's accomplishments, and for looking ahead to the new challenges and opportunities for the upcoming year.

If your company recently completed a green building in need of recognition, now is the time to submit it for the 2010 AIA/Committed on the Environment Top 10 Green Projects Awards. "The submission process for the 2010 COTE Top Ten program is expected to open in mid to late November, with submissions due in late January, and the winning projects selected in March and announced in April."

For more information, see

Also, check with your local USGBC chapter for more upcoming awards.

- Jill Bellenger, CPH | Associate ASLA

Nation's 1st LEED - Related Public Lawsuit in Maryland a Precursor for Green Construction Litigation

Above, Copyright: Image from

By Ed LeBard, Associate AIA | LEED AP

Nine years after being introduced by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating systems are steadily becoming the de facto benchmark in measuring quality in construction as well as becoming a prerequisite in many cities throughout the United States. Despite all the USGBC's efforts in cultivating the meticulous LEED process, there have been reports of LEED related lawsuits regarding a building's failure to receive certification, but most of them were settled out of court before reaching the public record. However, there is one LEED related case that made it into the public's record, this time involving a developer and its general contractor. It was the first that actually made it to the courtroom.

A Chesapeake Bay resort in Crisfield, Maryland was built in 2006 and followed green / LEED specifications to achieve the developer's target goal of LEED-NC Silver certification. Near the end of the construction phase, the general contractor was owed the remaining payments and filed a mechanic's lien against the developer, Shaw Development, for the amount of $54,000. Due to the mechanic's lien, the LEED process slowed down and was off-track in regard to the construction time-frame. The construction process was delayed an additional nine-months. As a result, the additional nine months has cost the developer, Shaw Development, $635,000 in Maryland state tax credits.*

Although the case was eventually settled out of court, the lawsuit has officially set a precedent for future LEED-related cases. More attention into the Crisfield, Maryland case showed that it
was a typical issue of mechanic's lien, which occurs all the time in construction. A mechanic's lien stands for payments owed to subcontractors by the general contractor who in turn receives stipulated payments from the owner. According to the A-series of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) contract documents, subcontractors are only contracted to the general contractor (AIA-A401) while there is a separate contract between the general contractor and the owner/developer (AIA-A101). If the owner failed to pay the general contractor outstanding payments owed to the subcontractors, the general contractor has no choice but to file the lien. This usual issue disrupted what should have been a smooth LEED process.

This has caused construction lawyers around the country to warn architects, engineers and contractors not to guarantee that projects will get LEED certified. Many lawyers believe that A/E professional liability insurance will likely not cover failed guarantees. However, despite their concerns, some in the professional liability insurance industry are preparing for a growing green insurance market, like AIG's new AIGRMGreen service line-up to protect A/E firms from potential suits.

The best way to avoid any future LEED wrangling is for the project team, contractor and the owner to meet, carefully go over the responsibilities of each credit and decide actions to achieve that credit as well. Having a LEED consultant on board certainly will help because they are constantly on top of the meticulous process.

Also, the AIA recently came out with contract documents listing the Integrated Project Delivery process whereas the major team members in charge of designing and building the project are included in a single contract that is focused on the sustainable goals of the project. This angle would motivate the team members to work for their own common goal as well as the owner's goal. With all that, the project itself would have a higher chance of achieving LEED certification and save a lot of headaches.

Citations: * Mississippi Business Journal, Stephen Mcdill - April 13, 2009 * American Institute of Architects, * Business Wire (a Berkshire Hathaway Company), - Nov 25, 2008

Case Study: The Casey Condominiums, Portland OR

Above: The Portland, Oregon based project became the world's first LEED-NC Platinum highrise condominium.
Copyright: Brightworks

By Jill Bellenger, CPH | Associate ASLA

When the Portland eco-powerhouses of Gerding Edlen Development and Brightworks Sustainability Advisors got together to create an opportunity for high end urban living, the end result was nothing short of groundbreaking. In 2006, The Casey Condominiums, a striking 16-story tower complete with a green roof above and underground parking below, became the world's first LEED Platinum highrise condominium.

