Category Archives: Commentary

What is Ecology?

Merriam-Webster describes ecology as ” 1) a branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environments; and 2) the totality or pattern of relations between organisms and their environment.”

Interrelationship is the key word: Interrelationship between us, our natural environment and our built environment – the whole with all its parts. Changing any one part will cause changes somewhere else. The changes will be more than just the ripple of a stone on the surface of a pond. The changes will alter the complex pattern of their interrelationships.

Ecological Design, therefore considers all the interrelationships between systems in the design process from conception through use to post-occupancy. The result of ecological design an only be holistic and truly sustainable. Our goal is make any changes positive for us and for the natural world which we inhabit.

Used Office Furniture

I just visited an old friend who is a dealer in used office furniture and it reinforced the waste management practices to Reduce Reuse and Recycle.
These three words aren’t presented in random order. They represent a hierarchy.
1. Reduce what you consume, what you waste.
2. Reuse whatever you can. Repurpose something if you can. This is where the used furniture comes in.
3. Recycle depends on how you acquired something in the first place. In Cradle to Cradle, McDonough and Braugart stress that whenever something comes to the end of its useful lifecycle it should return to the earth as a natural nutrient or a return to the manufacturing cycle as a technical nutrient. Before you buy, consider what will happen to your purchase once you’re done with it.

Used office furniture is one of the best bargains for a business and for the earth.
There is a large network of used furniture brokers and dealers in North America that help find new homes for furniture that no longer suits a company as it grows, merges or fails.
Check out this informative document prepared by Envirotech.

Beyond LEED®

Even though LEED® remains incomplete there are already new developments on the horizon. In the November 2007 issue of dwell magazine, sustainability icon Sim van der Ryn told Jennifer Roberts that it is time to look beyond LEED. Is it?

The forward-looking people at the Cascadia Region Green Building Council have recently developed a wonderful new challenge that goes beyond LEED. The CascadiaGBC is a bi-national chapter of the Green Building Council that encompasses Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. They are promoting The Living Building Challenge: In Pursuit of True Sustainability in the Built Environment.

The Living Building Challenge goes beyond the points system that is the foundation of LEED, and that has served us well on our journey to sustainable building. The categories in this new document have prerequisites only. The Living Building Challenge prerequisites are truly inspirational.

I suggest that you begin by reading the Executive Summary at the front, and the Background History and Summary of Prerequisites at the end of the document. Then enjoy the truly inspirational reading in between. I encourage you to check it out.

What went wrong?

 Why is my LEED® project in trouble?

We begin any new venture with the best of intentions. Building owners and developers who strive to reduce their environmental footprints by pursuing LEED certification for their projects are no exception. But sometimes project expectations go off-rail. How do LEED projects go awry and fail to meet Certification standards? First, for those new to LEED I must clarify the difference between a LEED Registered project and LEED Certified project. A LEED Registered project signals its intention to meet the standards to become LEED Certified, at any level – like using your turn signal when driving to signal your intention to turn. A project is Registered with the Green Building Council at the initial planning stage indicating the area of LEED pursued (New Constrution & Major Renovation, Commercial Interiors, etc) and level of attainment anticipated. Registering the project avails the team of all the templates and checklists necessary for submission to the Green Building Council. These templates help prove that required standards have been met. Many LEED Registered projects never earn enough credits to become LEED Certified – at any level. Good intentions unmet.

So where are the bumps in the road?

The first bump is failing to implement an Integrated Design Process. It is critical to success that every party involved in the project is on board: the owner, designers, engineers, trades, facility managers and users. The whole team must be well coordinated.

The second bump relates to the first one: Omissions in documentation. This is where your LEED project facilitator is important. The LEED facilitator will insure that drawings reflect credit requirements and will prepare templates for materials and the trades to keep the documents coming in on the schedule required. The facilitator can help keep the whole team in the loop as the project progresses.

The third bump is that elements of the project simply fail to be implemented. This can occur if energy modeling is neglected, if materials are substituted, if waste is not separated properly, etc. This bump occurs most frequently when sub-trades are not properly coached and are not on board.

A fourth bump can occur if the LEED templates are not completed properly and are not easily read. Credit synergies should indeed coordinate and reflect one another. This is another place where your LEED facilitator is of great value in seeing that the project succeeds and attains the LEED Certification sought.

Yes, LEED project documentation is time consuming and detailed. Unless you are prepared to dedicate a LEED AP staff member for the duration of the project, it is prudent to hire a LEED documentation facilitator to coordinate the project with you. They’ll direct the traffic to get you where you want to go.