Going Green: Latest News from the Sustainability Front


The green building movement continues to thrive and flourish, its growth bringing with it a proliferation in new resources for developing a program for sustainable design. Public and private organizations and individuals are working to produce initiatives that foster the movement.

At the state level, for example, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is one major player who has signed on, recently issuing a Dec. 14 executive order committing the state to a green building action plan based on the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. The order calls for aggressive action in reducing state-building electricity usage by retrofitting, building and operating the most energy-and-resource-efficient buildings in a cost-effective manner.

At the federal level, the U.S. General Services Administration has released a study estimating the costs of developing green federal facilities using LEED, Ver. 2.1. Prepared by Steven Winter Associates, Inc. with cost estimating support provided by Skanska USA Building, Inc., the report provides a detailed and structured review of both the hard and soft costs of achieving LEED-certified, silver, and gold ratings for two common GSA building types: a new mid-rise federal courthouse and a mid-rise federal office building. For information, go to swinter.com .

Of course, the U.S. Green Building Council itself is the prime source for information on fulfilling the requirements of its LEED certification program. It's well worth the time to check out its website for decisions on certification requirements. Go to usgbc.org .

One recent report from the organization concerns the acceptability of PVC pipe in sustainable projects. In November 2002 USGBC charged its Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee with reviewing the available information to determine whether there was a reasonable case for establishing credits within the LEED Green Building rating System for the exclusion of PVC and vinyl products.

Some environmental groups have argued to include credits within LEED for excluding the use of PVC and vinyl products. The vinyl industry has argued that the available science does not support such a credit. Currently, the committee's report has been posted for public comment.

At present, USGBC's position is that it neither supports nor opposes the use of PVC and vinyl products in buildings. The committee will review all documents and comments received during the public comment period. Depending on the amount of feedback, a final report will be published later in 2005.

Another important source of new tools and references has been ASHRAE, especially with respect to energy efficiency guidelines. ASHRAE has announced that its ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-2004, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings , has been revised to include a new informative appendix to rate the energy efficiency of building designs that exceed its minimum requirements. The guidance provided in this appendix should be beneficial to HVAC designers who are trying to achieve the required points for either a silver or gold LEED certification. The standard's energy cost budget method was produced in collaboration with representatives of the USGBC.

Also new from ASHRAE to assist green designers, the Advanced Energy Design Guide for Small Office Buildings provides a hands-on approach to design through use of products that are practical and commercially available as "off-the-shelf technology from major manufacturers," according to Ron Jarnagin, chair of the committee that wrote the guide. The guide focuses on office buildings of up to 20,000 sq. ft., which make up the bulk of the office space in the United States.

The book is the first in a series of documents designed to provide recommendations for achieving 30% energy savings over the minimum code requirements of ASHRAE's energy conservation standard, Standard 90.1, the basis for building codes across the United States.

For ASHRAE references pertaining to sustainability, go to ashrae.org .

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