The Casey features a broad range of sustainability-focused features including heat-recovery ventilation, photovoltaic solar panels, and finishes, paint and carpeting that eliminate occupant exposure to toxic chemicals found in conventional buildings, and extensive use of daylighting and natural ventilation. The building is also in good company in its hip urban locale. With Portland's Brewery Blocks urban development project located steps from The Casey, the neighboring area is absolutely teeming with sustainable architecture.

To discuss the project and its role in the future of residential design, I interviewed Chris Forney, Brightworks' lead project manager for the Casey Condominiums.

JB: It's becoming more common for municipalities and state governments to mandate a certified or Silver level of LEED certification for new buildings, but what do you believe to be the driving force behind going Platinum? How did it tie in with this particular project and client?

CF: Our approach on every project is to help our clients make meaningful progress toward "true sustainability". This starts with understanding the difference between "green", incremental improvements, versus "sustainable", a full system vision. Our client, Gerding Edlen Development has taken a bold stance in their commitment to sustainability. They have vowed to at least attempt for a LEED Gold certification on every building they develop and often aim for much higher targets. It is part of their company's ethos.

The driving force behind our projects that pursue or achieve Platinum is understanding that true sustainability is the goal and we have an urgent need, for our planet, to push as far as possible on every project to achieve sustainable or even regenerative designs. LEED Platinum projects are a result of that process. With Gerding Edlen and the rest of the Casey design team, we facilitated a process to define clear goals for a fully sustainable building: 100% renewable energy, only non-potable water for non-potable uses, all local materials. We then worked systematically to achieve as much as possible toward those goals within the resources available at the time. We, of course, did not achieve all those goals but if we had just set LEED Platinum as the 'ceiling' I doubt we would have come close to the results achieved on The Casey.

JB: What do you see as the future for residential building sustainability?

CF: Sustainable residential design is about restoring those connections which comprise a healthy, vibrant and successful community. People need access to other people, goods and services to live well. Transportation and land use are areas where we are seeing influence on more sustainable settlement patterns, specifically with residential building. Residential communities are incorporating mixed-use development and likewise residential developments are being built in predominantly commercial districts, to support a more diverse set of activities (live, work, play) that are not so dependent upon single occupancy vehicle travel.

Here in Portland, the concept of Eco-Districts is being pursued, to try and create energy, water and waste management solutions which are also much more resilient and less costly to operate than their larger municipal infrastructure counterparts. We are looking at incorporating urban agriculture into residential development, rebuilding the connection between people and where they get their food.

The future of sustainable residential buildings has to look beyond just the technical challenges of renewable energy or water efficiency and look holistically at what a fully sustainable community might look like. Residential buildings are an artifact of our daily being which is a much more complex and interconnected phenomenon than one would observe from the functions typically prescribed in a building design today. Development teams are becoming much more adept at recognizing these interrelationships and are learning how to more effectively collaborate with other disciplines to achieve a common goal, sustainability. This is a process we facilitate which is a rewarding challenge.

For more information on The Casey, please see Brightworks is an award winning Portland-based sustainability advisory service company with offices in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

For more information on Brightworks, please see

Sustainability in the News

1) 2009 Solar Decathlon on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

October 9-13 & 15-18

2) 2009 Mid-Atlantic Business to Business Green Forum; Baltimore, Maryland

October 26 - 27, 2009

Join us in Baltimore on October 26th & 27th for the 2009 Mid-Atlantic Business-to-Business Green Forum. The forum is the first of its kind and brings green business experts, leaders, and programs in the mid Atlantic region together in a format that allows you to learn, share, and network for the future.

Attendees of the Green Business Forum will have many opportunities to connect, network, and learn from each other to best address the energy and environmental opportunities and challenges in our emerging new economy. Focus tracks include Planning for the New Economy, Greening Your Business, Financing and Assistance and Green Marketing. Visit for more information and to reserve your spot at the table!

