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LEED – Don’t Blow It!

By April 11, 2012December 26th, 2021Briefs

Hidden Costs

Your team is down by 1 point with a minute and a half to play, and 50 yards away from any prayer of a field goal. They brilliantly drive the length of the field to set up a game winning chip shot, AND THEN, the holder muffs the snap. Great. Just great.

A similarly disappointing mistake can happen while pursuing LEED certification.

Imagine spending millions of dollars on a building during the LEED certification process, only to find that certification is in jeopardy after the building is built. This could be due, in part, to design deficiencies in the facility or overlooking of equipment and/or functional performance specifications. As LEED Commissioning (Cx) providers on recent projects, we have encountered situations where certification is riding on thin ice due to design deficiencies, and equipment capability.

How do you ensure you sidestep this trap? First, start commissioning in the early planning stages, not after the building is already being built. Second, provide enhanced commissioning, which also happens to be worth a LEED credit, as opposed to the prerequisite (no points) for fundamental commissioning. The incremental cost increase of enhanced over fundamental Cx could very well pay for itself through reduced construction costs and better building performance.

Benefits of Enhanced Commissioning

LEED fundamental commissioning requires functional testing of systems that is helpful in catching deficiencies that occur during the construction process, particularly with automatic controls. But what if deficiencies or “LEED killers” occur in the design and specification phase of the project? Or, there may simply be an oversight due to unfamiliarity with minimum design requirements for energy performance. Enhanced Cx includes design document review to identify these deficiencies and have them corrected to avoid choosing between costly change orders or not certifying your building.

Case in Point

While providing fundamental commissioning for a client pursuing LEED certification, we found the hot water circulating system for space heating could not be balanced to provide stable flow and temperature control. This was due to a design change made without appropriately considering the consequences on the system. Another problem found was that installed variable air volume boxes cannot provide the feedback necessary for static pressure reset, which is needed to reduce fan power. Both issues would result in a negative impact on indoor environment, and waste energy and money doing so.

Bottom Line

Fundamental LEED commissioning includes documentation of the owner’s requirements and how the design team intends to meet those requirements, as well as functional performance testing, post construction. There is no design document review to ensure the design actually meets the owner’s requirements, or LEED prerequisites! Once the building is built, you may be stuck with the unsavory choices of no certification, expensive system modification, or equipment replacement (not to mention delays and headaches). Enhanced Cx will keep you out of this box.

Michaels Energy

Author Michaels Energy

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