LEED Automation Allows Third Party Companies to Integrate Directly With LEED Online

Though largely overshadowed in press by the hubbub around the Center for Green Schools launch, in my opinion the biggest news for practicing LEED APs is the relatively obscure technical development of a platform for third party companies to integrate directly with LEED-Online. The USGBC is calling it LEED Automation (official press release here), and it will hopefully result in an exponential increase in innovation in the way LEED projects are documented. After “$10 million in total investment in LEED-Online” (Chris Smith, COO of USGBC’s words), many users still find it a frustrating tool (my words). “From the very start, LEED-Online was never intended to be a USGBC tool… It was intended to be a plug-and-play platform for others to build on.” (Chris Smith again).

Now think about how the open iPhone and Android app markets make their phones far more useful than Apple or Google could do on their own. That is the goal of LEED Automation in a nutshell. Mike Opitz indicated that they ultimately wish to open a “USGBC App store”… In his words “The world of LEED execution just got faster, cheaper, and easier.”

Where Does It Stand Today?

I’m going to profile a few projects that were used as case studies of what can be done with the data and integration capabilities that are now available.

Lorax Pro – This is a ‘virtual LEED consultant’ that has already been around for awhile, and one I’ve been meaning to profile for some time (sorry… still doing this in my spare time!). In a nutshell it’s a tool to organize, schedule, and assign work to the various parties in more detail than offered by LEED-Online (e.g. your project is mapped on Google and can automatically calculate things like access to transit and community connectivity at the click of a button). Again, this has already been around for awhile, but the news here is that now their online software can translate your work DIRECTLY into LEED-Online without having to force you to pull everything down manually and re-enter data. Taken to the extreme, you could potentially mean that you’d never have to work directly in LEED-Online again!

O+M Track – Green Building Services is a consulting company has developed a tool that will be extremely helpful for those pursuing LEED-EB O+M. Basically this is a management tool for your performance periods, where a facilities manager is provided with scheduled tasks to ensure they are keeping all of their ongoing performance measurements for the life of the building, greatly facilitating recertification efforts that are needed to be performed every five years. Again, the news here is that work entered into their system can be directly loaded into your LEED-Online project, helping to reduce the overhead and costs associated with compliance.

Building Dashboard – This is a web-based software developed by Lucid Design Group that allows real-time updates of a building’s performance along various metrics, largely centered around utilities. Other vendors offer similar services, and it was unclear from their presentation how this will affect those working on LEED projects today. On the other hand, if they work out directly updating these results into a LEED-EB certification/recertification similar to the GBS tool, it could mean huge reductions in overhead for those pursuing such projects.

WorkFlow Pro – is a service from GreenWizard.com that harnesses the wealth of material data embedded in their system and allows the population of those onerous MR credit templates if you build a project in their system, making the lives of specifiers and contractors that much easier.

Green Building Information Gateway – This is a pilot project led by Dr. Chris Pyke, VP of Research for USGBC in conjunction with ESRI. It is a comprehensive map of LEED projects in Chicago, but it contains a wealth of additional layers that is pulled directly from a stream of data that the USGBC is now making public. The information from any specific project is compared live against the performance of every building in the set. Basically this is a benchmarking tool designed to allow designers to show their clients how their design might stack up against others in the area. There’s even a trend tool that allows you to view this data over time. It’s based on a post-certification data stream, so it’s applicability to those working on current projects likely won’t be huge, but it could be very helpful for banks and others trying to make a business case or valuation assumptions measuring the impact of LEED certification or even individual LEED credits.

What’s On the Horizon?

It’s hard for me to explain how huge the potential of this. I see Trane Trace and other energy modeling software allowing direct uploads of model results into LEED without the very significant data entry headache that exists now. Revit could directly upload daylighting calculations without the architect ever having to open up a credit calculator.

