Is Employee Health affecting your Bottom Line?

Worker Productivity and LEED Buildings

We spend 90% of our time indoors; we live and breathe inside of these buildings that are so intertwined in our life. Our built environment is one of the most impactful aspects of our lifestyle, and many are changing the way we think about buildings. The most apparent benefits of sustainable buildings, particularly LEED certified buildings, are the monetary savings from operating costs including energy efficiency. However, there are many features of LEED certified buildings that are beneficial socially and financially by improving worker productivity and satisfaction. Since labor is a major expense for private building owners/organizations; when committing to sustainable buildings there is an interest in exploring the return on investment pertaining to increased employee satisfaction and job performance. Studies show that a “small increase in the total employee performance is much more sustainable than cost savings from utilities and maintenance” (Young & Guerin, 2010). Additionally, the environmental satisfaction of the workforce is important because it increases job satisfaction and aids in retention.

A major feature of a LEED certified building is improved indoor air quality when compared to a conventional building. Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) in conventional office buildings can have a negative impact on physical health (asthma, respiratory issues, etc.), as well as psychological health (e.g. depression and stress). Physical health can be affected by poor air quality, excessive humidity, insufficient ventilation and extreme temperatures. Mental health can be impacted by acoustics, ergonomic design, and inadequate lighting (Singh et al, 2010). Both are known to result in absenteeism and reduced productivity. LEED buildings focus on these issues and address them head on. Two case studies were conducted by Singh et al. They compared the employees’ perception and productivity when moving from conventional buildings to LEED buildings. The study concluded that improved IEQ resulted in reduced absenteeism from respiratory allergies, asthma, depression, and stress. Individuals also reported improved productivity.

These findings show the positive effect that green buildings have on public health, worker productivity and satisfaction. When comparing LEED certified buildings to their conventional counterparts, it is important to realize the value that a building can hold and the benefits that are not easily measured.

Lee, Y. S., & Guerin, D. A. (2010). Indoor environmental quality differences between office types in LEED-certified buildings in the US. Building and Environment, 45(5), 1104-1112. doi:10.1016/j.buildenv.2009.10.019

Singh, A., Syal, M., Grady, S. C., & Korkmaz, S. (2010). Effects of Green Buildings on Employee Health and Productivity. American Journal of Public Health, 100(9), 1665–1668. http://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2009.180687

 

Written by: Morgan Price, USGBC WM Program Administrator

WMU’s Heritage Hall Achieves LEED Platinum Certification

Western Michigan University’s faculty, staff and students gathered with LEED project crew members yesterday at Heritage Hall for a ribbon cutting ceremony and ice cream social to accept their LEED Platinum plaque.

Western Michigan University completed a historical rebuild of the beautiful Heritage Hall building, home of the Alumni Center on Prospect Hill.  Not only did they renovate a 110 year old building, they renovated it all while designing for LEED Platinum certification.

LEED Platinum is the highest status a project can achieve in the Leadership in Environment and Energy Design rating system.

Western recipients mounted their LEED Platinum plaque previous to the ceremony. A certificate for their LEED achievement was presented.

Pictured from left to right: Pete Strazdas – AVP Facilities Management (WMU), Bjorn Green – President & CEO (TowerPinkster), Cheri Holman – Executive Director (USGBC WM), John M. Dunn – President (WMU), Renee Pearl – Director of Engagement (WMU), and Jason Novotny – Director of Design (TowerPinkster).

The original construction of Heritage Hall was completed in 1905 at 34,000 square feet. The facility was renovated and made its official debut as Heritage Hall in October of 2015. The building nearly doubled in size totaling 53,000 square feet and features a large ballroom for events.

The WMU team made their energy efficiency mark on Heritage Hall by implementing geothermal heating and cooling from 56 geothermal wells which provide 50% greater efficiency than traditional sources. They incorporated LED lighting, low energy windows, low-flush toilets and new insulation. The renovations transformed one of the least efficient buildings on campus into one of most efficient buildings.

The LEED project was accomplished with a collaborative effort from Western Michigan University, TowerPinkster, The Christman Company and others.

