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ConstructionPro Week, Volume: Construction Advisor Today - Issue: 151 - 03/23/2012

Third Public-Comment Period for LEED 2012 Extended; Questions About Organization’s New Green Schools Initiative Addressed

By Steve Rizer

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has extended the third public-comment period for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) 2012, the next version of the organization’s green building rating program. Originally scheduled to close March 20, the deadline was moved to next Tuesday morning, and at least one organization is urging professionals to submit last-minute comments. Additionally, a USGBC official has addressed several questions about a new certificate initiative that is intended to make schools greener.

 

The next version of the LEED green building program will include various updates to credits within the LEED Pilot Credit Library (PCL), which was created to facilitate the introduction of new prerequisites and credits to LEED through stakeholder engagement and collaboration on the testing and analysis of proposed requirements.

The current LEED 2012 draft focuses on increasing the technical rigor of the rating system, improving user experience, and providing measurement and performance tools.

“As part of the larger evolution of the Materials and Resources credit category, the new pilot credits shift the focus toward a more integrated decision-making framework based on life-cycle assessment,” said Brendan Owens, USGBC’s vice president of LEED technical development. “When considered as an integrated system, the credits encourage actions that move us toward a products universe focused on transparency and multi-attribute life-cycle optimization.”

Under the heading of Materials & Resources (MR), Pilot Credits 2 and 11 will combine to form a more encompassing chemical-avoidance credit. Pilot Credit 54 -- Avoidance of Chemicals of Concern in Building Materials, encourages LEED project teams to avoid building materials containing chemicals considered proven to negatively impact human health, specifically involving cancer and reproductive toxicity.

In addition to these two credits becoming one, Pilot Credit 62 -- Disclosure of Chemicals of Concern, which addresses product transparency, will be added. Both newly added Pilot Credits, 54 and 62 are expected to progress to LEED 2012. A pilot credit addressing alternatives assessments is under development.

Another change within MR is a pilot credit split to more directly address product transparency and performance. Pilot Credit 43 has been divided into two credits: Pilot Credit 61 -- Material Disclosure; and Assessment and Pilot Credit 52 -- Material Multi-Attribute Assessment.

“A new ‘Energy Jumpstart’ concept under the Energy and Atmosphere heading addresses the huge opportunity to reduce carbon emissions and building operational expenses by reaching the 75 percent of the market that the existing buildings energy performance prerequisite excludes,” USGBC stated.

“The pilot credit creates an on-ramp for these buildings, and we hope to use it to engage project teams and building owners who demonstrate leadership by drastically improving the energy performance of their buildings,” Owens said.

Pilot Credit 67 -- Energy and Atmosphere Prerequisite 2 Alternative Compliance Path, or Energy Jumpstart, rewards what is considered significant improvement in building energy performance. The credit is designed to enable projects that have documented substantial energy performance improvement to satisfy the requirements of Energy and Atmosphere Prerequisite 2 -- Minimum Energy Efficiency Performance and pursue LEED at the certified level.

Ten additional pilot credits have been introduced into the library. The library currently contains 36 credits, addressing the life-cycle assessment of building assemblies, bird-collision deterrence, and other areas.

GreenGuard Environmental Institute (GEI) recently expressed some concerns about LEED 2012. Specifically, the organization criticized proposed revisions to the indoor environmental quality credits in the draft.

In an email message, GEI urged members to ask USGBC to include the GreenGuard Test Method (GGTM) by name alongside the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association test method in the furniture portion of the low-emitting interiors credit. “The GGTM is the most widely-used, stringent test method for product emissions in North America, and we want to ensure that LEED users understand that products certified to the GGTM are compliant with the new credit.”

In an email interview with Green Building Insider, USGBC spokesperson Ashley Katz provided the following additional details:

GBI: The third public-comment period for LEED 2012 is scheduled to close March 20. What is the scheduled timetable for opening and closing any additional comment periods, making any revisions, and finalizing the standard? When will LEED 2012 take effect?

Katz: We’ve extended the comment deadline to March 27 at 9 a.m. (EDT). Any subsequent substantive technical changes will be open for comment by USGBC stakeholders prior to the opening of the ballot period from June 1-30. LEED 2012 will then launch in November at Greenbuild 2012.

GBI: About how many comments have been submitted during the third comment period? What have most of the comments been saying? Is the volume of comments more or less what your organization expected?

Katz: Over 3,000 to date, though the comments are continuing to flow in.

GBI: Which draft credits, if any, have been rejected for inclusion in LEED 2012 and why?

Katz: I assume that you’re referencing the Pilot Credit Library in this question? The idea of the Pilot Credit Library is to test new and revised LEED credit language, alternative compliance paths, and new or innovative technologies and concepts. Once sufficient pilot test data has been gathered, the working group provides a written recommendation detailing their findings on individual pilot credits to the LEED Steering Committee. USGBC’s LEED technical advisory groups deliberate on ‘final’ credit language per USGBC’s established LEED-development process, and LSC approves or rejects this credit language for inclusion into future rating system public-comment and ballot processes. We maintain an ongoing list of additions, modifications, and closures on the PLC landing page (http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=2515).

GBI: About how many professionals are expected to pursue those credits and by when? Any predictions on how popular/influential these new credits will be?

Katz: This isn’t something that we can predict.