Mike Opitz indicated that there’s still kinks that need to be worked out, specifically citing energy modelling. At the core, there is the issue of standardizing data exchange protocols to ensure that everything is accurate, and not just easy. As energy modeling is so critical to the performance of a building, they cannot sacrifice

So What’s the Catch

Well… all this innovation does not come free. In the same way that there are paid apps on the iPhone and Android marketplaces, some of the case studies above have subscription fees or other charges that will be in addition to what you’re paying the GBCI for certification fees. Don’t want to pay extra? You’re welcome to stay with the current LEED Online, but I suspect that many firms will find that the productivity gains of these tools will far exceed the costs.

As this market get’s more sophisticated, I suspect we’ll see a profusion of micro-tools that may be ad supported and offered for free, but time will tell whether the development process is easy enough for such small scale tools to be worth their development costs.

I’m sorry to the other companies that demo’d their automation innovations that I did not include here… I can only type so fast! If you have a new product that harnesses this technology please don’t hesitate to let me know, as this blog is all about providing readers with tools that will make their live’s easier.

*FULL DISCLOSURE – GreenWizard.com is a sponsor of this site.

Learn more at RealLifeLEED.com!

LEED Automation Allows Third Party Companies to Integrate Directly With LEED Online

Though largely overshadowed in press by the hubbub around the Center for Green Schools launch, in my opinion the biggest news for practicing LEED APs is the relatively obscure technical development of a platform for third party companies to integrate directly with LEED-Online. The USGBC is calling it LEED Automation (official press release here), and it will hopefully result in an exponential increase in innovation in the way LEED projects are documented. After “$10 million in total investment in LEED-Online” (Chris Smith, COO of USGBC’s words), many users still find it a frustrating tool (my words). “From the very start, LEED-Online was never intended to be a USGBC tool… It was intended to be a plug-and-play platform for others to build on.” (Chris Smith again).

Now think about how the open iPhone and Android app markets make their phones far more useful than Apple or Google could do on their own. That is the goal of LEED Automation in a nutshell. Mike Opitz indicated that they ultimately wish to open a “USGBC App store”… In his words “The world of LEED execution just got faster, cheaper, and easier.”

Where Does It Stand Today?

I’m going to profile a few projects that were used as case studies of what can be done with the data and integration capabilities that are now available.

Lorax Pro – This is a ‘virtual LEED consultant’ that has already been around for awhile, and one I’ve been meaning to profile for some time (sorry… still doing this in my spare time!). In a nutshell it’s a tool to organize, schedule, and assign work to the various parties in more detail than offered by LEED-Online (e.g. your project is mapped on Google and can automatically calculate things like access to transit and community connectivity at the click of a button). Again, this has already been around for awhile, but the news here is that now their online software can translate your work DIRECTLY into LEED-Online without having to force you to pull everything down manually and re-enter data. Taken to the extreme, you could potentially mean that you’d never have to work directly in LEED-Online again!

O+M TrackGreen Building Services is a consulting company has developed a tool that will be extremely helpful for those pursuing LEED-EB O+M. Basically this is a management tool for your performance periods, where a facilities manager is provided with scheduled tasks to ensure they are keeping all of their ongoing performance measurements for the life of the building, greatly facilitating recertification efforts that are needed to be performed every five years. Again, the news here is that work entered into their system can be directly loaded into your LEED-Online project, helping to reduce the overhead and costs associated with compliance.

Building Dashboard – This is a web-based software developed by Lucid Design Group that allows real-time updates of a building’s performance along various metrics, largely centered around utilities. Other vendors offer similar services, and it was unclear from their presentation how this will affect those working on LEED projects today. On the other hand, if they work out directly updating these results into a LEED-EB certification/recertification similar to the GBS tool, it could mean huge reductions in overhead for those pursuing such projects.

WorkFlow Pro – is a service from GreenWizard.com that harnesses the wealth of material data embedded in their system and allows the population of those onerous MR credit templates if you build a project in their system, making the lives of specifiers and contractors that much easier.

