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USGBC Notes 20% Increase in LEED APs

The number of LEED Accredited Professionals (LEED AP) has increased 20 percent year over year, bringing the total number of LEED APs to 25,000.  Accreditation is received from the USGBC, and the rapid increase in LEED APs is a sign of the trend towards sustainable design, construction, and architecture.

There is an extremely informative website/magazine called Building Design & Construction (BD&C), which audits the number of LEED APs in largest United States design and construction firms. They’ve posted a complete list of their results, and here are the top five.

1. Perkins + Will.
2. Gensler.
3. Hellmuth, Obata, Kassabaum (HOK).
4. Stantec.
5. DPR.

BD&C’s article lists LEED AP numbers for each of the top 100 giant design and construction firms. This information is helpful, especially for companies and developers making their first foray into the green business, because it demonstrates who has the knowledge and expertise to build green.

Green building and sustainable design is a major trend that anyone in the industry should start to realize: real estate agents, designers, engineers, architects, contractors, home builders, developers, owners, REITs, RE management companies, etc.

Adobe's San Jose Building Goes LEED-EB Platinum Green

Adobe_headquarters_leedeb As a person smitten with the entrepreneurial bug, I always love to read Business 2.0 magazine when it comes in the mail.  And it’s not that the magazine has ideas for me to start businesses, but it makes me think differently about trends and the future …it makes me come up with new business ideas.  Business 2.0’s September Magazine contains an article about Adobe’s retrofitted USGBC-certified, LEED Platinum building.    

This article is awesome because Jeff Nachtigal, the author, actually quantifies each retrofit and illustrates that going green makes economic sense. Some of my counterparts in the blogosphere are adamant that going green is about doing the right thing for our planet, and I respect that, but as a businessman and entrepreneur, going green must make economic sense. Generically speaking, public companies have a fiduciary duty to the shareholder to create value, so there should be some financial incentive to adopt green concepts into buildings. Now there is. 

Here are some of the eco-friendly renovations and the break even calculations:       

(1)  Waterless Urinals with Nontoxic chemicals:
Cost:                        $35,374
Annual Savings:        $14,896
Breakeven:               2.4 years

(2)  Automatic Faucets:
Cost:                        $110,000
Annual Savings:        $  24,000
Breakeven:                4.6 years

(3) Compact Fluorescent Lights:
Cost:                        $ 11,000
Annual Savings:        $105,000
Breakeven:                .11 years

(4) Automated Irrigation System:
Cost:                         $ 3,610
Annual Savings:         $10,000
Breakeven:                .36 years

(5) Timed Outages of Garage Exhaust Fans & Outdoor Lighting Systems:
Cost:                        $    150
Annual Savings:        $68,000
Breakeven:               .002 years (immediately!!)

These are hard, quantifiable savings. The payback on investments like these is relatively soon, the most attenuated being close to five years out. That's not a bad payback period at all! So these are rational, smart, responsible decisions, and other companies should take notice that Adobe has raised the bar for building operating efficiencies. It's time to hop on the train.

What’s more amazing is that Adobe has been able to foster the right business climate that allows employees to notice waste and make the right changes on a going forward basis. That’s where the real benefits will be realized…and further, employees buy into the benefits and go home making similar changes to their homes. Then they will tell their friends how they saved on their monthly utility bills because of some pragmatic, and economic, changes. Great article Business 2.0!

Good Links:
++Adobe's Announcement to Work with USGBC to Go LEED
++Press Release of Adobe's Receival of Platinum Certification
++Adobe's Environmental Committment
++GreenBiz Artice with CEO Comments

LivingHomes Combines Style + Sustainability

Livinghomes

LivingHomes Founder Steve Glenn has knocked the socks off the eco-conscious world with his modern homes that emphasize beauty + environment.  As I’ve been thinking about how I want to blog about this company, I’ve noticed a flurry of posts and press releases regarding this Ray Kappe-designed abode that was just awarded LEED-H Platinum.  It’s such an incredible home, with that undeniable confluence of modern and sustainability.  Hard to beat that. 

This is the first residential building to receive the USGBC’s Platinum LEED-H rating and it’s raising the bar for residential construction: zero energy, zero water, zero waste, zero carbon, and zero emissions. LivingHomes received a total of 91 out of a total possible 109 points, to barely skirt past the 90 point threshold required to obtain a Platinum rating.  It will be 80% more efficient than similar sized home and was constructed with 75% less waste than a traditional one.

Read more »

Bamboo, Too

Bamboo-forest

Grist Magazine wrote about being bamboozled, Dwell talked about bamboo in this month’s article, and Green Source mentioned it recently as well.  Quoted in Dwell in reference to a person’s choice of flooring, Eric Corey Freed said, “Guilt is no way to approach environmentalism. You shouldn’t feel guilty. What you should do is question where the wood for your floor comes from.”  In any event, since everyone is talking about bamboo, I thought I would add a few thoughts. 

When I visited China in May, I was amazed by the labyrinth-work of bamboo used as scaffolding for workers laboring away on huge buildings. From what I understand, curious observers from around the world have visited China to study their method of scaffolding. The bamboo is strong, yet forgiving, and it’s easy to set up, take down, and re-use.

When it comes to green building, bamboo is often referenced with regards to flooring. Bamboo flooring can contribute towards LEED certification, but should it? EcoTimber sells the stuff that they harvest from plantations. It’s good because it grows in various climates and takes about four to six years to be ready-to-use. EcoTimber makes its bamboo flooring with low-VOC finishes, but not all bamboo floor makers do that, so watch out!  To quote Mr. Freed, people take bamboo and finish it with that “nasty oil-based toxic lacquer.” So what’s the purpose of using bamboo?

Bamboo has a quick harvest life and it makes economic, business sense for bamboo sellers. Being a bamboo grower wouldn’t be that bad of a gig. It’s quick, cheap, and multiplies like rabbits—especially when compared to the slow poke tree. Bamboo is easier to replace than a tree, and in some ways, it’s better than a tree. It’s stronger. Often, the end product comes directly from the cheap manufacturing country of China (cheap being a reference to cost, not necessarily the quality). And therein lies the rub.

The amazing eco-grass, bamboo, travels half-way across the globe before it finalizes in the floor of your nice, elegant, modern, new, sustainable, LEED certified home or LEED-platinum office building. Feels good right? Depends.

Here’s what you should start thinking about: Your purchase of bamboo includes a transportation and carbon premium. Built into the price of bamboo is the cost of shipping and transporting bamboo half-way across the globe. So a slice of the price includes payment for oil, gas, and/or coal, depending on the transportation methods.

How’s that for being green? To me, it conflicts with one of sustainable movement’s basic tenets—acquire materials locally. If you’re importing the materials from half-way across the globe, how are you supposed to be ecologically responsible?  There needs to be local farms growing the stuff; with our American ingenuity, someone has to be able to make bamboo floors locally for less than the Chinese (considering they’re paying for shipping, too).

Good Links to Read:
[+]  Wikipedia on Bamboo
[+]  Bamboo of the Americas
[+]  American Bamboo Society
[+]  Environmental Bamboo Foundation
[+]  A Thousand Uses of Bamboo

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