Western has a total of 16 LEED certified buildings with 6 underway, setting themselves on track to house 20 LEED buildings across campus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by: Rebecca Holman, USGBC WM Communications Director

10 Common Site Development Strategies that will help earn LEED Certification

LEED Certification may not be as hard to achieve as you think! Many prerequisites and credits can be achieved simply based on your project location, or by following development rules already established in certain locations. Below are 10 common site development strategies you may already be doing that can help earn LEED Certification for your building.

  1. SESC Measures – many local SESC Permit requirements are equal to or more stringent than LEED requirements. These strategies will help achieve Sustainable Sites Prerequisite “Construction Activity Pollution Prevention”.
  2. Projects in dense or downtown areas may reduce their parking capacity.  This can lead towards Location and Transportation Credit “Reduced Parking Footprint” (1 point)
  3. Developing/Redeveloping in downtown/dense areas will allow you to achieve Location and Transportation Credit “Surrounding Density and Diverse Uses (up to 5 points)
  4. Many existing sites involve contamination and remediation efforts prior to development. These efforts will lead towards Location and Transportation Credit “High-Priority Site” (up to 2 points).
  5. Developing near public transportation such as bus stops, train stations or rideshare stops will help you achieve Location and Transportation Credit “Access to Quality Transit” (up to 5 points).
  6. Prefer concrete pavement to asphalt? Selecting hardscape materials with high reflectance characteristics will lead towards Sustainable Sites Credit “Heat Island Reduction” (up to 2 points).
  7. Does your project site consist of Sandy soils? High percolating soils will allow stormwater to be managed on site, leading to Sustainable Sites Credit “Rainwater Management” (up to 3 points).
  8. If you assess site conditions prior to design, your efforts will lead towards Sustainable Sites Credit “Site Assessment” (1 point)
  9. No irrigation for your site or landscape? This strategy will lead towards Water Efficiency Credit “Outdoor Water Use Reduction” (up to 2 points).
  10. Using cut-off light fixtures for site lighting – leads to Sustainable Sites Credit “Light Pollution Reduction” (1 point)
Guest blog by: Ryan Musch from FTC&H 

 

Sustainable Building Design from Start to Finish (Week 5)

Previously we have taken you through the steps involved in producing a sustainable building design from start to finish using an integrative design approach. We have built a business case and have justified the project, have identified and documented the needs, and have appointed a design team, built and moved into our new facility and it is marvelous. There are tools that the design team may use to assist on a sustainable project, the most notable would be LEED or Leadership in Energy Environmental Design.

Tools of the Trade

More encompassing than the definition of green high performance buildings are those for facilities that are not only energy and water efficient but also are people friendly and get high marks for occupancy comfort and well-being. The EPA has revealed that buildings account for approximately 40 percent of the total U.S. energy consumption and residential buildings account for approximately 54 percent of that total, while commercial buildings accounted for the other 46 percent. At home or at work, without a doubt buildings are a big part of our lives. So it is logical that they would account for a large part of the strain on the world’s resources. Since the design and construction industries have influence on both, it follows that those companies bare a sizeable responsibility for the current situation and its possible solutions. If it is the ultimate goal to advance measures in today’s sustainably built environment and actively diminish the gap between current limits and ideal solutions, then we will need to change society’s behavior. If we start with today’s standards, rules, norms and environmental systems, then we can quickly see that we are already bettering ourselves and our projects.

LEED is a voluntary, market-driven, consensus-based tool that serves as a guideline and assessment mechanism. LEED seeks to optimize the use of natural resources, promote regenerative and restorative strategies, maximize the positive and minimize the negative that buildings have on the environmental and human health that occur in the construction industry, and provide high-quality indoor environments for building occupants. LEED emphasizes integrative design, integration of existing technology, and state-of-the-art strategies to advance expertise in green building. The technical basis for LEED strikes a balance between requiring today’s best practices and encouraging leadership strategies. LEED sets a challenging yet achievable set of benchmarks that define green building for construction projects.

