Green Building Becoming The Norm

May 31, 2012

Reprinted from The Zweig Letter, Aril 30, 2012, Issue 957

Clients are now demanding features that make a statement and shave costs.

By Liisa Sullivan Correspondent

Editor’s note: Second of a two-part series marking Earth Day.

Large-scale collaboration is seen as key to the continued growth of the booming green-building movement – a future where sustainable buildings will be the norm.

In the first of this series, The Zweig Letter spoke with the Chair of the National Board of Directors of the U.S. Green Building Council, Elizabeth Heider, who is also senior vice president of Green Markets for Skanska (Solna, Sweden), a leading international construction company. She predicted a bright future for green building.

This week, Jason Kliwinski, AIA, LEEDap, Director of Sustainable Design at Spiezle Architectural Group (Princeton, NJ), talks to TZL on the topic. He’s one of the original co-founders of USGBC-NJ’s chapter and the only nationally recognized LEED faculty in New Jersey.

The Zweig Letter: Tell me about a recent green building collabora- tion?

Jason Kliwinski: In 2008, Spiezle was engaged by TD Bank to review its leg- acy prototype with an eye to achieve LEED-basic certification. Restrictions on the project included not changing the aesthetics of its legacy image, reducing first costs 10 percent and main- taining its normal aggressive construction schedule of three to four months to build a retail branch. We led TD Bank through a three-month integrated de- sign process where we examined every current method of construction, building material selection and building systems. Using energy modeling to do real-time analysis of HVAC, lighting, and building envelope options allowed us to capture the synergies between these elements and to reduce first costs 10 percent while improving energy performance by 40 percent over its original proto- type design. The team met biweekly to review progress, vet decisions and define goals. During these meetings, exterior renderings of the building, energy models and materials were presented to TD for re- view and selection. In the end, not only did we achieve a 10 percent first cost reduction, maintain the schedule and image, but we also exceeded the LEED basic certification level requested and reached a LEED Gold certification. As part of this metamorphosis, TD Bank wanted to communicate its sustainability commitment to the public. So, we redesigned the conventional drive-through and entry canopy of the building to be a solar drive-through and entry, where the roof is comprised of solar panels, making them completely building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). The bank generates over 10 percent of its power from these BIPV systems. Three of these prototypes were built between 2008 and 2011. Since this success, TD Bank has taken our LEED prototype platform further, creating a new image and now designing and building to LEED Gold/Platinum levels across the East Coast. Our crowning achievement with TD Bank was the design of the first net-zero energy bank in Cypress Creek, Fla. The greatly reduced energy demand of the building allowed us to design a solar panel system capable of fitting on site to meet 100 percent of the building’s energy needs on an annual basis.

TZL: Is green becoming more of a design standard?

JK: Over the last five years, the skep- ticism and convincing needed around green building has morphed into a demand and requirement by clients of all types. The drivers, we believe, are threefold:

1) Climate change: The environmental aspect of climate change has now been widely accepted due to the science behind it and extreme record-breaking weather events.

2) Economic sense: Increased operating costs due to high utility rates, combined with lower construction costs due to more experienced manufacturing and construction force, have allowed LEED-certified Silver and even Gold buildings to be built today at the same or less cost as conventional buildings.

3) Human health: People are the most costly expense associated with a build- ing, and more importantly, we spend about 90 percent of our lifetime in buildings. The indoor environmental quality of buildings is, therefore, critical to our health and wellbeing. People’s sick days, salaries, and benefits are 10 to 100 times more costly than any upfront or long-term equipment costs. So, improving the performance of employees just one to two percent can have an ROI of up to $2.50 per square foot in an office setting.

TZL: what percentage of Spiezle’s projects are in the green-building niche?

JK: Nearly all of the firm’s major new buildings and renovation projects. The firm has over 17 LEED-registered projects in almost every version of the LEED-rating system. In addition to conventional buildings, the firm has developed a strong portfolio of less conventional green-building services into which most architects have not ventured, including carbon neutrality master planning and design, net-zero energy design, green building/LEED education, renewable/solar energy design, energy benchmarking/auditing, commissioning, energy modeling and LEED certification consulting. This has allowed the firm to provide turnkey, green-building design services to our clients, as well as consult to a number of design teams around the country.

TZL: What’s in store for the future?

JK: It’s heading to the norm. Codes and standards such as ASHRAE 189.1, International Green Construction Code, and California Title 24 have codified what was once a LEED-certified or Silver building. As states begin to adopt these codes, LEED Silver level buildings will become the norm. The U.S. Military, General Services Administration, and many state and local government entities have already mandated LEED Silver certified new construction or better in the absence of more stringent codes. It’s only a matter of time before more state codes incorporate and mandate LEED certification.

The cutting edge of green-building design will remain the elusive LEED Platinum level, as well as even higher aspirations, such as the Living Building Challenge and Regenerative Design. There is, for perhaps the first time in history, a larger guiding plan at work. Professional and government organizations have embraced the science and goals of the Architecture 2030 Challenge, striving to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2030.  This non-profit organization, spearheaded by architect Ed Mazria, has set carbon reduction goals at 60 percent by 2010, 70 percent by 2015, 80 percent by 2020, 90 per- cent by 2025, and 100 percent by 2030.

Click Here to view The Zweig Letter article.

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