Friday, January 28, 2011

Monterey College of Law Unveiling LEED Platinum Plaque

Dan Geiger, Executive Director of USGBC – Northern California Chapter will officiate at the unveiling ceremony of Monterey College of Law’s Platinum LEED Medallion for its Community Justice Center on Tuesday, February 2, 2011 at 4:00 p.m. The LEED Platinum medallion represents certification of the highest standard of "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design" as defined by the United States Green Building Council. It has become the first Law School in the nation to achieve this high distinction.

The Community Justice Center, located adjacent to the law school's current education center in Seaside includes a courtroom, five indoor and three outdoor caucus areas for mediation, and offices of the Mandell Gisnet Center for Conflict Management and the Monterey County Bar Association.

Daniel M. Silvernail A.I.A., Co-chair of the Monterey Bay Branch of the USGBC has also organized a presentation by Mr. Geiger on the “State of the USGBC” that will follow the ceremony. Mr. Geiger is a highly experienced social entrepreneur with more than 25 years of start-up, executive and leadership experience, and has consulted on business planning, strategy and organizational development in the nonprofit, for-profit and philanthropy sectors. Mr. Geiger is the senior executive for the USGBC – Northern California Chapter that serves more than 1,700 members in 5 regions of Northern California. He is a LEED AP, and holds an MBA from the Haas School of Business at UC-Berkeley.

I will be giving a tour of the building after the unveiling.

Friday, January 21, 2011

EBOM Your Building

How does the performance of your building stack up against your competitor's? Does your indoor environment support productivity? Does it make your employees and clients feel better about working with you? You can improve your building's performance by assessing and certifying your Existing Building Operations & Maintenance (EBOM or O+M).

There are many certification programs available, and they vary in their degree of rigor and prestige. Basic programs are self-certified either by the organization or an industry group. These programs are a step in the right direction, but are largely prescriptive, and because they are self regulated, they lack the clout of independent verification and accountability.

The next level is certification by an outside independent organization. One example is the Monterey Bay Area Green Business Program. Programs such as this are relatively simple and prescriptive. Another example, Energy Star, requires a licensed engineer to sign off on the building performance data.

The most recognized and prestigious program is the US Green Building Council's LEED Certification for EBOM or O+M. In Monterey County, the IBEW Local #234 building and the Portola Hotel and Spa were both certified under LEED EBOM last month by Ausonio Inc. The IBEW achieved LEED Gold certification and is the smallest building in the nation to receive this designation. The Portola Hotel & Spa received LEED Silver certification and became the greenest hotel between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

What makes LEED EBOM the greenest of all standards? According to Joe Piedimonte, LEED AP O + M with Ausonio Inc., "LEED requires that older buildings at least meet modern building standards for air quality, comfort and energy." Joe led in the certification of both buildings and attested to the greater rigor of the process: "Even the engineers on our team had to provide extra calculations and plans during the review process." Axiom Engineers provided expert advice for retro commissioning on the Portola Hotel & Spa, which led to serious ongoing savings. According to Janine Chicourrat, General Manager of the Portola Hotel & Spa, "The cost was more than anticipated, but we've more than made it back already with rebates and increased business."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Prescriptive Standards

Prescriptive standards are a one-size-fits-all approach to sustainability. It does not address the concept of sustainability as it impacts each situation. Instead, the focus is on what you specifically should do and might be limited by one industry or concern. The beauty of LEED is that it has selected the monumental standards for each aspect of sustainability. In one case the expert might be the Environmental Protection Agency, in another it is the South Coast Air Quality Management District. In many cases it is the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). I have always been amazed how the USGBC has managed to select high standards from a number of industries and disciplines.

Portola Hotel & Spa Achieves LEED Silver (EBOM)

Ausonio Inc. advised Portola Hotel & Spa on LEED standards and guided them through the certification process, earning the hotel the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Silver certification, making it the greenest hotel between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The leadership at the Portola Hotel & Spa was enthusiastic about implementing sustainable practices that would distinguish them from their peers. By targeting the LEED standard they opted for a national standard that is reviewed by experts outside of their organization.

Ausonio and the hotel’s “Green team” developed sustainable policies, and at Ausonio’s advice, hired Axiom Engineers, to improve efficiency of the indoor environment. The Portola Hotel & Spa implemented a range of efficiency improvements, including installing a CO2 sensor to control supply and return fans and a lighting upgrade that included installing CFL, high efficiency flourescents and LED light bulbs. Ausonio performed many of the sustainable upgrades including the use of Forest Stewardship Council lumber as trim and baseboards. In compliance with LEED requirements, all guestrooms are nonsmoking.

The hotel already has seen the benefits of these improvements in their first quarter energy bills that reflect a $20,000 savings compared to last year. Considered in this project were 215,754 sq. ft. of the 1978 building, including 327 rooms, meeting rooms, two restaurants and banquet catering. Ausonio was involved in the sustainable upgrade to the facilities and rooms, which included construction waste management, low VOC and high recycled-content materials and other sustainable building practices.

Retro Commissioning

Retro commissioning is commissioning for an existing building. Whereas testing and balancing of the mechanical system is a requirement for new construction in California, it is not required of a new system being installed in an existing building. Retro commissioning starts with the testing and balancing that may have never been performed on an existing building. In addition, retro commissioning tests the performance of the entire electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling, and ventilation systems.

The retro commissioning process starts in LEED O+M by performing an ASHRAE Level I Energy Audit. This audit identifies low-cost or no-cost opportunities in the building. If the LEED O+M or EBOM project elects to pursue the further investigation and analysis, implementation, and ongoing commissioning there are up to 6 points to be gained, not to mention a serious return on investment on older buildings. Investigation and analysis undertakes the ASHRAE Level II Energy Audit that looks at some of the larger and more intensive capital outlays. It provides these in a ranking order of return on investment.

The Portola Hotel & Spa elected to pursue these credits. The retro commissioning agent Axiom Engineers was able to provide them with low-cost or no-cost opportunities as well as long range capital improvements. As a result, the Portola Hotel & Spa saved $20,000 in the first quarter of implementation and was able to improve its Energy Star Performance benchmark to a level that not only attained the minimum requirements of LEED, but gained two (2) points above that level.