Green Building Information Gateway – This is a pilot project led by Dr. Chris Pyke, VP of Research for USGBC in conjunction with ESRI. It is a comprehensive map of LEED projects in Chicago, but it contains a wealth of additional layers that is pulled directly from a stream of data that the USGBC is now making public. The information from any specific project is compared live against the performance of every building in the set. Basically this is a benchmarking tool designed to allow designers to show their clients how their design might stack up against others in the area. There’s even a trend tool that allows you to view this data over time. It’s based on a post-certification data stream, so it’s applicability to those working on current projects likely won’t be huge, but it could be very helpful for banks and others trying to make a business case or valuation assumptions measuring the impact of LEED certification or even individual LEED credits.

What’s On the Horizon?

It’s hard for me to explain how huge the potential of this. I see Trane Trace and other energy modeling software allowing direct uploads of model results into LEED without the very significant data entry headache that exists now. Revit could directly upload daylighting calculations without the architect ever having to open up a credit calculator.

Mike Opitz indicated that there’s still kinks that need to be worked out, specifically citing energy modelling. At the core, there is the issue of standardizing data exchange protocols to ensure that everything is accurate, and not just easy. As energy modeling is so critical to the performance of a building, they cannot sacrifice

So What’s the Catch

Well… all this innovation does not come free. In the same way that there are paid apps on the iPhone and Android marketplaces, some of the case studies above have subscription fees or other charges that will be in addition to what you’re paying the GBCI for certification fees. Don’t want to pay extra? You’re welcome to stay with the current LEED Online, but I suspect that many firms will find that the productivity gains of these tools will far exceed the costs.

As this market get’s more sophisticated, I suspect we’ll see a profusion of micro-tools that may be ad supported and offered for free, but time will tell whether the development process is easy enough for such small scale tools to be worth their development costs.

I’m sorry to the other companies that demo’d their automation innovations that I did not include here… I can only type so fast! If you have a new product that harnesses this technology please don’t hesitate to let me know, as this blog is all about providing readers with tools that will make their live’s easier.

*FULL DISCLOSURE – GreenWizard.com is a sponsor of this site.

GBCI Extends Utility Reporting Requirement to 20 Years?

UPDATE (11.05.10) I just received a comment from Bruce DeMaine, Vice President of Certification for GBCI. He confirmed, as others noted in the comments below, “that the 20-year figure is a typo. The utility reporting time period was decreased to 5 years shortly after the introduction of the LEED 2009 Minimum Program Requirements. We are working with our information technology staff to correct this error as soon as possible.” He also addressed other concerns I’ve raised below, and I’ve added his response to the end of the post in it’s entirety. I’d like to personally thank him for reaching out to clear up this issue! I’ve left the remainder of the post as it was originally published:

Alert reader Eric Johnson of Gardiner & Theobald just pointed out that the latest edition of the LEED Certification Policy Manual (September 17, 2010 Release) has increased the period for which you must allow the GBCI access to utility data from a minimum of 5 years to at least 20 years:

“It is the intent of GBCI to review ongoing project performance to assess project compliance with LEED Green Building Rating System requirements. Project owners authorize GBCI to access and review their project’s Energy and Water Usage Data from the utility service provider and/or the whole-project metering facility where such meters are in place. This authorization shall be maintained for a period of twenty (20) years following the date the project achieves LEED certification.”

This rather significant change has not been publicized in any way that I can see (the most recent LEED Update newsletter dated 10/29/10 doesn’t mention the change), and it doesn’t appear that the GBCI has informed the USGBC or its own legal department, as the Minimum Program Requirements (MPRs) document provided by the USGBC still shows the five year requirement (see page 4), as does the LEED Registration Agreement that was updated three days after the certification policy manual was changed (see page 6).

A New Process Needed

My biggest complaint with the LEED system right now is how these administrative changes are handled. Changes to LEED credits themselves are made using a thorough and rigorous comment and voting process from the membership on a regular schedule… and that’s a good system. On the other hand updates to the LEED policy manuals, documentation requirements, reference guides, the MPRs, owner legal agreements, supplementary reference materials, and a vast array of other critical components of LEED certification seem to occur randomly and there’s no system to easily see changes as they occur or to determine what requirements are in place when a project is registered.