This is a networking event designed to promote discussion and connections between businesses and local financial and related assistance organizations in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Space is limited and pricing is subject to change when we approach capacity.

Green Tip of the Month

Don't you just love that new car smell? Well, that smell, which can also be found in the paint, carpet, furniture, and surfaces of newly constructed buildings is actually one of the top five hazards to your health, according to the EPA. Luckily, low VOC products are finding their way on the shelves and catalogs, but the proof is in the labeling. Always look for products certified by Green Seal, FSC, or other green standards, as well as seeking out the greenest places to shop for your home or building project.

Sites like help those in cities such as Denver, Portland, Seattle, and Twin Cities find just what their looking for.

- Jill Bellenger, CPH | Associate ASLA

Why Many Projects Registered for LEED Fail to Lead

Copyright: LeBard / 3 Design Consulting, LLC

By Ed LeBard, Associate AIA | LEED AP

As of April 2009 nationwide, there were 11,597 LEED - New Construction projects registered for the goal of certification and only 1,600 had attained certification, which adds up to a rather low 13.8% of total registrations. Factoring in all other LEED rating systems (i.e. LEED-CI, LEED-CS, etc), there were a total of 8,152 projects registering for LEED certification and only 876 have been certified, resulting in a 10.7% success rate. Combine them all and you get an average success rate of only 12.6%.*

Naturally, like all studies, the results are not exact and oftentimes require backtracking and eventual corrections (i.e. the federal government revising the nation's gross domestic product result from 2 previous quarters to a different number). With the constantly changing LEED versions, many projects transfer into the latest version; some version 2.0 projects switched to become version 2.1 and some version 2.1 switched to version 2.2.

Now with LEED 2009, the construction industry once again has to go through another transition from version 2.2 to LEEDv3. They all represent one looming problem: despite allowing extra leeway time for projects to upgrade to newer versions by as much as 18 to 36 months post - registration, most projects end up failing to reach certification.

There are several reasons for these rather shocking stats and they require us to re-evaluate our intentions and examine new ways to deliver the best product for our clients.

1) Most building owners do not fully understand the benefits of pushing their design teams to forgo the routine "meet, greet and forget" method where architects, engineers and other members of the project team meet a few times and go off on their own way. Owners should instead push heavily for an integrated project delivery approach where all members of the project team exchange thoughtful ideas even between inter-disciplinary members, stay in constant touch and coordinate via building information modeling, update design changes and keep everyone in the loop. The result would be a much more sustainable building for the owner at a cost-effective price. Some owners would object to raising design fee costs as a higher level of coordination would require more attention from the project team. It is one thing to keep in mind that a 10% increase in design fees is still much less than a 1% increase in construction costs for a typical project.

2) Unless there is a LEED consultant involved from the get-go, assigning responsibility for managing LEED documentation can be a nightmare due to confusion on who's in charge of gathering and coordinating the project team on the track for eventual certification. When this occurs, vital data gets lost in the mix, delays could occur and it may slow down the project construction timeframe. Normally if a design firm performs LEED documentation in-house, the responsibility of managing the LEED aspect of the project often falls on the lap of a young designer with little power to demand data / performance from other members of the building project team. Story short: it can get ugly. The best method is to hire a talented LEED consultant with strong project management skills - either contracted to the architect or owner. The LEED consultant should constantly stay in touch and coordinate with every member of the project team until eventual certification.

3) It's a well known secret that many architects, landscape architects, engineers, consultants, contractors, and subcontractors have the habit of performing their duties alone without much interaction. Yet, with the advent of the sustainable movement, more coordination is needed to ensure that buildings attain the level required by stricter energy and water guidelines. The lack of integrated design training for all design and construction team members should be rectified by attending training seminars together.

The project team and owner need to have a realistic expectation of LEED-related costs in both "soft" costs and "hard' costs. Soft costs are anything relating to design, process management /coordination, and documentation. Hard costs are additional net capital expenditures relating to project budget; so the owner and project team have to make sure the budget covers money for both capital cost increases and LEED documentation.

