Managing waste has been a ball and chain on society throughout the years, and we are still in the process of ironing out systems that are efficient and sustainable. According to the EPA’s 2014 study on Waste Management, published in 2016, 258 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) were generated. With a statistic like this, it is clear that changes need to be made in order to mitigate this generation. The construction and demolition (C&D) tier of waste management is often overlooked, however, C&D materials contribute to a significant amount of this waste stream. Focusing on a tier such as this could have a substantial impact on the future of sustainable cities.
C&D materials are generated when new buildings and structures are built and when existing buildings and structures are renovated or demolished. These various materials can be diverted from disposal, separated and managed into new productive uses. C&D sites are multi-faceted with various forms of traffic flowing in and out, daily. It can be hard to enforce and track waste separation on site. Hiring a waste management company makes the process easier. They separate and track waste for you, saving time and increasing project efficiency.
Construction projects may have waste diversion goals or requirements depending on project type. Waste diversion is the process of diverting waste from the landfill. In order to divert waste, all construction materials are separated by type and disposed accordingly. Materials that are recyclable are separated from materials that are not recyclable. Both recycled and non-recycled materials are weighed and a percentage is calculated to determine how much waste overall was diverted from the landfill.
Many responsible building owners and managers are pursuing LEED building certification. Waste diversion is a part of the requirements for the certification process. Being a prerequisite, a waste management plan is put into place prior to project construction. Implementing and tracking this waste management plan during construction can help earn LEED credits, making the project that much closer to achieving the certification.
Some waste management companies are taking on the challenge of waste diversion and are becoming the leaders in this beneficial process. One of these leaders is Knight Transfer Service: a waste management provider located in Zeeland; servicing West Michigan, Lansing, Metro Detroit and Ann Arbor. Along with their waste management service, Knight designed a program for sorting waste on and off site for construction projects. The program developed over time as they saw a need in the construction industry.
Since 2002, Knight has partnered with 60 project teams to divert waste at over 200 project sites pursuing LEED certification in Michigan.
Business models like Knight’s can help to achieve waste management goals on and off site. If the construction site is large enough, dumpsters are delivered and the waste separation is done on site. If the construction site has limited space, different dumpsters are brought in that host multiple materials per bin and are then separated off site.
The program helps construction projects with waste responsibility; creating more space on site, improving accuracy of sorting materials, and helping projects meet waste goals. It provides companies with peace of mind knowing that the job is getting done in an efficient and sustainable manner.
Waste is inevitable. With the right guidance, information, and leaders driving projects such as these, we can tackle the giant that is waste management.
Written by: Rebecca Holman of the USGBC West MI Chapter
LEED is a third-party verification for green buildings. Pursuing and achieving LEED certification provides independent verification of a buildings green features in design, construction, operations and maintenance.
How long does certification last?
A building can never lose its LEED certification achievement. You will always be able to say that the building was certified to the level achieved on a particular date. A project can continue to maintain up to date certification by being recertified – and demonstrate additional, important green achievements.
What is recertification?
Recertification is the subsequent application(s) for certification after a project has received an initial certification under any version of LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance (LEED EB O+M). This achievement ensures that the LEED project continues to function to LEED standards. For example: a five-year-old LEED for New Construction certification means that five years ago, the building was designed to be a sustainable building. Project teams choose to recertify buildings, because the original plaque says nothing about whether the building is operating sustainably today.
What LEED rating systems require recertification?
The LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance rating system can be applied both to buildings seeking LEED certification for the first time and to projects previously certified under any version of the LEED Design and Construction rating systems. It is the only LEED rating system that requires projects to recertify. By nature, LEED for Existing Buildings is an ongoing process, and its prescriptive and performance strategies are intended to provide operational benefits throughout the life of the building. If the strategies are sustained, the building can maintain and even improve its performance over time.
LEED O+M projects have two options to maintain their certification:
When using Arc for ongoing O+M certification, the team does not need to complete any LEED credit forms. Instead, the team will enter data in Arc under the five categories – Energy, Water, Waste, Transportation and Human Experience. This data will determine the project’s performance score. A previous LEED certification contributes up to a maximum of 10 base points, depending on previous credit achievement in the initial certification. The base score is static and is not impacted by the data entered into the platform. Find out more at http://arcskoru.com/.
For some time Zero Net Carbon (ZNC) was not clearly defined, but ten Green Building Councils (including United States & China) worked to change that. They convened in New York City on September 30, 2016 with the goal of aligning their ZNC definitions. Architecture 2030, a non-profit dedicated to combating climate change through innovative design, led the discussion by putting forward the ZNC definition they developed in collaboration with Rocky Mountain Institute and New Buildings Institute.
Today, a ZNC building is defined as:
A highly energy efficient building that produces on-site, or procures, enough carbon-free renewable energy to meet building operations energy consumption annually.
