Our Posts
To lead or not LEED: A No-Nonsense Approach to Sustainability for Existing Buildings
To lead or not LEED: A No-Nonsense Approach to Sustainability for Existing Buildings

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED as it’s more commonly known, is a voluntary, consensus-based, market-driven program that provides third-party verification of green buildings. It is designed to: lower operating costs, reduce waste sent to landfills, conserve energy and water, be healthier and safer for occupants and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Although many have heard the term LEED before, there are those that are still not convinced of its true value and benefits. Primera can show you how to take a no-nonsense approach to your building’s operation and maintenance and still meet your goals for sustainability.

A common misconception about LEED is that you need to be constructing a new building or completing a major renovation to be able to take advantage of LEED certification. LEED EBOM, or LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance, is the tool for ongoing operations and maintenance of existing commercial and institutional buildings. The intent of LEED EBOM is to certify the operations and maintenance of the building and to create a plan for ensuring high performance over time – a goal that saves you money over the life of your building. This program is gaining momentum. In 2012, the amount of building square footage registered under LEED EBOM exceeded the square footage registered for LEED for New Construction.

The most critical step that Primera highlights for our clients is to understand the LEED Design credits that give projects the best value for the effort and expense. Aside from the pre-requisites that LEED incorporates into every rating system (with more planned for the soon-to-be released Version 4), we discuss where Non-Mandatory LEED credits should be considered on project design for cost savings, such as more robust lighting system controls and daylight capture designs. At the same time we also evaluate which credits have direct impact on employees, customers or student experience. Credits such as increased ventilation, reduced particulates in air distribution, lighting controllability, and thermal comfort control might be the most important items that your team chooses to pursue.

Next, our team works closely with our clients to focus on where tax credits, green revolving funds, grants or matching funds are available to help offset initial costs – such as grants available for solar photovoltaic for hot water heating or those that help pay for LEED consulting or LEED Commissioning fees for Illinois not-for-profit organizations.
Incorporate the following tips to make the LEED EBOM process as simple as possible for you as a building owner or facility manager:

  1. Build a diverse team (make sure you leverage your consultant for technical challenges) and use in-house staff for data collection.
  2. Set appropriate LEED goals for your team – this is where your technical expert is the key to understanding low, medium and high-cost strategies.
  3. Perform a comprehensive building audit looking at both LEED EBOM pre-requisites and credits. Remember to utilize in-house staff as often as possible. Reconvene the team to analyze the gap and assess the potential for certification. More often than not there is a lot of work already in place that just needs to be documented.
  4. Pursue your sustainability goals over the long run, but start with retro commissioning. Retro commissioning is the systematic discovery, documentation, review, and improvement of energy operations through no/low-cost savings opportunities that match building performance to current functional requirements. Here you can take advantage of low hanging “energy” fruit, and reach some of your sustainability goals long before you achieve formal certification.  Our teams are able to leverage utility-funded grant programs to pay for the majority of the retro commissioning analysis and capital costs.
  5. Finally, the advantage of LEED EBOM is that it can help you pay for improvements over time. There are tax incentives, revolving funds, utility grant programs and even municipal bonds available in some areas. Your expert should help you navigate the options available to you.

With these no-nonsense tips and strategies you can successfully manage the LEED EBOM process while meeting the sustainability goals of your organization.

For additional information on LEED EBOM and how Primera can assist in optimizing your building’s system operation, please contact Lourdes Gonzalez at lgonzalez@primeraeng.com.

To lead or not LEED: A No-Nonsense Approach to Sustainability for Existing Buildings

Primera's Director of Sustainability, Lourdes.