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The design sourcebook

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WILL BERDE TAKE THE LEED IN THE PHILIPPINES? PARAÑAQUE ECO-HOME: IT’S NOT THAT HARD TO BE GREEN VILLA BAYAD’S LUSH LANDSCAPE IN BALI WHY HOLLAND’S CITIES ARE SO BIKE-FRIENDLY SINGAPORE’S GREEN SCHOOL OF THE ARTS

HONGKONG HK$65

VOLUME 03 2011

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PROJECTS • CHANGI AIRPORT’S LIVING WALLS • GREEN SCHOOL’S HIGH IDEALS • GREEN VILLAGE’S BAMBOO BEAUTY • MYSHELTER FOUNDATION’S NEW VISION FOR THE FUTURE URBAN PLANNING HOW SORSOGON PLANS FOR DISASTER-RESISTANCE PROFILE HITESH MEHTA’S PASSION FOR ECOTOURISM SIGHTINGS GREEN ASPIRATIONS IN PUNTA FUEGO • WIND ENERGY IN ILOCOS NORTE • GREENWASHING DONE RIGHT ON EDSA ART GET HOOKED ON SKETCHBOOKS • JUNYEE’S TIMELESS TREES • REY PAZ CONTRERAS GOES FROM UNDERDOG TO TOP DOG • MAX BALATBAT’S URBAN GRID AND GRIT • LAO LIANBEN’S ZEN FOR THE AGES • NICCOLO JOSE’S ORGANIC SCULPTURES


special feature

PLAYING THE RATING GAME A LOOK INTO LEED’S RELEVANCE AS A GREEN BUILDING RATING SYSTEM WRITTEN BY CARREN JAO | IMAGES COURTESY OF world green building council uildings are an indelible part of the 20th and 21st century human experience. Since the possibility of building higher, taller and larger became reality with the use of steel, skyscrapers and their ilk have increasingly encroached upon the landscape. In the United States, buildings use more energy and emit more carbon dioxide than the industrial or transportation sectors. Buildings represent 39 percent of the country’s total energy consumption, two-thirds of its electricity use and eight percent of its water needs. In a world that is struggling with global climate change issues, responsible building practices are not only desirable, they are imperative. In the Philippines, as we debate among the many readily available green building rating systems, there

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The San Joaquin cemetery chapel is Oriental Baroque built in the late 19th century. It is fashioned out of hewn stones and baked brick BluPrint

is one name that rings familiar to most in the industry—Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or more familiarly, LEED. LEED is one of the many internationally recognized green building certification systems available in the world today. Developed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED came at a time when the definition for “green” building was…well, mushy. A building could ban smoking and it could be called “green” for all anyone knew. Piloted in 1998 and launched in 2000, LEED fleshed out the then-amorphous term “green building.” Originally created with new construction projects in mind, LEED has expanded to accommodate other types of projects including existing buildings, retail spaces, commercial interiors and core and shell construction among others.

The LEED system ranks projects on a 100-point scale. Depending on how many points a project earns, it is classified as Certified (40-49 points), Silver (50-59), Gold (60-79 points) and Platinum (80 points and above). It is possible to garner more than 100 points because LEED allows for 10 bonus credits available if a project addresses regionally specific environmental issues. It is a voluntary green rating system that provides third-party verification that a project was designed and built incorporating strategies meant to improve performance according to predetermined priorities: energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

Carbon dioxide emissions – Come from burning of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal for human activities; responsible for the greenhouse effect, resulting in global warming Indoor environmental quality – According to the World Building Design Guide, “aesthetics, potable water surveillance, ergonomics, acoustics, lighting, and electromagnetic frequency” and airborne contaminants— everything that affects humans within enclosed spaces

Gish Apartments in San Jose, California has certification under LEED for Homes


“Looking at a nutrition label, people can easily determine the fats and calories in a product. LEED is that way for green buildings,” said Ashley Katz, spokesperson for the USGBC. As of this writing, LEED has been or will be used to rate over 22,000 projects in 117 countries. Over 130,000 people have paid $250 to $350 and passed exams to become “LEED-accredited professionals.” How did this system achieve such market dominance? LEED’s prevalence is historically attributed not to peoples’ environmental conscientiousness, but market dynamics. During LEED’s nascent stages, Richard Fedrizzi, a former marketing executive and USGBC’s current president came up with a game changing strategy. “We realized we were getting the message wrong, leading with the environmental story,” he says in a 2007 article in Fast Company. “We had to lead with the business case.” In short, LEED certification became a publicist’s dream. LEED certification gives brokers and PR people the one-liner they need to hook potential investors and buyers. Rather than go on and on about their building’s most sophisticated elements, publicists need only point to the LEED plaque proudly screwed onto the wall of their project. As famed LEED critics, Randy Udall and Auden Schendler write in their landmark opinion piece, LEED is Broken—Let’s Fix It, USGBC has managed to “Oprahize” green building by making it “understandable—evn sexy—to the masses.”

