Green Building Council strives to keep LEED buildings efficient

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The geothermal retrofit at the TransCanada Arena in Ritchot, Man. saves 60 percent on energy, reduces maintenance and increases comfort for spectators.

By Leah Den Hartogh

LEED-certified buildings are commissioned and announced with great fanfare and considerable pride by builders, engineers and owners. But does a building that achieved a certain level of certification retain those high Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) qualities over time as equipment is repaired and replaced? The Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC), headquartered in Ottawa, is working with the owners and engineers involved in the LEED program to ensure buildings are maintained at that level.

“The market needs to understand that if a building built eight years ago was LEED certified, this doesn’t mean that it is currently operating very efficiently or that it’s providing a good environment, air quality, etc., for its tenants,” said Mark Hutchinson, CaGBC vice president for Green Building Programs at the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC), headquartered in Ottawa.

There can be a lull in enthusiasm and energy for those involved in the project once it is completed. “When you are designing a new building, there is a lot of excitement and energy. You can set the bar at one level. Once the building is up and running for three years, eight years, you don’t have the same budget or excitement or teams of professionals working away on it. We want people to ensure the performance of the building is maintained – that process has to be as simple as possible,” explained Hutchinson.

After the initial construction, the next step is to apply for a second rating system – a voluntary system – specific to building operation and maintenance. With this system, the building is recertified every three years.

CaGBC has tried to make the process as easy as possible to ensure that buildings are kept up to the highest standard. A free online platform is available for LEED projects to keep the building’s operations and management up to date.

Plan for the long-term

For any LEED project, it makes sense to plan this process from the very beginning, remarked Hutchinson. In part, this is because it is important to know which level of certification will be the project’s end goal. There are four levels of certification for the LEED program: certified, silver, gold, and platinum.

“The LEED certification looks at the sustainability of the building holistically including the health and wellness of the occupants. Most project teams will be thinking about a number of these things as part of a normal development process,” he added.

New construction projects are one part of LEED. Tenants who are looking to improve only a portion of the building can do so under the Interior Design and Construction rating system, and existing buildings can follow the Operations and Maintenance rating system.

The LEED system provides opportunities for contractors looking to differentiate themselves from their competitors and maybe learn a new skill, said Hutchinson. The scope of work may possibly be larger, which might in turn mean more money in the contractor’s pocket.

To date, in Canada, there are over 4,000 LEED certified projects and around 60,000 residential units certified (including apartments, condos, single-family homes). Currently, the LEED ranking system is used in over 160 countries, worldwide.

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