LEED addresses environmental challenges while responding to the needs of a competitive market. Certification demonstrates leadership, innovation, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility. LEED gives building owners and operators the tools they need to immediately improve both building performance and the bottom line while providing healthier indoor spaces for building’s occupants. LEED-certified buildings are designed to deliver lower operating costs and increased asset value, reduced waste sent to landfills, energy and water conservation, more healthful and productive environments for occupants, a reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and may qualification for tax rebates, zoning allowances, and other incentives in many cities.

  • Review the design for LEED certification feasibility
  • Identify the appropriate LEED rating system. I.e LEED NC (single application/ multiple) vs LEED CS vs LEED CI vs LEED ND etc.
  • Identify prerequisites and credits the project can achieve and clarify what needs to be done where noncompliance is an issue.
  • Identify and outline what needs to be done for additional credits.
  • Identify Innovation in Design Credits
  • Create a task matrix that identifies key players and their responsibilities as they relate to LEED design and certification.
  • Provide support and assistance in understanding LEED credit requirements
  • Provide support to key team members in preparing credit forms.
  • Guide and manage the project team throughout the entire process.
  • Managed the LEED Online process.
  • Review credit forms and submittals as required.
  • Assist the team in responding to comments during the review process.

Many projects are close to achieving their full potential. Some factors can really speed up the process, like smart, engaged and demanding clients, early involvement by stakeholders in the development process and finally partnerships with suppliers. This will help to make the entire life cycle chain, from raw materials to the finished projects, more environmentally sound. Applying this approach to everything we do means that instead of just building a building we make sure it will function as intended while introducing less negative effects on the environment at any time in its existence. The best results come from thinking in new ways, and combining the old with the new.

Sustainable Building Design From Start to Finish (Week 4)

For the last few weeks we talked about the conventional building project and the reasons for using a more integrated approach. We have built a business case and have justified the project, have identified and documented the needs, and have appointed a person or a team to head up the project and have hired a multi-disciplinary team. The Design is done and the contractor is starting to build our project. Things are happening fast and furious and the next step is critical for the success of the project.  

Stage 5: Mobilization and Construction

The design and its implementation are finalized during the Design Development  and Construction Documents phases. So, construction contract administration is primarily a quality control and cost monitoring function. Designers and other members of the team must remain fully involved. Decisions previously made may require clarification, suppliers’ information must be reviewed for compliance with the Contract Documents, and substitutions must be evaluated. If changes affect the operation of the building, it is especially important to involve the user/client in the review. User requirements may change, too, and enacting those alterations requires broad consultation among the consultants and sub-consultants, new pricing, and incorporation into the Contract Documents and the building.

The design team is depended on to assure the building meets the requirements of the Contract Documents. Meanwhile, success at meeting the requirements of the original program can be assessed by the construction management team or third parties in a process known as Commissioning. A full range of functions in the building is evaluated and the design and construction team can be called upon to make changes and adjustments as needed.

Stage 6: Occupation and Post Occupation Evaluation.

The integrative process does not end when construction is complete and occupants have moved in. The process seeks to enhance the entire life of the building through effective maintenance and operation, measurement and verification, re-commissioning, and building performance evaluation. The post construction portions of the process provide. To ensure reliability the final documents for third party verification are submitted at this stage. Feedback loops, which facilitate continuous optimization of the building’s performance, are necessary in keeping the vision and project’s goals on target. After the building is fully operational, it is often useful to conduct a Facility Performance Evaluation (this may be known as a post-occupancy study, although FPEs are considered to be more rigorous.) to assess how the building meets the original and emerging requirements for its use. Such information is especially useful when further construction of the same type is contemplated by the same user. Mistakes can be prevented and successes repeated.

For the last four weeks we have investigated what it takes to build a sustainable or green building from start to finish. Next week we will go into depth some tools that team may use to assist in the integrative process.

Sustainable Building Design from Start to Finish (Week 3)

For the last few weeks we talked about the conventional building project and the reasons for using a more integrated approach. We have built a business case and have justified the project, have identified and documented the needs, and have appointed a person or a team to head up the project and have hired a multi-disciplinary team that is ready to put pen to paper and we can start building right?