The mechanisms by which LEED projects are completed must be stabilized. If it were up to me, there would be no changes to these ancillary materials between rating system updates, and ALL materials related to the LEED rating system should be open to comment. I don’t have a problem not putting those ancillary materials up to a vote, but I think there is far more concern over things like LEED Certification Agreement and the LEED Project Registration Agreement than the GBCI/USGBC realize, if for no other reason than it’s difficult to find these documents and no real path for commenting on them.

Let me use those two legal documents as an example. You can’t even access those two documents before going through the registration process unless you happen to know the URLs for them (i.e. they don’t appear to show up in any search results or accessible via links on the GBCI site prior to registration). The certification Agreement is in its second edition (09.20.10), and the registration agreement is in its third edition (09.20.10), yet when I log on to my project that was registered in 07.10 I don’t have any access to the documents I agreed to at that date. There’s no document highlighting the changes that I’m aware of, and the simple fact that they’ve changed 2-3 times in about a year is alarming in itself. Since these documents aren’t mentioned until you start the registration process, I’m sure has made many first time v3 users look foolish to the project owners who are now forced to agree to another layer of restrictions that was not mentioned previously.

At the end of the day, I still believe the content of the LEED rating systems are the best available for a comprehensive assessment of , but the ever increasing warren of support documents and the added requirements they contain must be controlled or at least better organized and publicized. The USGBC and GBCI need to understand that those actually administering LEED projects are greatly impacted by such changes, and every time a change is made without ample notice we’re at best unpleasantly surprised and at worst humiliated in front of our clients for appearing to be inept. That’s not to say I don’t welcome more stringent guidelines over time, and I welcomed the more stringent energy and water baselines in the LEED 2009 system. At the same time, however, it’s more important to be predictable and consistent than it is to be 100% perfect. There’s always the next edition, and there’s absolutely no reason this reporting requirement couldn’t wait until LEED 2011…

Please forgive my rant… I’m still VERY excited about Greenbuild and look forward learning more there.

Mr. DeMaine’s Response

As Vice President of Certification for GBCI, I’d like to thank you for bringing these issues related to the LEED certification procedural documents and various associated agreements to our attention. GBCI can confirm that the 20-year figure is a typo. The utility reporting time period was decreased to 5 years shortly after the introduction of the LEED 2009 Minimum Program Requirements. We are working with our information technology staff to correct this error as soon as possible. In the meantime, please refer to the LEED Project Registration Agreement and the LEED Certification Agreement, both of which properly represent that this program is limited to 5 years.

To address the stated concerns regarding lack of access to these documents, both before and after participants register and/or certify projects, all of our current contracts and policy manuals are available at the LEED Online website, www.leedonline.com. To access these documents, visitors to LEED Online must register with the website by creating a site user account. The creation of a site user account is a free service by GBCI. Site users may login to LEED Online and access these documents by going to our “Legal” page. The LEED Certification Policy Manuals are also available on the GBCI website, www.gbci.org.

Regarding revisions to these documents, GBCI has pledged to make changes to our program documents and agreements more transparent. The next scheduled release of such documents will occur shortly before Greenbuild. The coming revision is largely being put forth to incorporate the launch of several additional new programs related to LEED. Further, it is our endeavor to summarize our revisions to these documents and future releases in an open and transparent manner. Such summaries will be made available within LEED Online and, to the extent possible, posted to the GBCI website.



On behalf of the organization, thank you for interest in our certification program and commitment to sustainability. If you or any of your readers have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at bdemaine@gbci.org.

Learn more at RealLifeLEED.com!

GBCI Extends Utility Reporting Requirement to 20 Years?

