13 Tips for Certification Success

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts member services facility in Hingham, MA

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts achieved LEED Silver certification for its member services facility in Hingham, MA which serves over 1,400 associates and includes a 1,500-car parking structure. PHOTO CREDIT: WARREN PATTERSON PHOTOGRAPHY

9) Manage Expectations
Smart change management will be a vital component of the certification process. You need buy-in from your team and all participating service providers to make sure everyone is taking the steps necessary to earn each credit.

“If you have a lot of client and team buy-in, everybody is on board and working toward the same goal,” says Molinski. “We’ve also had LEED projects where the contractor is on board but their subcontractor isn’t. Sometimes subcontractors have been fully paid out and then walked off the job before providing us with some of the documentation we need to finish the certification. We’ve started tying LEED performance to payments.”

When it comes to the rest of your organization, make sure your whole team is delivering consistent messaging regarding certification. Communicate your plans for changes – for example, letting people know in advance about upcoming construction or remodeling that could cause noise – and make sure to include why you’re doing it and how it benefits the certification effort.

However, some aspects of your project may require a different strategy. For changes like retrofitting energy-efficient lighting, Denise recommends making the switch while the building is unoccupied, then waiting to see if anyone notices. If you point out the new lighting, “they will ‘notice’ everything that’s wrong,” Denise notes. “That’s human nature.”

This phenomenon surfaced for Denise during a retrofit of garage lamps a few years ago. In the middle of changing high-pressure sodium lighting to fluorescent, a senior scientist argued that Denise’s team was using the wrong ballasts and that the new ones were interfering with his radio reception in the garage.

“I told him he never had reception in the garage. It’s a steel-reinforced building, and just like when you go through a tunnel or under a bridge, reception cuts out,” explains Denise. “He didn’t believe me, so I suggested he drive through the garage of the adjacent building that we hadn’t retrofitted yet. He did and then called me back and told me I was right. Change management strategy is critical.”

10) Perfect Your Policies and Procedures
Standard operating procedures that emphasize sustainable, efficient building management are critical. Some certifications, like BOMA 360, require you to develop a manual of policies and procedures emphasizing best practices in order to earn your designation. However, even if your chosen certification doesn’t require a manual, it’s a good idea to develop one – it sets a standard for your sustainable building management practices that will help you earn performance-based points and maintain your operations.

When you develop your new sustainable policies, maintain communication with your occupants regarding their needs for each space, says Mike Davis, Senior Customer Business Manager of Johnson Controls, Inc., which provides FM services for the Long Beach courthouse.

“Operating strategies and how they’re communicated will often need to be adjusted in an effort to balance energy savings, longevity, maintenance, comfort and appearance. Communication with the end user is critical so as not to interrupt their business operation,” Davis adds. “One example pertains to night setbacks on cooling. You’ll need to understand the customer’s business requirements so that systems have ample time to condition the space besfore they open for business. The intent is to start the systems at just the right time, allowing for maximum energy savings without sacrificing comfort.”

11) Emphasize Energy Savings
The average commercial building should be able to reduce its energy use by roughly 30% fairly easily, according to the EPA, and Denise has found he can usually reduce the electricity use of a building in his portfolio by 50-60% with simple strategies that minimize waste.

“We’ve found more savings in load management than in any other area – turning off the lights, metaphorically speaking,” explains Denise. “Specific measures included installing occupancy sensors, timers, and photocells, turning temperatures up in the summer and down in the winter, starting warmup or cooldown a little later in the morning and setting them back a little sooner at the end of the day, and reducing run times on equipment. Turning off the garage lights a little earlier, for example, saves $90,000 a year. Many of these measures cost almost nothing alone, but when bundled together they save millions of dollars each year. ‘Mind the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves’ is the old adage.”

12) Examine Lifecycle Costs
Materials and equipment require a thorough investigation that accounts for first costs, ROI, energy used, and the expected life of the product, Denise says. Make sure your choices are guided by a deep understanding of the costs and benefits throughout the product’s entire lifecycle, not just first cost.



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“We have to change lamps anyway because they burn out from time to time. We can and should change to the model that’s most efficient and cost-effective on a lifecycle cost basis,” explains Denise. “Or maybe we have to change aerators on faucets – experiment with some and then go with the most cost-effective one. How much does it cost? How much water does it save? What is the cost of the water and sewage treatment fees? How long will it last? It’s the same with paper towels, toilet tissue, urinals, toilets, chillers, boilers, rooftop package units and so on.”

Your lifecycle cost analysis should also consider maintainability. Johnson Controls, which provides facilities management services for the Long Beach courthouse, looked beyond what was required to obtain a certain certification and sided in favor of slightly higher first costs on a few materials that would last much longer than less expensive options.

“We were doing lifecycle analysis studies with Johnson Controls early in the process,” says Lawson. “For instance, if carpet was planned for a space, Johnson Controls would look at their budget and how they would maintain it over 35 years and say ‘If you put carpet in there, we’ll have to replace it six times.’ In that instance, they paid for an upgrade to terrazzo in spaces so they wouldn’t have to replace it at all, which avoided upkeep and replacement costs over that period.”

13) Consider Commissioning
Many certification programs require you to commission new facilities or systems to make sure they’re providing the intended high performance. It ensures that everything in your space is known to be functional, installed correctly and performing well.

“With advanced or enhanced commissioning, which is an optional credit with LEED and other systems that clients don’t always do, there is commissioning training for FMs,” Molinski adds. “That’s key because they’re being given a brand new building or new systems when they’re used to operating systems that are 20 to 30 years old. The commissioning agent will also come back in the 11th month and check everything again before the warranties run out.”

With thorough commissioning, you can be confident that your post-certification space is off to a good start from Day 1. From then on, it’s up to you to maintain the building’s verified high performance. Are you up to the challenge?

Janelle Penny janelle.penny@buildings.com is Senior Editor of BUILDINGS.

 


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