Stage 3: Design Development

Gradually a design emerges that embodies the interests and requirements of all participants, while also meeting overall area requirements and budgetary parameters. At this stage, schematic designs are produced. They show site location and organization, general building shape, orientation, distribution of program, and an outline of components and systems to be designed and/or specified for the final result. Depending on the size of the project, it is often useful to create a cost estimate performed for the design at this point.

Design Development enlarges the scale of consideration. Design Development is a time to firm up and validate choices. It concludes the WHAT phase of the project. During this phase, all key design decisions are finalized. Detailed Design under the integrative process comprises much of what is left to the Construction Documents phase under traditional practice, thus the Detailed Design phase involves significantly more effort than the traditional Design Development phase.

Greater detail is developed for all aspects of the building, and the collaborative process continues with the architect or prime consultant facilitating the various contributors. The conclusion of this phase is a detailed design on which all players agree and may be asked to sign off. During this phase, effort shifts from WHAT is being created to documenting HOW it will be implemented. Careful proofing and identifying of items such as building systems and cost implications should be done before proceeding with final materials, colors, and finishes.

Stage 4: Tender trade contracts

The development of contract documents involves interpreting the design development information into a format suitable for pricing, permitting, and construction. The goal of the contract documents is to complete the determination and documentation of how the design intent will be implemented, not to change or develop it. No set of contract documents can ever be perfect, but high quality can be achieved by scrutiny, accountability to the project goals, and careful coordination among the technical consultants on the design team. Decisions continue to be made at this stage, but changes in scope will become more expensive once pricing has begun; changes to the contract documents also invite confusion, errors, and added costs, although technologies like Building Information Modeling (BIM) or Automated Building Systems are beginning to align references for all design team members. The Integrative process assumes early involvement of key trade contractors and vendors, so buyout of work packages they provide occurs through development of prices throughout the design phases, culminating at the conclusion of implementation documents. Accelerated project definition during Schematic and Design Development allows early commitment for procurement of long lead, custom, or prefabricated items. The Integrative “Bidding” phase is much shorter than under traditional delivery methods, since most work is already contracted for. Third party verification can begin at this stage and can validate the assumptions the design makes regarding how  sustainable the project will be. A tool that can be used here would be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Next week we will further investigate what it takes to build a sustainable or green building from start to finish.

Sustainable Building Design from Start to Finish (Week 2)

Last week we talked about the conventional building project and the reasons for using a more integrated approach. The first step was for a business to justify the project and identifies that they have a need. The second step is to document the business case and the needs of the business. The next step is to appoint a person or a team to head up the project.

Stage 2: Appoint the integrative project team and hire any outside consultants.

The client updates the preliminary business case and strategic brief to reflect the comments from the internal team and collates the pre-design and  pre-construction information, ready to issue a consultant team. The client will need to appoint a consultant team and other advisers such as an integrative project facilitator, an architectural team, construction manager, an independent client adviser, and a cost estimator. It is imperative that the Owner’s Project Requirements are thoroughly and clearly articulated during the pre-design or discovery phase.

This is also an opportunity to establish collaborative practices and agree on a program.  For significant projects, a construction manager and an architect should be engaged to conduct the needs assessment; it may also be appropriate for this team to produce a master plan that places individual design activities in context and sequence of delivery. This team will need to work with the client to aid the internal team in developing the strategic brief. Regardless of a project’s scope, research and programming is a crucial first step in developing a successful design. Criteria for the selection of the consultant team may include the client’s affinity for a specific architectural philosophy, the consultant’s experience with the building type, or, with sustainability requirements, a candidate’s ability to achieve high environmental performance in historic or new buildings.

A multidisciplinary team may include a contractor, engineers, landscape architect, environmental designer, artist, sustainability consultant, and other specialists, the architect or prime consultant will need to establish the core design goals in a collaboration with the client. The design team also may produce alternative conceptual approaches to the client’s needs, and graphics to visualize the discussion along with energy and basic environmental impacts. Refinement of research and integration with design are initiated. The project begins to take shape. Major options are evaluated, tested, and selected.