But has that financial success been to LEED’s own detriment? As a voluntary third-party certification system, USGBC can only push the agenda as far as the market can tolerate. If the purpose of any green building rating system is to push the boundaries of sustainable design, then LEED can only do so as far as the market is willing to accept the burden of change. As it is, the current iteration only mandates a minimum energy use reduction of 10 percent compared to the 2007 version of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, Air Conditioning Engineers’ (ASHRAE) Standard 90.1, an energy efficiency standard used as the basis for many local building codes. The 10 percent reduction is already a 13 percent improvement from previous LEED iterations. The reality is, in order to gain traction in the fight against global climate change, research has shown that a staggering 50 to 85 percent cutback from the carbon emissions of 2000 are required by year 2050—a far cry from LEED’s current free-market approach. In recent years, LEED has also come under fire for many of its new construction projects consistently underperforming their LEED rating. To assess an as-yet unfinished project, LEED relies on modeling technologies (in itself quite an expensive undertaking) that is done using computer software. Because modeling only takes into account factors foreseen by its developers,

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it leaves a lot of room for variance when compared to reality. Such is probably the case at New York City’s Hearst Tower, the city’s first Gold certified building for core, shell and interior. The building is reportedly outfitted with sensors that turn the lights off based on occupancy. Yet, night after night, the lights stay on. The tower houses the publishing giant’s many titles— including Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and Seventeen— whose employees no doubt burn the midnight oil to finish each month’s issue. Gold-rated or not, if a building isn’t used the way it was designed, then all the plaques in the world will not help it reduce its impact on the environment.

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1 REI in Portland, Oregon achieved Gold certification under LEED for Commercial Interiors 2 Phase one of Dockside Green in Victoria, British Columbia was certified LEED Platinum for Core and Shell

Sustainable design – Design powered by sustainability objectives—reducing consumption of non-renewable resources, waste reduction and management, working with the natural environment Modeling technologies – Computer programs that do building information modeling (BIM), engineering and analysis of a building’s energy performance, lighting quality, among others, using digital prototypes


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1 One Boston Place in Boston Massachusetts achieved a Gold rating under LEED for Operations and Maintenance 2 Proximity Hotel was the first hotel in the US to be awarded LEED Platinum rating 3 1180 Peachtree in Atlanta, Georgia, also known as the Symphony Tower was awarded LEED Gold for Core and Shell

Internal pollution – Air quality of an enclosed space and its consequences to health Heat island effect – Occurs when temperatures are significantly higher in urban areas compared to surrounding rural areas, due to the density of man-made structures that retain heat

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In response to this valid criticism, USGBC launched an initiative called the Building Performance Partnership (BPP) last July. Within the BPP program, USGBC will work with owners and managers of commercial and residential LEED-certified buildings to get real energy data from actual usage. The data will become the basis for action plans meant to reduce energy consumption. “There is all too often a disconnect or predicted performance gap between energy modeling done during design and what actually happens during daily operation after the building has been constructed, due to occupant behavior and other factors,” admitted Scot Horst, Senior Vice President, LEED, in a statement. There has been no talk of rescinding previously awarded certifications however, but that looks to be a logical conclusion. In LEED 2009, the organization also introduced a regionalization scheme that took into account environmental concerns specific to a certain climate. In Nevada (a desert area on the west side of the US), for example, developers and builders could earn additional points if they were able meet all the credits within the water conservation category. While LEED is undoubtedly a system born out of the United States, Jennivine Kwan, the Vice President of International Operations for the USGBC, reminds us that “the US is home to many different climatic landscapes…As such, the LEED rating system, through its referenced standards already provides guidelines and strategies on issues such as insulation, cooling and humidity control in tropical regions.” Aside from questions on climate applicability, the adoption of a green rating system inherently takes on a predetermined mindset. Architect and sustainable design researcher Karim Elgendy points out in a comparative paper how different rating systems also impose implicit priorities. Elgendy notes that adopting LEED means an emphasis on occupant comfort, internal pollution issues and heat island effects. It also is structured around societies with a strong emphasis on cars as a mode of

transportation. LEED rewards projects that have well-designed mechanical ventilation and air conditioning systems. BREEAM in the UK, on the other hand, was primarily created to award construction with natural ventilation. It also has more stringent requirements for public transportation. For example, in a 300,000 square-foot project, only 36 bike spaces are mandated by LEED as opposed to 95 in BREEAM. For us Filipinos, the question becomes, do we want remain a country of ACs and cars? Or do we envision ourselves taking advantage of our tropical climate and (albeit massively imperfect) mass transportation systems? Many other programs are in the works in the hopes of answering a growing chorus of industry criticism against

LEED. But, as many of us instinctively know, there are no perfect systems. There are only steps toward ideal scenarios. Whether we adopt LEED (or any other system available in the market), what is more crucial is to envision the greater end for ourselves. Green building rating systems should not be adopted just to give developers bragging rights of being “world-class.” Nor should the exhaustive process be undertaken only to market buildings in the best possible light, only to be neglected once all the fanfare has faded. A green building rating system only works if it truly makes a dent in the face of increasingly dire environmental circumstances. Without such commitment to real actionable change, we are simply pandering to our own egos.

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Bluprint Green Issue- LEED  

LEED untangled

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