Developers and owners should hire those project teams with strong LEED experience if they want the best results. However, it is the tendency of institutional owners to hire teams with which they have had lot of experience although those teams may not yet have performed LEED projects. To successfully design and build a LEED project, having the right people on board is important and none is more vital than the owner. If the delivery method allows for the general contractor to come on board early, add him as he will provide invaluable advice as the project team moves through the process. General contractors can help with constructability issues, input on cost and schedule analyses.

In the end, successful LEED certification comes down to hiring the right people, the right attitude towards green savings from the owner down to the subcontractor, close coordination among team members (think integrated design approach), and following through from pre-design to substantial completion and certification. Taking this approach will help the project team and owner successfully have their building verified and publicly approved by the U.S. Green Building Council.

*"Green Building Facts: Green Building by the Numbers"-USGBC via

Case Study: Golden Belt, Durham NC

Above: The Durham, North Carolina based rehabilitated warehouse attained the level of LEED-NC Certified although it's an existing building. Top image was taken in 2009 and the bottom image was taken in 1901.
Copyright: Scientific Properties

By Jill Bellenger, CPH | Associate ASLA

Creative and eco-conscious residents in Durham, North Carolina know just the place to live, work, and play. Golden Belt, a 155,000 sf. former manufacturing facility dating back to 1901, became a newly renovated mixed-use, urban arts complex, completed in July 2008.

The 7.5 acre complex is spread out over six buildings complete with artist studios and lofted apartments, as well as thousands of square feet for office, retail and restaurants. Durham-based developers Scientific Properties began the project in 2006, and have strived to ultimately create a beautifully sustainable live/work environment on this former brownfield site.

Currently Golden Belt is registered with the US Green Building Council to become a LEED certified project. It's an interesting case because Scientific Properties was charged with the task of adhering to Federal National Register guidelines while emphasizing high performance green construction every step of the way. Historic windows were given new life with high-performance glazing, and a total of 95% of the original building was reused, allowing Golden Belt's unique character to show through.

Tucker Bartlett, Chief Operating Officer at Scientific Properties, admits there was a bit of a learning curve involved as even in 2006 they found very few resources to help them navigate the LEED process. But bringing on an energy modeling company and commissioning agent to the project team allowed the developers the chance to coordinate their goals more effectively.

I asked Gary Kueber, the Development Manager at Scientific Properties and current project manager for Golden Belt, if he could describe his experience integrating LEED and sustainable principles into the project's design and construction. He responded that, "within the company, everyone was very much in favor of achieving LEED certification and a very sustainable project beyond what is covered by LEED. One aspect of this was our involvement with the community, including assistance with formation of a neighborhood association, renovation of several abandoned houses nearby, partnership with Habitat for Humanity in creating homeownership in the adjacent neighborhood, etc."

Gary also explained that, "overall, making decisions to reuse and preserve the buildings, and build within an urban context helped us a great deal. Regarding obstacles, achieving LEED certification with historic tax credit properties is challenging, and not everyone involved in trades, energy modeling or similar is sure how to interpret USGBC guidelines for application to historic buildings - particularly a 6 building, 155,000 square foot project being submitted as a campus."

When asked whether the team experienced any setbacks along the way, Gary went on to say, "I think, in retrospect, starting LEED processes even earlier in the design process would have been helpful."

For more information about Golden Belt, please see or

Sustainability in the News

US Green Building Council Headquarters - Washington, D.C. Copyright - Vornado Realty Trust

(USGBC Update) August 2009

Platinum USGBC Headquarters is a Living Lab, Showcasing Cutting-Edge Innovations As a member of the USGBC community, you are part of a rapidly growing industry that is truly changing the world. Mirroring that explosive growth, the USGBC staff earlier this year outgrew our old office space in Washington, D.C., and needed to relocate. As the organization that brings together the world's leaders in green building innovation, USGBC needed an office space that set the bar for green design, construction and operations at new heights.