Such suggestions are meant to stimulate thought, not necessarily to describe the final outcome. It is worthy to note the importance of the team format at this stage: full involvement of team members is critical, as individual insights can prevent costly changes down the road. Continual collaboration between stakeholders also helps prevent expensive mistakes. Next week we will further investigate what it takes to build a sustainable or green building from start to finish.

Sustainable Building Design from Start to Finish (Week 1)


Green building, or sustainable design, is the practice of increasing the efficiency with which buildings and their sites use energy, water, and materials, and of reducing impacts on human health and the environment for the entire lifecycle of a building. Green-building concepts extend beyond the walls of buildings and include site planning, community and land-use planning issues as well. The growth and development of our communities has a large impact on our natural environment. The EPA has revealed that buildings account for approximately 40 percent of the total U.S. energy consumption and residential buildings account for approximately 54 percent of that total, while commercial buildings accounted for the other 46 percent. At home or at work, without a doubt buildings are a big part of our lives. The manufacturing, design, construction and operation of the buildings in which we live and work are responsible for the consumption of many of our natural resources. The planning of a project is a key component in figuring out how to go about getting a sustainable building design or a green building. Many teams use a multi-disciplinary, integrated design approach, and for the next few weeks we will outline the steps involved in producing an effective Sustainable Building Design from Start to Finish.

 

The conventional way of bringing a project to fruition which includes, design, bid, building, and operations processes often fails to recognize that buildings are part of larger, complex system. As a result, solving one problem may negatively affect other systems elsewhere in the system. In contrast, an integrative process is a highly collaborative method used for the design, construction and operations of sustainable built environments. This approach requires the whole project team to think of the entire building and all of its systems together, emphasizing connections and improving communication among professionals and stakeholders throughout the life of a project. It breaks down similar to the strategy outlined in the Integrative Process (IP)© – ANSI Consensus National Standard Guide© – Design and Construction of Sustainable Buildings and Communities to inefficient solutions. Although the term integrative design is most often applied to the planning stage of a  new construction or renovations project, it is often used interchangeably by the public with the integrative process, where an integrative process is applicable to any phase in the life cycle of a building. What it boils down to, is getting everyone who will be involved in the project, from the design phase to construction to the actual day-to-day operations, together right from the start to collaborate and trust.

 

Stage 1: The Discovery Phase

During the discovery phase a project must go through a business justification. This takes place once a business identifies that they have a need, which might result in a building project. This is where the client will define the need. The client will then explore high level options for meeting the requirements set out in the statement of need. This may include an assessment of comparable projects. Then they would prepare a preliminary business case, which is a first attempt to justify the investment required by the potential project and should include a management structure, a draft legal agreements and funding options. The client will need to develop a statement of needs, that provides sufficient information about the project to allow for the appointment of a consultant team who will carry out feasibility studies and options appraisals, prepare a project brief and develop the strategic brief.  The brief should also outline preliminary requirements of the project including any potential goals or visions or basic metrics of performance.

The initial strategic brief may include the identification of potential sites for the development. It should be noted that for particularly large projects, an environmental impact assessment may be required by the local planning authority and that this may include an assessment of alternative sites for the development. It is important to consider this when assessing potential sites. Identifying possible sites, and considering their impacts (such as the possibility of moving staff) can be a complicated process and may require the appointment of independent client advisers (such as surveyors and or civil engineers).

The client undertakes risk assessment and value management exercises, sets an initial budget for the project and considers funding options for the project. They may then revise the preliminary business case and strategic brief.

The next step is to establish an internal team. They will need to identify who will lead the project for the organization and have the organization’s best interests in mind. This can take the shape of a project director, one person, or a project board, a team of champions who would take responsibility for the quality of the project from a business standpoint. The team may include a user panel or project stakeholders.

Next week we will further investigate what it takes to build a sustainable or green building from start to finish.

