4) Envision the End Result
With your team assembled, start looking at the targets you can reach. Start by identifying your goals, Molinski recommends. This includes not just the level of certification you hope to attain, but specifics about how you’d like the building to perform afterward – for example, lowering energy and water use by a certain percentage, reducing operational expenses, or simply making your building more comfortable and less wasteful. Then choose credits that will help you achieve those goals.
“There is an overemphasis on the plaque and what it takes to get to LEED Platinum or a certain ENERGY STAR score,” says Brad Pease, Executive Technical Director of Paladino and Company, a design/development firm focusing on green building and sustainable development. “Sometimes the certification program gets in the way of making sound business decisions. Focus more on finding value in the certification process – target those credits that will help you operate the building more efficiently, manage your utility costs, and obtain real dollar savings or operational improvements. If you focus just on certification, you’ll find yourself annoyed and spending time documenting things that don’t impact your building or occupants.”
5) Manage Points Carefully
A self-audit will help you figure out which credits are best to pursue, Denise recommends. “LEED’s Energy & Atmosphere category offers more points than almost any other area, and while they’re expensive, they also offer the greatest opportunity for payback,” he says. “Establishing policies on green cleaning, integrated pest control, and smoking are some of the easiest to implement, though they usually require modifying existing contracts. Green cleaning is rapidly becoming the standard and can result in a reduction in fees.”
Just as important as choosing which points to pursue is charting how to get there. This is an area where FMs can shine, says Scott Lawson, Vice President of Clark Construction Group.
“If you look at the scorecard and see the 10 different ways to earn the point, FMs add value by finding the way to get the most out of the building and not just get the point in the cheapest, fastest way,” says Lawson.
If you’re submitting multiple buildings that have points in common, Denise recommends submitting the one with the highest score first. If your team isn’t 100% confident that they’ll be awarded certain “gray area” points, your highest-scoring building will help clarify which ones are documented adequately.
“See how the questionable points do. If they’re accepted, you know how the other buildings will do,” says Denise. “If they’re rejected and you have the same points for other properties, do some more work to strengthen them before you submit them.”
6) Understand Regional Advantages
Your location may offer considerable benefits when it comes to certain credits. LEED, for example, rewards points for purchasing materials within a certain radius of the project site – projects in resource-rich areas of the country would do well to target those credits. Other points hinge on the availability of local infrastructure and how well you accommodate alternative modes of transportation, says Daniel P. Perruzzi, Jr., Principal of Margulies Perruzzi Architects.
“Some of the most popular LEED credits are things like population density and accessibility of public transportation. Depending on where you are, those can be relatively easy to get,” Perruzzi says. “Providing bike storage and showering facilities for people who bike to work are often valuable.”