The Greenest Building is the one that is already built

This elegant phrase by architect Carl Elefante is bolstered by an important new study, The Greenest Building:  Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse.

National Real Estate Investor opines that the study, commissioned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Preservation Green Lab, empirically shows, “It is unequivocally greener to retrofit an old building than construct a new building, no matter how many high-tech bells and whistles are in the new construction.”

[Read more…]

Convective Heat Loss, a sneaky villian

Strategies to increase building energy efficiency typically focus on increased efficiency of the HVAC system and increased thermal resistance of the envelope and fenestration. An oft- overlooked, but vital, path to efficiency is reduction of air-leakage.

Heat transfer in buildings occurs in three forms: conduction, convection and radiation. Of these, conduction and convection transfer most of the heat. Conduction occurs when one body transfers its heat to another with which it is in contact–in this case, the transfer between interior and exterior air. Convection occurs when a heated body physically transports itself to another location. In this case air physically moving through leaks in the wall. Thermal insulation prevents conduction but does little to prevent convective heat losses.

[Read more…]

Green parking, chicken houses and bankers

Beginning in 2011, parking structures were deemed unworthy of attaining LEED certification owing to the fact that they are, after all, chock full of those pesky cars.

So great the sin of enabling the proliferation of hydro-carbon fueled vehicles that no amount of energy efficient lighting, designated stalls for alternate fuel vehiclesreduction of heat island effect and countless other ways to make a parking structure more sustainable has lowered the upturned nose of the USGBC.

[Read more…]

How do you like them Apples?

Apple recently announced it will not certify its products with EPEAT. EPEAT is a non-profit organization that certifies “environmentally preferable products”. It is also a program that is backed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

EPEAT would affect Apple’s sales to some governments and educational institutions which require EPEAT certification as a prerequisite for purchase. But how does this affect Apple? According to the blog Apple and EPEAT: What it means the sale of Apple computers to government and educational institutions is a tiny fraction of Apple’s total sales. The real market lies in the consumer market which demands products like their ultra-thin MacBook Pro. According to a Wall Street Journal blog Apple Removes Green Electronics Certification From Products, this laptop design requires the battery to be glued to the case, making disassembly and recycling difficult. This causes the computer to fall behind EPACTS stringent recycling requirements.

[Read more…]

Bridging the Political Divide on Sustainability

The gulf between conservatives and liberals on the merits of sustainability may be lessened with a little history lesson.  So says SERF Scholar Colin Maguire in his paper American Stewardship:   A Path Already Laid,  which he is presenting at next week’s 2012 Environmental Justice and Global Citizenship Conference at Oxford University in England.

The study traces the Founders’ philosophies on private property rights, a core American principle, with the corresponding responsibility for property owners to be good and proper stewards of their land.  Sustainability is, it seems, not such a new concept in America, and should be embraced as an essential element of our nation’s founding.

My kind of (green) town…

Given the warm reception SERF has received and our growing operations here, it comes as no surprise to us that Chicago recently won the Siemens and U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Sustainability Large Community award.  Leaders from business, real estate and, not least, the City government are clearly unified in making Chicago a global leader in sustainability.

There’s a beautiful symmetry in Chicago’s leadership in sustainable buildings given its preeminent role in the creation of an American architectural style and its endless contributions to the world’s built environment ever since.

How fitting, then, that Chicago’s Soldier Field is now the first NFL stadium to have attained LEED status.  Now that’s putting your money where your mouth is.

LEED Eats its Young

LEED 2012 is just around the corner and, as expected, accessibility will plummet. According to a recent blog LEED 2012: Too much change? , by Allison Beer McKenzie many who were previously committed to LEED have decided to abandon it if the proposed changes are implemented.

What really are the proposed changes? Among the many, here are some I found to be most impractical:

The number of prerequisites will increase from 9 to 15.
SERF ‘s policy is that all of our points are fully fungible. Our applicants select which sections they desire to pursue and which ones make little practical sense to them. Prerequisites also make it practically impossible to perform a compliance evaluation post construction. LEED must now (more than ever) be on the agenda right from the conceptual phase of the project, hence increasing design costs.

[Read more…]

Can Governments Really Afford LEED?

There seems a refreshing change in the air questioning municipal, state and federal agency mandates to LEED certify new structures under their purview.

No one finding their way here will question the environmental and social good–even a social demand–for building green by our public sector.  But in the midst of budget crises resulting in spending cuts at every level of government, the high cost of obtaining LEED certification (some 10 times higher than SERF, often more) is beginning to raise fiscal eyebrows.

[Read more…]

Paying (and paying) for the LEED Label

As mentioned in past blogs, the burdensome cost of LEED certification–measured in both time and money–lies in  consultant fees and documentation.  A very reliable study commissioned by the US General Services Administration (GSA) proves the point.

The GSA is an independent federal agency responsible for the construction, operation, and maintenance of federal facilities, including courthouses, office buildings, land ports of entry, and research facilities.

GSA commissioned this report to identify the incremental cost of LEED certification for two buildings: A new mid-rise federal Courthouse and a mid-rise federal office building modernization. The report analyzed both the incremental construction costs as well as soft costs–i.e. LEED-based documentation and consultation fees.

[Read more…]

Getting DIRTTy in Chicago

Last week’s SERF Chicago party celebrating our newest regional office was a raging success.

Some 300 guests gathered at the Green Learning Center of our hosts, DIRTT (that’s Doing It Right This Time for the uninitiated) on the Chicago River next to the Merchandise Mart.

We ate, drank and made merry while celebrating three new Windy City certifications including DIRTT’s space (the first of our new certification for office suites), Norcon Construction’s clever adaptive reuse of an old storage facility on the west side, and 330 N. Wabash—formerly the IBM Building and soon to be the AMA (American Medical Association) Plaza.

[Read more…]