Sustainability as a Best Practice
Sara Pepitone -- Interior Design, 6/1/2012 2:00:00 AM
|FAST FACTS |
The Definition: Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, today and in the future. -The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
The Rating System: The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) created the LEED - Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - rating system to measure sustainable building, design, construction and operations practices.
The Certification: LEED accounts for everything from development footprint (total land area of project site) and peak cooling loads (the largest amount of power supplied for cooling) to short-term bicycle storage (non-secure; used for less than two hours).
Sustainability is not just a marketing buzzword anymore. In fact, one could say that it has become an important-and some would even argue necessary-factor for many designers and architects when considering any new project today.
"It's hard to overstate the significance of architects and designers focusing on sustainability," says Brendan Owens, VP of LEED Technical Development, U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which originally set the standards for LEED certification. "One thing we know about building performance - from an energy and human perspective - is that orientation is everything, and that's almost entirely in their control."
Last updated in 2009, LEED will undergo some revisions to bring the certification process fully up to date. Effective November, LEED 2012 will include new market sectors (like data centers and warehouses), increased regulations for new technologies, and a focus on lifecycle assessment of materials. LEED 2012's goal is also to be more in line with international standards so that they apply to projects outside the U.S. as well.
Owens says LEED's value depends upon who you are. It's really a market transformation tool, not a building code. But the USGBC is working with various agencies to develop a green building code in line with the International Green Construction Code that debuted this March and is slowly being adopted by some states. It will set minimums, says Owens, for people who want to use a regulatory mindset when building.
In fact, according to a 2012 study by McGraw-Hill Construction, 31 percent of the commercial construction market is green, which may or may not speak to the number of LEED certifications. (The USGBC does not release those numbers.) Certified or not, designers and architects are educating clients about the benefits to sustainability -not only to the earth, but to their pocketbook as well. Below, see how five firms keep sustainability top of mind from start to finish in current and past projects.
Heifer International Education Center, Little Rock, Arkansas
City of Tucson Police Department Forensic Crime Laboratory, Tucson, AZ
Engine House No. 5, Denver, CO.
NASA Sustainability Base, Moffett Field, CA
Headquarters of the Iowa Utilities Board and Office of Consumer Advocate (IUB-OCA), Des Moines, IA