And we succeeded: Thanks to a phenomenal project team and the generous support of our sponsors, USGBC's new headquarters, at 2101 L. St., NW, in Washington, D.C., earned LEED Platinum certification this month, making it the first project to certify under LEED 2009. What's more, the two-story, 75,000-square-foot office space earned 94 of the 110 possible LEED points; that's 14 more than the 80 required for Platinum certification.

The new office space offers USGBC staff a spacious, comfortable, cutting-edge workplace that inspires their passion, supports their dedication, nurtures their health and matches their ideals. And to further our commitment to education and outreach, USGBC will operate out of a headquarters that can double as a living lab, teaching visitors and employees alike the ways that green building is better for occupants, better for business, better for the community and better for the planet.

2) Building Rating System Requirement Raises Concerns (copyright: GreenSource Magazine - McGraw Hill Construction)

All certified projects must commit to sharing with the U.S. Green Building Council and/or Green Building Certification Institute "all available actual whole-project energy and water-usage data for a period of at least five years."

3) Some Buildings Not Living Up to Green Label (Copyright: New York Times, August 31, 2009)

"Mr. Horst, the LEED executive, said that LEED may eventually move toward the E.P.A.'s Energy Star model, which attests to energy efficiency only for the year the label was given, similar to restaurant ratings."
- By Mireya Navarro, NY Times

Green Tip of the Month

Ever wonder how to make sense of all the "green" tax incentives and credits offered by the federal and state governments? The online Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, created by a joint venture of the US Department of Energy, North Carolina Solar Center, and IREC (Interstate Renewable Energy Council), does just that. Easier to navigate and much more comprehensive to green building than, the DSIRE allows you to click on your state to simplify your search for the various rebates, grants, tax credits and incentives. An added bonus is not only a contact website for each line item, but a contact person that you can get in touch with to further your search for information.

- Jill Bellenger, CPH | Associate ASLA

Sustainability in the News

Empire State Building at dusk Copyright -

1.) Empire State Building to Receive $20 million Retrofit (National Real Estate Investor)

2.) PNC Bank Planning D.C.'s First LEED Platinum Office Building (Jetson Green)

Green Tip of the Month

Rain barrels and cisterns have been recognized as a great way to save valuable rain water while reducing potable water use, but they also may just be what your plants have been looking for. Water from a municipal system may, depending on your location, be treated with chemicals like floride and chlorine, which can be harmful to plant growth especially in the case of potted plants, where it can build up. Harvested rainwater is a natural, chlorine-free way to ensure your plants are getting the nutrients they need, and less of what they don't.

- Jill Bellenger, CPH | Associate ASLA

Case Study: University of Maryland, Baltimore BioPark

Above: Building I at University of Maryland Baltimore Research Park, Baltimore, Maryland. The Ayers Saint Gross designed building attained LEED-NC Silver rating. Copyright: Ayers Saint Gross

By Jill Bellenger, CPH | Associate ASLA

No two buildings are created equal, as is the case in two seemingly alike research buildings residing at the University of Maryland Baltimore BioPark. Building I, completed in 2005, and Building II, completed in 2007, are both part of a six building biotechnology facility located in downtown Baltimore, MD.

Both are state of the art facilities upholding the LEED Silver level of green building certification. But the difference can be found seven stories up, where 70% of Building I's roof is covered in a lush carpet of multicolored sedums, doing their part to soak up rainwater and in effect remarkably reduce the amount of the building's stormwater structures on the ground.

Maryland based architecture firm Ayers Saint Gross was the architect-of-record for Building I, and as Project Architect Robert Claiborne describes, "a green roof is adding more pervious land to your project. By being vegetated, it also returns some captured rainwater back to the atmosphere via evapotranspiration instead of sending it through a pipe."

The EPA estimates that proper implementation of a green roof will effectively remove an average of 50% of a roof's annual rainfall volume, by way of retention and evapotranspiration. That constitutes a huge savings when calculated into the overall stormwater system design as well as the building's utility fees. Having a green roof also helps lower the amount of heat island effect the building would capture resulting in lower energy demand on cooling load. There are cases where green roofs lower the rooftop temperatures as much as 50 degrees Fahrenheit. These are results we can all use in such a strained economy.