UPDATE (11.05.10) I just received a comment from Bruce DeMaine, Vice President of Certification for GBCI. He confirmed, as others noted in the comments below, “that the 20-year figure is a typo. The utility reporting time period was decreased to 5 years shortly after the introduction of the LEED 2009 Minimum Program Requirements. We are working with our information technology staff to correct this error as soon as possible.” He also addressed other concerns I’ve raised below, and I’ve added his response to the end of the post in it’s entirety. I’d like to personally thank him for reaching out to clear up this issue! I’ve left the remainder of the post as it was originally published:

Alert reader Eric Johnson of Gardiner & Theobald just pointed out that the latest edition of the LEED Certification Policy Manual (September 17, 2010 Release) has increased the period for which you must allow the GBCI access to utility data from a minimum of 5 years to at least 20 years:

“It is the intent of GBCI to review ongoing project performance to assess project compliance with LEED Green Building Rating System requirements. Project owners authorize GBCI to access and review their project’s Energy and Water Usage Data from the utility service provider and/or the whole-project metering facility where such meters are in place. This authorization shall be maintained for a period of twenty (20) years following the date the project achieves LEED certification.”

This rather significant change has not been publicized in any way that I can see (the most recent LEED Update newsletter dated 10/29/10 doesn’t mention the change), and it doesn’t appear that the GBCI has informed the USGBC or its own legal department, as the Minimum Program Requirements (MPRs) document provided by the USGBC still shows the five year requirement (see page 4), as does the LEED Registration Agreement that was updated three days after the certification policy manual was changed (see page 6).

A New Process Needed

My biggest complaint with the LEED system right now is how these administrative changes are handled. Changes to LEED credits themselves are made using a thorough and rigorous comment and voting process from the membership on a regular schedule… and that’s a good system. On the other hand updates to the LEED policy manuals, documentation requirements, reference guides, the MPRs, owner legal agreements, supplementary reference materials, and a vast array of other critical components of LEED certification seem to occur randomly and there’s no system to easily see changes as they occur or to determine what requirements are in place when a project is registered.

The mechanisms by which LEED projects are completed must be stabilized. If it were up to me, there would be no changes to these ancillary materials between rating system updates, and ALL materials related to the LEED rating system should be open to comment. I don’t have a problem not putting those ancillary materials up to a vote, but I think there is far more concern over things like LEED Certification Agreement and the LEED Project Registration Agreement than the GBCI/USGBC realize, if for no other reason than it’s difficult to find these documents and no real path for commenting on them.

Let me use those two legal documents as an example. You can’t even access those two documents before going through the registration process unless you happen to know the URLs for them (i.e. they don’t appear to show up in any search results or accessible via links on the GBCI site prior to registration). The certification Agreement is in its second edition (09.20.10), and the registration agreement is in its third edition (09.20.10), yet when I log on to my project that was registered in 07.10 I don’t have any access to the documents I agreed to at that date. There’s no document highlighting the changes that I’m aware of, and the simple fact that they’ve changed 2-3 times in about a year is alarming in itself. Since these documents aren’t mentioned until you start the registration process, I’m sure has made many first time v3 users look foolish to the project owners who are now forced to agree to another layer of restrictions that was not mentioned previously.

At the end of the day, I still believe the content of the LEED rating systems are the best available for a comprehensive assessment of , but the ever increasing warren of support documents and the added requirements they contain must be controlled or at least better organized and publicized. The USGBC and GBCI need to understand that those actually administering LEED projects are greatly impacted by such changes, and every time a change is made without ample notice we’re at best unpleasantly surprised and at worst humiliated in front of our clients for appearing to be inept. That’s not to say I don’t welcome more stringent guidelines over time, and I welcomed the more stringent energy and water baselines in the LEED 2009 system. At the same time, however, it’s more important to be predictable and consistent than it is to be 100% perfect. There’s always the next edition, and there’s absolutely no reason this reporting requirement couldn’t wait until LEED 2011…

Please forgive my rant… I’m still VERY excited about Greenbuild and look forward learning more there.