GBI: What estimates, if any, have been made regarding the amount of energy expected to be saved, amount of air pollution prevented, etc., through the implementation of any or all of these new credits?

Katz: I don’t think we have any estimates at this time....

Green Classroom Professional Certificate Launched

In other news, the Center for Green Schools (CGS) at USGBC March 19 released the Green Classroom Professional Certificate (GCP). This certificate program provides pre-K-12 teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, and parents with what the association called the “knowledge and skills to support environmentally healthy, resource-efficient, and sustainable schools and classrooms.” The National Education Association has endorsed GCP.

The GCP program guides participants through 12 modules, covering topics on classroom health. Modules address indoor air quality, water efficiency, materials and resources, and other areas. Once the modules are completed, a final assessment consisting of animated and narrated scenarios, as well as multiple-choice questions, takes place, guiding teachers through possible examples that they may encounter in their classrooms.

Educators with a GCP Certificate are engaged with the green building community; have learned about school energy savings, water efficiency, carbon-dioxide emissions reduction, and improved indoor air quality; and work to provide the best environment for student success, according to USGBC. “With the skills gained from the program, teachers will help foster an attitude among youth and future generations to appreciate and model green practices.”

The online course takes an estimated 2-3 hours to complete, and certification is valid for five years.

“It goes without saying that teachers, principals, and, of course, parents always have our children’s best interests at heart, but in many cases our educators and caretakers don’t have the information and education to diagnose environmental and health challenges in the classroom and implement practical solutions,” CGS Director Rachel Gutter said. “The Green Classroom Professional Certificate aims to empower educators and decision makers to dramatically improve the learning environment, increasing comfort, health, and performance for students and teachers alike.”

In an email interview with GBI, CGS Fellows Manager Anisa Baldwin Metzger provided the following additional details:

GBI: For clarification, is this credential intended to give teachers, parents, and certain other people who currently do not have the power to make decisions about school facility management the authority to make decisions about school facility management if those decisions involve environmental-protection measures covered by GCP?

Metzger: The Green Classroom Professional program is a certificate [-- not a credential --] designed to provide pre-K–12, teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, and other pre-K–12 stakeholders with the knowledge and skills to identify clear steps they can take in their classrooms to promote student and occupant health and gain a better understanding of what supports or impedes environmentally healthy, resource efficient, and sustainable spaces. The GCP also teaches educators and others taking the exam how they can work with school officials to bring attention to and advocate for larger issues.

GBI: What safeguards, if any, are in place to protect people holding the GCP certificate from liability should one or more of the ‘practical solutions’ (as mentioned by Gutter) that they implement proves detrimental? For example, what if an action taken by a teacher holding the GCP certificate to improve a classroom’s energy efficiency compromises indoor air quality and adversely affects students?

Metzger: This Green Classroom Professional Certificate is … for people outside of the green building world. It does not grant any type of health credentials to the educators but simply demonstrates that they have spent the time and effort to learn more about how to maintain a healthy classroom. None of the proposed solutions requires a high level of expertise or has the possibility to result in adverse affects.

GBI: Why not focus this program on school custodial staffs rather than on teachers and parents? If school custodial staffs already have a hand in such decisions, what happens when a teacher holding the GCP certificate disagrees with a decision that a custodian makes?

Metzger: We are encouraging school custodians to take the exam, along with any other school staff who may be interested and whose roles may be impacted by this course. We view the course as a tool to fuel an open dialogue among teachers, facilities managers, school staff, and administrators about the best changes the school can collectively agree on for improving its environmental health and sustainability measures. We have seen (and created) materials to educate custodians and other maintenance professionals; the GCP certificate is meant to address an audience we do not believe has been given this information in a manner that’s tailored to their needs yet.

GBI: What will be done to promote GCP to teachers, parents, and other targeted people? How much money is available for such promotion?

Metzger: We are promoting the GCP course to the center’s vast network of stakeholders, including our Coalition for Green Schools (reaching collectively 10 million people alone), the school districts of our two [CGS] fellows, our 79 USGBC chapters, and our 1,000-plus green schools committee volunteers. We currently reach these stakeholders and [have] engaged members through means such as our newsletters, social media sites, blogs, and third-party media publications.

GBI: About how many people are expected to earn the GCP certificate and by when? What other goals, such as total amount of energy saved, have been set for this program?

Metzger: We hope that within a year, 1,000 teachers, parents, and other school staff will have signed up to take the exam. We are currently exploring methods to research the specific effects that certificate-holders have on the school and classroom environment after they take the course and assessment. These could well include energy savings, water savings, absenteeism reduction, decrease in asthma rates, etc.

GBI: What additional information can you provide about the procedure for obtaining the certificate in terms of what score a person taking the course will need to achieve, the amount of time it takes after the course is completed for the certificate to be awarded, how often the certificate needs to be renewed, etc.?

 

Metzger: Specific procedural information can be found in our GCP handbook. The GCP includes a two-hour online course and a one-hour online animated assessment embedded with multiple-choice questions. The program allows 60 days for each candidate to complete the course and 30 days to complete the assessment. The course is the only preparation required for the assessment. The candidate will have up to an hour to complete the assessment. The sum of correct options selected is a raw score, which is converted into a scaled score. Being consistent with our current LEED Professional assessments, scaled scoring ranges from 125 to 200, with a passing score of 170 or higher. The certificate is valid for five years.

 

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