Aside from being virtually maintenance-free by design, Building I's type, called an extensive green roof, leans toward the less expensive side of the cost spectrum. An added bonus, just by simply laying out its 4 inches of growth medium over the building's membrane roof, Claiborne says, "you will also get some added life to the roof." Want a natural way to protect a roof membrane from extreme climates and UV damage as well as almost double the life of the membrane? This is the way to do it.

Building manager Brendan McHugh with Colliers Pinkard explains "we have few problems with our green roof, probably fewer problems than a traditional roof. We also get a lot of positive publicity from it. People always want to see it when they hear about it. So, it's great from a public relations point of view."

For more information on the UMB Research Building I, check out:

Return on Investment for Green / LEED projects

Above: PNC Bank Headquarters in Washington, D.C. slated to be completed in 2010. The Gensler designed building is currently aiming for LEED-NC Platinum rating. Copyright: Gensler and PNC Bank

By Ed LeBard, Associate AIA | LEED AP

Green development is becoming more business-savvy. Many developers and building owners consider it a smart business decision to invest a down payment of 1 to 2 percent of project cost to lock down long-term savings. It is based on a framework of several rewards and benefits but the two most obvious benefits are long-term financial savings and returns on investments (ROI). Keep in mind that benefits and rewards for constructing green/LEED buildings vary by type of ownership, type of use, owner's and project team's level of investment and the team's drive to build a sustainable building.

Regardless of variations, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), projects that achieved LEED and Energy Star status normally garner an internal rate of return of 20% or more. This is achieved by increased annual energy savings (think of rising oil and natural gas prices for the foreseeable future). Many more LEED buildings are specified to use 30 to 50 percent less water and energy use than current codes.

For instance, compare a 100,000 square foot LEED building that saves $1.50 per square foot in energy costs to a similar building built to code - resulting in savings of $150,000 per year. In order to get $1.50 in energy savings, the building owner had to invest $400,000 on green / LEED related items; in other words, put down a $4.00 per square foot premium. As a result, it would take a little over 2.5 years to receive your investment back and then some.

In the world of commercial real estate, commercial properties are normally valued as a multiple of "net operating income", which is determined by dividing the income by the capitalization rate of roughly 6 percent. Capitalization rate is expressed as a percentage - similar to corporate bonds. If the building reduced annual energy and water costs by $150,000, the capitalized rate of 6 percent would result in an incremental increase of property value by $150,000 divided by 6% = $2.5 million.

The result of investing $400,000 in annual savings of $150,000 would be to yield a return on investment of 625% - more than a "six-bagger" in the investing world!

Another way of looking at it, would be to give the 100,000 square foot building costs of $275 per square foot (industry average is between $150 to $300 per square foot). Multiply $275 per square foot by 100,000 square feet and you end up with $27.5 million in overall construction costs. The savings of $150,000 may appear diminutive compared to the cost of $27.5 million to build the project - but it's a savings nevertheless.

As previously stated, with the going rate of roughly 6 percent annual capitalization rate, the green / LEED investments made by the owner and project team would add $2.5 million to the value of the building ($150,000 savings divided by 6% rate) - an increase of $25.00 per square foot compared to a investment of $4.00 per square foot. That's a net increase value of $21.00 per square foot. The value of the LEED project when completed would increase from $27.5 million to $30 million.

In the end, when the building owner or developer arrive at the decision to sell their LEED building on the market, it is the norm for green buildings to command 30% premium price over similar non-LEED buildings due to the economic benefits they offer. It's a matter of time before Class A office buildings that do not attain LEED certification see their property value decline as LEED is becoming the de facto benchmark in measuring quality in construction. This is an example of true value of green/LEED buildings by long-term savings and solid returns on investments. Indeed, less is more.

Citations: U.S. Green Building Council, Making the Business Case for High-Performance Green Buildings (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Green Building Council, 2002); Green Building Through Integrated Design (Jerry Yudelson, Green Source / McGraw-Hill Construction, 2009)