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.

New Guide Provides Instructions For Setting LEED Project/Campus Boundaries

Shortly after complaining about changes about new policy documentation from the GBCI, it occurred to me that the USGBC also published a much needed updated to their Application Guide for Multiple Buildings and On-Campus Building Projects (2010 AGMBC) that does a good job of clarifying how to document ‘weird’ site conditions. The previous 2005 edition did not have much guidance for how to determine LEED Campus and Project boundaries, an issue the new guide explains in easy to use terms.

If this is your campus boundary, you may want to consider downsizing it a bit

Though both documents provide guidance on how to calculate specific credits when multiple buildings on a similar site are seeking certification, I’m most interested in how to set the Project and Campus boundaries. This process is as much art as it is science, and the new guide goes so far as to say that “guidance on where to draw the LEED Campus Boundary is intentionally non-specific”. This is a good thing, because boundary issues for an urban project with multiple buildings on one well-defined site are going to be different than the issues a campus may face when certifying a single building on a site where the school owns thousands of acres.

Key Issues

Project vs. Site Boundary – For ‘normal’ projects (I’m not sure I’ve worked on a ‘normal’ project yet!), you create a single LEED Project Boundary where all credits are calculated based on what happens within that zone. This is normally supposed to be the legal limits of the site, but many times multiple buildings will eventually be built in Multiple building or campus projects will frequently have two boundaries, a Project Boundary and a Campus Boundary.

The Campus Boundary is normally the entire area that the owner (normally a large developer or university) owns or has control over, but in some instances it will be a subset of that property (e.g. a ‘quad’ of a university campus or one phase of a master development). The purpose of the campus boundary is to allow the project team to take credit for shared infrastructure (e.g. stormwater mitigation efforts, dedicated open space, structured parking) that may serve the project but is not part of the scope of the specific project seeking LEED. It may not contain areas outside of the legal control of the organization seeking certification (e.g. off-campus areas can not be included just because there’s a park there that would help with an open space credit)
The Project Boundary is contained completely within the campus boundary, and is defined as “all land that is associated with and supports normal project operations, including all land that was or will be disturbed for the purpose of undertaking the LEED project.” In other words, it’s the area you’re actually affecting when building the specific project seeking certification. The project team has reasonable discretion in determining this boundary, and past experience has indicated that review teams will accept anything that isn’t clearly ‘juked’ (e.g. including a sliver of a site to connect your project to a park to earn open space).

There’s more to it than stated above, and I strongly suggest you and your consultants read the guide and then sit down to determine boundaries as a group to make sure all credit impacts are considered. In past projects I’ve worked on, stormwater mitigation and light pollution credits had the biggest influence on these boundaries, but parking, open space, and a variety of other credits could come into play as well.

I’m heading to Greenbuild 2010 today… Hope to see you there!

Learn more at RealLifeLEED.com!

New Guide Provides Instructions For Setting LEED Project/Campus Boundaries

Shortly after complaining about changes about new policy documentation from the GBCI, it occurred to me that the USGBC also published a much needed updated to their Application Guide for Multiple Buildings and On-Campus Building Projects (2010 AGMBC) that does a good job of clarifying how to document ‘weird’ site conditions. The previous 2005 edition did not have much guidance for how to determine LEED Campus and Project boundaries, an issue the new guide explains in easy to use terms.

If this is your campus boundary, you may want to consider downsizing it a bit

Though both documents provide guidance on how to calculate specific credits when multiple buildings on a similar site are seeking certification, I’m most interested in how to set the Project and Campus boundaries. This process is as much art as it is science, and the new guide goes so far as to say that “guidance on where to draw the LEED Campus Boundary is intentionally non-specific”. This is a good thing, because boundary issues for an urban project with multiple buildings on one well-defined site are going to be different than the issues a campus may face when certifying a single building on a site where the school owns thousands of acres.

Key Issues

Project vs. Site Boundary – For ‘normal’ projects (I’m not sure I’ve worked on a ‘normal’ project yet!), you create a single LEED Project Boundary where all credits are calculated based on what happens within that zone. This is normally supposed to be the legal limits of the site, but many times multiple buildings will eventually be built in Multiple building or campus projects will frequently have two boundaries, a Project Boundary and a Campus Boundary.