Mr. DeMaine’s Response

As Vice President of Certification for GBCI, I’d like to thank you for bringing these issues related to the LEED certification procedural documents and various associated agreements to our attention. GBCI can confirm that the 20-year figure is a typo. The utility reporting time period was decreased to 5 years shortly after the introduction of the LEED 2009 Minimum Program Requirements. We are working with our information technology staff to correct this error as soon as possible. In the meantime, please refer to the LEED Project Registration Agreement and the LEED Certification Agreement, both of which properly represent that this program is limited to 5 years.

To address the stated concerns regarding lack of access to these documents, both before and after participants register and/or certify projects, all of our current contracts and policy manuals are available at the LEED Online website, www.leedonline.com. To access these documents, visitors to LEED Online must register with the website by creating a site user account. The creation of a site user account is a free service by GBCI. Site users may login to LEED Online and access these documents by going to our “Legal” page. The LEED Certification Policy Manuals are also available on the GBCI website, www.gbci.org.

Regarding revisions to these documents, GBCI has pledged to make changes to our program documents and agreements more transparent. The next scheduled release of such documents will occur shortly before Greenbuild. The coming revision is largely being put forth to incorporate the launch of several additional new programs related to LEED. Further, it is our endeavor to summarize our revisions to these documents and future releases in an open and transparent manner. Such summaries will be made available within LEED Online and, to the extent possible, posted to the GBCI website.



On behalf of the organization, thank you for interest in our certification program and commitment to sustainability. If you or any of your readers have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at bdemaine@gbci.org.

A LEED for Neighborhood Development Project Planning Guide

Today I was tasked with determining the implications that pursuing LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) certification would have on current, preliminary plans for a roughly 100 acre mixed use development including a retail center, offices, and a mix of single- and multi-family residential. Though generally aware of LEED-ND this is the first time I’ve tried to apply the rating system to a specific project, and I figured many of you will be in the same boat sooner or later. With that in mind, here’s what has jumped out at me as the major issues we’ll need to discuss with the client. If you have absolutely no idea what LEED-ND is or what it attempts to do, I strongly recommend checking out this short video before continuing.

The Bluth's were never known for their commitment to sustainability
The Bluth’s Development would probably not qualify for LEED-ND

To create this analysis and resulting post I’ve been relying on the rating system document, the LEED-ND Reference Guide, and the nine page LEED-ND Certification FAQ. I would strongly suggest reading the “Introduction” and “Getting Started” sections in the reference guide and the FAQ as they contain a gold mine of administrative issues that you’ll want to know about at some point. I’m hitting the high points in this post, but there’s a great deal more info that you’ll want to at least skim so you don’t run into any nasty surprises. If you’re not aware already, it’s nearly impossible to pursue LEED certification without purchasing the appropriate reference guide for it.

Understanding the Process

Unlike most LEED rating systems, LEED-ND uses a three phase review system, though depending on where you are in the planning stage you may not need all three. Each review follows the same format as the commercial LEED rating systems (i.e. submit review, receive preliminary comments from GBCI, amend as necessary and resubmit, receive final comments from GBCI, and appeal or accept the rating as granted).

Stage 1 – Conditional Approval of a LEED-ND Plan (Optional)

This review is designed to “help the developer build a case for entitlement among land-use planning authorities, as well as attract financing and occupant communities”, and can only be pursued if “no more than 50% of the project’s total new and/or renovated building square footage has land-use entitlements… for the specific types and quantities of… land uses proposed.” According to the rating system language, entitlements are defined as “the existing or granted right to use property for specific types and quantities of residential and nonresidential land uses.” I read this a “zoning is in place”.