ZNC buildings = Energy Efficiency + Renewable Energy
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) consisted of scientific studies that illustrated the next decade is a critical time. They also emphasized that the only way to stabilize our climate is to reach zero total global greenhouse gas emissions by 2060 to 2080. To meet this timeframe, our entire building sector must shift current building design, construction, and operations towards ZNC, and our solution must bring every building – new and existing – into the fold.
In 2012, there was approximately 85 million square feet of new buildings built in the United States. Today there is over 275 billion square feet of existing building space in the U.S. This translates into incredible potential to transform existing buildings into more sustainable, healthy, and profitable buildings. Traditionally, buildings have contributed about a third of climate change-causing global carbon dioxide emissions, more than any other sector, because of their heavy reliance on fossil fuel resources.
It is critical that we adapt our built environment to withstand the impacts of a climate change. We are already experiencing the effects of our changing climate. In order to maintain a healthy atmosphere, it is estimated that carbon emissions must be cut by 80% by 2050.
The Paris Agreement was adopted by consensus in December 2015. This agreement within the UNFCC addresses greenhouse gas emissions, mitigation, adaption and finance starting in the year 2020. The Paris Agreement objective is to hold the increase in global average temperature at well below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. While the U.S. is taking steps to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, this has not slowed the other 193 signatories on their progress toward mitigating climate change.
In response to President Trump’s announcement of the U.S. plan to withdraw from the Paris Agreement more than 2,200 leaders from America’s city halls, state houses, boardrooms and college campuses, representing more than 127 million Americans and $6.2 trillion of the U.S. economy signed the We Are Still In declaration, a commitment to the Paris Agreement. Its signatories demonstrate America’s enduring commitment to delivering on the promise of the Paris Agreement and America’s contribution to it. To date, ‘We Are Still In’ is the largest cross section of the American economy yet assembled in pursuit of climate action. ‘We Are Still In’ is a bottom-up network, supported by many individuals and organizations. Grand Rapids was an early signatory to the movement and other Michigan cities include Ann Arbor, Buchanan, East Lansing and Grandville.
Our cities are already facing climate change risks, infrastructure demands, and increased resource needs for water & energy. Many cities are creating climate change and resiliency policies and programs. Local policy and regulations will drive the building industry to address these issues. Innovative and diverse incentives, policies and partnerships will pave the way for market adoption of ZNC.
Grand Rapids is a long-time leader in climate change strategy. The city was the first signatory to the Resilient Communities for America and one of the first local governments in the nation to use the ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability’s Climate Adaptation Program: Climate Resilient Communities ™ . The program aids local governments with the tools to prepare for the impacts of climate change.
Tools & Resources are Emerging
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) helped set the federal 2030 net zero energy goals in 2007. Today, they are still making strides in energy policy and pushing for renewable energy incentives.
In June 2016 the World Green Building Council introduced Advancing Net Zero which includes an aggressive target that 100% of buildings are operating at net zero by 2050. In order to be successful, widespread adoption is critical. The consensus among Green Building Councils (GBC’s) is to create training for green building professionals and operate green building certification programs that will ensure that net zero buildings become the new norm. They have set a goal to have these programs in place by the end of 2017.
An innovative project that works to provide solutions for the built environment is the 2030 Challenge, created by Architecture 2030. “This is the first comprehensive program in the U.S. that educates the architectural profession in specific design and technology applications to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions,” said Edward Mazria, Architecture 2030 Founder and CEO. The goal of this challenge is to have all major renovations, developments, and new buildings be carbon neutral by 2030.
The New Building Institute’s (NBI) provides tools and resources for guidance, maintenance, and measurability for ZNE. NBI has developed a set of action paths for jurisdictions to support a long term commitment to ZNE Buildings. They have created Zero Net Energy policies, the Zero Energy Performance Index (zEPI) which provides a scale for measuring commercial building energy performance, as well as an online tool to guide building owners called Getting to Zero Database. Case studies and other research is also provided on the website. Learn more here.
Boots on the Ground
In December 2015 the U.S. Green Building Council of West Michigan (USGBC-WM) launched the Grand Rapids 2030 District as a way to facilitate the reduction of carbon emissions in the city and lead the ZNC transition. The Grand Rapids 2030 District fosters the collaboration of property developers & owners, city leaders, community and professional partners to reduce carbon by 50% (from a 2003 baseline) by 2030 for existing buildings and a zero net carbon goal for new building projects. The goals were set by Architecture 2030 which charters 17 other 2030 districts throughout the U.S. & Canada including Detroit, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and more.
With collaboration and innovation, we will continue to push forward to a healthier, more sustainably built environment.
Written by: Morgan Price, USGBC WM Program Administrator
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.