  • The Campus Boundary is normally the entire area that the owner (normally a large developer or university) owns or has control over, but in some instances it will be a subset of that property (e.g. a ‘quad’ of a university campus or one phase of a master development). The purpose of the campus boundary is to allow the project team to take credit for shared infrastructure (e.g. stormwater mitigation efforts, dedicated open space, structured parking) that may serve the project but is not part of the scope of the specific project seeking LEED. It may not contain areas outside of the legal control of the organization seeking certification (e.g. off-campus areas can not be included just because there’s a park there that would help with an open space credit)
  • The Project Boundary is contained completely within the campus boundary, and is defined as “all land that is associated with and supports normal project operations, including all land that was or will be disturbed for the purpose of undertaking the LEED project.” In other words, it’s the area you’re actually affecting when building the specific project seeking certification. The project team has reasonable discretion in determining this boundary, and past experience has indicated that review teams will accept anything that isn’t clearly ‘juked’ (e.g. including a sliver of a site to connect your project to a park to earn open space).

There’s more to it than stated above, and I strongly suggest you and your consultants read the guide and then sit down to determine boundaries as a group to make sure all credit impacts are considered. In past projects I’ve worked on, stormwater mitigation and light pollution credits had the biggest influence on these boundaries, but parking, open space, and a variety of other credits could come into play as well.

I’m heading to Greenbuild 2010 today… Hope to see you there!

LEED-ND Study Examines Entire Metro Area

I’ve been looking at LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) in some detail lately, as evidenced by posts examining the system’s fees and also my first experience planning the certification process. While I’m starting to get a feel for the system, my efforts pale in comparison to the work of Brendon Slotterback over at NetDensity.net:

Twin Cities LEED-ND Eligibility
Areas Meeting LEED ND Minimum Eligibility Requirements in the Twin Cities

Brendon’s apparently excellent GIS mapping skills allowed him to progressively eliminate areas ineligible for LEED certification due to non-compliance with various Smart Location and Linkages category prerequisites, and the result is the chart above of eligible areas across the entire Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area. You can read all of the four part series by clicking the links below or through this summary page on his website.

Part 1: Includes a brief overview of LEED-ND and the HUD decision to begin scoring grant, and then creates a map excluding all areas in the region that do not meet wetland/floodplain avoidance, agricultural conservation, and endangered species habitat protection requirements (i.e. examines compliance with SLLp2-SLLp5).
Part 2: Focuses almost exclusively on the SLLp1, Smart Location and Linkages prerequisite and its myriad requirements.
Part 3: Examines areas that may technically be eligible for certification but have strong market barriers due to poor connectivity or low density in the surrounding areas.
Part 4: Brings it all together and looks forward to zoning and policy recommendations that would help foster greater adoption of these practices in the future.

Does LEED-ND Get It Right?

I found Brendon’s site via commentary from Kaid Benfield on his own blog over at the NRDC. He was particularly interested in the ability for small towns and rural areas to meet the SLL requirements, and judging by this post he feels that the system works.

These posts led to a lively discussion on a local planning list I subscribe to, where one respondent was upset that a local new urbanist community planned by DPZ, Habersham, would not qualify due to the fact that it’s not an infill project surrounded by dense development. It’s an excellent development internally, not far enough away from the existing town to in my opinion be considered contributing to sprawl, but it is located on a greenfield surrounded by river and marsh on one side and not much other than forests on the other. Our conversation happened to align with a visit from Steve Mouzon, author of The Original Green, who summed up the discussion well:

Currently, LEED-ND is based primarily (but not entirely) on the assumption that most meaningful interactions occur outside your neighborhood. So Pienza would fail. As would Key West. As would any number of New Urbanist places, including Habersham… LEED-ND doesn’t “trust” very much that the developer will, over time, be able to capture very much interaction… LEED-ND doesn’t have very good accounting of time at this time.

It’s clear to me that LEED-ND requires not only good development practices but is also fairly strict about where such development occurs. I see this as a positive but am very interested to hear your thoughts. Should Key West, a town that could literally be wiped off the map if sea level rise predictions come true, be a place that LEED-ND should foster? Should LEED-ND be more forgiving if what’s developed is significant enough to create its own town center, or should we only encourage growth of existing town centers? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment!

Learn more at RealLifeLEED.com!