Confused? So was I at first, but basically all this is saying is that if zoning is already in place for more than 50% of your total project as it will ultimately be built, you skip Stage 1 and move to Stage 2. Their definition of entitlements is based on planned building area, not land area. So even though I may have 75 acres out of 100 zoned how I want, if over 50% of my building square footage is in those last 25 acres (perhaps the neighborhood core?) then I’m still eligible for Stage 1. If zoning is not in place for 50% of the total square footage of the project, you may pursue this certification, but you’re not required to. The impression I get reading through the guide is that the only people who should pursue a Stage 1 review are those developers who need help convincing local boards or zoning administrators that their plans are indeed sustainable and could benefit from a USGBC seal of approval of said plans.

Stage 2 – Pre-Certified LEED-ND Plan (Optional)

You can’t proceed with Stage 2 until 100% of the entitlements are in place (i.e. finish up your zoning then move on). So now you have that in place and all of your design work is completed, but it’s going to be quite some time before this place is completely built out… This is the time to submit for Stage 2 Pre-certification!

Similar to the goal of Stage 1, the intent of pre-certification is to aid the developer in marketing, except this time to potential tenants and not zoning boards. Since many projects have long timelines for development, it’s likely that more than a few will pursue Stage 2 pre-certification and stop there. One developer who participated in the pilot project system with a 25 year development timeline indicated that this is a likely outcome for them.

Stage 3 – LEED-ND Certified Project

This stage is the real deal, and once you reach it you finally have a certified project and a plaque to put somewhere. One question I have is that based on the information provided in the reference guide and other supporting documents, it’s not clear whether a well prepared Stage 1 or Stage 2 documentation set would look much different than what’s provided for Stage 3. Multiple sections of these documents suggest that more information and guidance on the matter is provided on LEED-Online, but at the moment I don’t have access to that info. I’ve sent inquiries to the USGBC on this matter and will update this post when I hear back.

Now that I’ve likely thoroughly confused you about the different stages, here’s a graphic from the reference guide that should make it much clearer. The introductory sections provide much more guidance and helpful charts regarding site drawings and documentation that is not found in the free rating system document:

LEED Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) Stages ExplainedClick to view full size

Fees

As mentioned in an earlier post, LEED-ND fees aren’t exactly cheap, but when you start to divide the cost over every building it starts to look much more favorable compared to certifying each building independently.

For the 100 acre project I’m examining the total direct certification fees paid to GBCI (i.e. not including consultant costs) for one stage would be $1,500 registration + $18,000 for the first 20 acres + $350 * 80 additional acres = $47,500. That sounds steep, but when you consider that the cachet of LEED will fall upon the 334 buildings (34 commercial + 300 residential) within this area, likely a significant marketing bonus for all properties, that breaks down to only $142/building. If two stages are pursued (in this instance Stage 2 and Stage 3 are most likely), the total fees rise to $85,500 for both, or $255/building.

When I wrote the previous post I was under the impression that a project was forced to seek all three stages of certification at considerable cost, but looking into the matter further it appears that a project may only need to complete one or two stages and can save significantly. I’m not 100% clear on this and have sent a request to the USGBC for clarification and will update this post when I have confirmation. It’s important to note though that at least one building must achieve LEED certification of some form in order to satisfy a prerequisite, and additional points may be earned for additional certifications under the Green Infrastructure and Buildings category.

Who’s on the Team?

Far more than any other LEED rating system, a good civil engineer or formal planner, ideally with a fair amount of GIS mapping experience, is critical to making the LEED-ND certification efforts proceed smoothly. You will be creating a LOT of site and vicinity maps to comply with Smart Location and Linkage and Neighborhood Pattern and Design prerequisites and credits. I admit that a layperson could likely handle most of this, but it will be very time consuming without a working knowledge of GIS software.

One of the Green Infrastructure and Buildings prerequisites requires that all commercial buildings be designed to exceed ASHRAE 90.1-2007 (by 10% for new buildings or 5% for renovations) or smaller structures can meet detailed prescriptive requirements. Residential buildings must comply with Energy Star ratings. All projects must certain plumbing efficiency requirements. For this reason, it’s likely that an MEP engineer will need to be involved in the documentation process as well, but not to the same extent as the single building LEED systems.