Higher Ed Paving the Way for Future Generations

Educational institutions across the state of Michigan are committed to building and operating healthy, high efficient spaces for students to learn. These institutions are leading future generations down a greener path by setting the example for sustainable progress. Campus wide sustainability departments have been established that include programs and initiatives that reduce waste, natural resources and increase energy efficiency.  This demonstrates to students the importance of  a light carbon footprint and increased social responsibility.

Many West Michigan colleges and universities have adopted LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) for one or more campus construction projects including:   Aquinas College, Central Michigan University (CMU), Davenport University (DU), Ferris State University (FSU), Grand Valley State University (GVSU), Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC), Kalamazoo College (KU), Michigan State University (MSU), Montcalm Community College (MCC), Muskegon Community College (MCC), Northern Michigan University (NMU), Southwestern Michigan College (SMC) and Western Michigan University (WMU).  Some institutions have established LEED as a criterion for new construction and renovation projects campus wide including Aquinas, WMU, MSU and GVSU.

The State of Michigan mandates that state funded buildings be constructed to LEED standards. However, the state does not require that the building achieve LEED certification. “Why build to LEED standards if you do not complete the certification process?” asked James Moyer, associate vice president for facilities planning at GVSU. “Grand Valley chooses to pursue LEED certification as proof of our accomplishment.”

“If a Western Michigan project receives state funds or not, all projects over $1 million will be designed and constructed in accordance with LEED,” said DeVon Miller, building commissioning specialist at Western Michigan University.

It is evident that other educational  institutions agree with GVSU’s & WMU’s philosophies.  Since LEED certification was established in 2000, 13 colleges in West Michigan have registered 95 projects.  Out of the 95 registered projects, 68 have successfully obtained certification including 2 platinum buildings, 20 gold, 27 silver and 19 certified.

Just this year, five higher education buildings in West Michigan achieved LEED certification. Aquinas student housing building, St. Rose of Lima and CMU’s multipurpose stadium achieved basic LEED certification. Muskegon Community College’s Science Center addition and GVSU’s Marketplace and Douglas Kindschi Hall of Science achieved LEED Gold certification.

Building owners and operators that pursue building renovations or new construction must build to construction code, however, they have the choice to build above code. Building above code means taking extra steps to enhance the sustainability, health, and efficiency of the building.

Some buildings claim to be “green”, healthy and high efficient, while others prove it. LEED is a third party rating system that proves green operations with certification. It rewards buildings that reduce their impact across multiple areas, including: building site management, materials used, water and energy consumption, transportation options, occupant health and comfort, and more.

LEED certified buildings work to improve building operations and lower a building’s energy use.

The students of today, are the leaders of tomorrow.  Educating students to understand and value the relationship between the economy and ecology is important. Economicology is a term coined by Peter Wege of the Wege foundation.  The word summarizes Mr. Wege’s philosophy that a prosperous economy depends on maintaining a healthy environment.

Written by: Rebecca Holman, USGBC WM Communications Director

LEED v2009 Ends October 31, 2016

The deadline is approaching.  October 31st is the last day to register your project under the LEED v2009 rating system.  If your project is registered for v2009 before the deadline, you will have until June 30, 2021 to complete and submit the project for certification.

Beginning November 1st, all buildings will be registered under the new LEED v4 rating system, the latest version of LEED.  LEED v4 launched November 2013 and is available for those who wish to pursue it.

According to USGBC National, LEED v4 is different from LEED v2009 because it focuses on increased technical stringency from past versions.  The new rating system is making LEED available to new market sectors, including data centers, warehouses and distribution centers, hospitality, existing schools, existing retail and mid-rise residential projects.

LEED v4 offers a new credit for Integrated Design. This brings together the full construction team at an early stage in the design process, allowing for all areas of expertise to collaboratively design and build to LEED standards from start to finish.

LEED’s green building rating system continues to raise the bar as technology develops and the green building industry stays at the forefront.  

For those new to LEED, the USGBC West MI Chapter has created a guide to help you learn the basics of the LEED rating system and LEED accreditation for green building experts.  This simple four page document breaks down LEED into an easy to understand process – think LEED for Dummies.

Written by: Rebecca Holman, USGBC WM Communications Director