A developer who handles most of the design in-house can probably survive certification without needing an additional consultant, but if they don’t have some of the skills mentioned above it will be a very frustrating process. Alternatively, an architecture or planning firm could also provide a great deal of the documentation for a developer. At the end of the day it will come down to who can do the paperwork most efficiently, and in my opinion that is almost always the person handling the design the first place.

What to Look for First

Unlike other LEED systems where the prerequisites can generally be achieved on any site, it’s very likely that it will be impossible to certify greenfield, surburban sites if there’s very little or poorly connected infrastructure. The project I was tasked with examining will very likely not qualify for certification due to the fact that the neighboring sites are not very dense and it’s bordering undeveloped parcels for much of the site boundary. Internally, the developer must be willing to commit to certain density requirements and also pursue a very urban style infrastructure with building frontages bordering streets instead of vast arrays of parking. For your convenience, I’ve briefly summarized the most critical prerequisites below so you can check to see if your plan will qualify. There are other prerequisites to consider, but these are the ones you need to know about before you pay a registration fee… For more detailed descriptions of the credits, download a pdf copy of the rating system itself.

Site Location and Linkages

SLLp1: Smart Location – This is the one that will prohibit greenfield, urban fringe projects from qualifying. The site must be currently served by water and wastewater service or “within a legally publicly planned water and wastewater service”. In addition to that requirement the project must be an infill site (see credit for details, but it’s pretty much what you’d expect), OR at least 25% of the project boundary must be immediately adjacent previously developed property while land within a 1/2 mile radius contain an average of 90 intersections/square mile. Confused? Even the free rating system pdf has good maps clarifying the credit.

SLLp3: Wetland and Water Body Conservation – Want to fill in some wetlands on the site? Not going to happen… It’s going to be very difficult even building within 50 feet of wetlands or 100 feet of water bodies (beyond minor improvements like paths), which is prohibited unless you meet stringent stormwater management and density requirements.

SLLp4: Agricultural Land Conservation – There are significant restrictions to building on land “within a state or locally designated agricultural preservation district”.

SLLp5: Floodplain Avoidance – If your site is within a 100-year floodplain, it better be an infill project or previously developed, otherwise you’re not going to be able to build there at all.

Neighborhood Pattern and Design

NPDp1: Walkable Streets – Technically you don’t need to know this prior to design starting, but the developer should probably be warned as these will significantly shape their project. 90% of all new building facades must directly border “public space, such as a street, park, paseo, or plaza, but not a parking lot, and is connected to sidewalks…” Additionally, sidewalks must be provided on both sides of 90% of internal streets or frontage, and no more than 20% of street frontages can be faced by a garage door. There are also street width to building height ratios that must be followed for at least 15% of the development.

NPDp2: Compact Development – For projects located within walking distance of a transit corridor, you must build to a minimum density of 12 units/acre residential and .80 FAR for commercial spaces. Projects not within walking distance of a transit stop must build to a minimum 7 units/acre residential and .5 FAR for commercial.

NPDp3: Connected and Open Community – Internal streets within a project must average at least 140 intersections/square mile and there must be “at least one through-street and/or nonmotorized right-of-way intersecting or terminating at the project boundary at least 800 feet.” No one way in, one way out developments here!

Green Infrastructure and Buildings

This category has three prerequisites, but they are all to be tackled much later into the design process. Basically you have to have at least one LEED certified building within the LEED-ND project, and all buildings in the development must meet minimum energy and water efficiency requirements.

Use at your own risk!

It’s important to note that this is my first review of these credit requirements, and though I work to ensure this blog is as accurate as possible, I shortened many complex credit requirements down to only hit the big spots. I may have also overlooked small details that would provide exceptions to the statements below. This post is intended to get someone who hasn’t cracked the book up to speed about LEED-ND as quickly as possible, but it’s ultimately up to you to read the reference guide and meet all of the requirements. Please call out any mistakes or differing opinions in the comments and I’ll update the post ASAP.

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