New LEED Integrative Process Credit Encourages Design-Build

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New LEED Integrative Process Credit Encourages Design-Build

Issue 3 of 2014

Research and anecdotal evidence have long suggested that design-build project delivery is uniquely suited to help building projects achieve sustainability goals. In late 2013, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) reaffirmed this when they released a new version of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) v4 green building rating system that includes a credit toward certification for integrative project delivery.

Recognizing the effect collaborative delivery can have on sustainable design and construction, USGBC added a new credit category called “Integrative Process,” which has the effect of encouraging design-build and other forms of integrative project delivery. This new credit, and USGBC’s recent praise of integrative delivery, will likely increase the use of design-build as a way to achieve LEED certified projects.

Five years since the last update, the new LEED v4 green building rating system suite has more stringent requirements and seeks to bring sustainability and environmentally responsible practices to the next level. Theresa Lehman, LEED Fellow, LEED AP BD+C, ID+C, who is the director of sustainable services at Miron Construction Co., Inc., has been actively involved in the USGBC nearly since its inception. She is part of the design-build team of Miron Construction and Eppstein Uhen Architects in the new Lake Mills Elementary School project located in Wisconsin that served as the only K-12 school project of the 122 LEED v4 beta projects. Its predecessor, the renovation and expansion of the Lake Mills Middle School, had taken top honors as the first LEED Platinum certified public K-12 school in the United States, of which Lehman served as the LEED project administrator. The multiple-award-winning project was selected by USGBC and The Center for Green Schools as the 2011 Greenest School in the World.

Before it was agreed to seek LEED certification, much less serve as a LEED v4 beta project, the Lake Mills Area School District and the community had approved the $18.7 million project, and that budget was set in stone. From the beginning of the project, the design-build team understood the sustainable project goals, known as the “Owner Project Requirements;” and had integrated the sustainable goals into the project design from conception. Thanks to the flexibility of the design-build delivery process, the team was able to quickly change direction and integrate the new LEED for Schools v4 stricter requirements into the design without increasing the project budget. Lehman explained that this would have been very difficult to do had the project been delivered design-bid-build.

“If the project had already been designed, the design team would have had to go back to the drawing boards to integrate the LEED v4 requirements, which would have cost additional money,” says Lehman. “Additionally, this would have slowed down the design schedule and would have likely delayed the construction start date. Finding different building materials to comply with the more stringent low-emitting requirements and new Materials & Resource credit requirements would have also taken additional time; the specifications would have had to be rewritten, and this would have resulted in change orders for substituting the new LEED v4 compliant materials from the material suppliers.” Lehman concluded, “basically, it would have been the snowball effect, causing project delays and cost overruns.”

In helping to develop and revise the LEED for Schools v4 requirements, Lehman’s team consistently mentioned the benefits of the design-build delivery process, directly contributing to the addition of the new Integrative Process credit.

“The integrative process is critical to green building,” says USGBC senior vice president for LEED, Scot Horst. “The new Integrative Process credit in LEED v4 outlines specific steps that inform the Owner’s Project Requirements and Basis of Design. These two components are the guideposts for the project from planning to construction and to operation and ongoing commissioning. When the entire project team gets on the same page from the inception of the project, they find unparalleled opportunities to connect to local natural systems and properly size building systems to work with each other. This process has proven to align teams, reduce impact and significantly reduce costs.”

Lehman also believes design-build’s focus on engaging all of the project stakeholders and project team collaboration is precisely why it’s helpful in delivering LEED-certified buildings. When designers, engineers, energy modelers, commissioning agents and constructors are working separately, there is little communication or a common understanding of the owner’s goals, which often leads to missed opportunities for innovation, system integration and sustainable design possibilities. More often than not, if this is recognized, the project is too far down the design road to go back and do it right.

In fact, a two-year research study by DBIA and The Charles Pankow Foundation revealed early integration of design and construction leads to early inclusion of green concepts and facilitates an innovative environment that can enhance sustainability and performance. This conclusion was drawn from 230 surveys, 92 procurement documents and 12 in-depth case studies.

“I can’t remember a design-build pursuit that meeting LEED requirements wasn’t one of the main topics,” says Patrick Crosby, DBIA, SE, LEED AP. Crosby is the founder, president and managing principal of the Crosby Group and has more than $2 billion in design-build experience. Crosby agrees with Lehman’s assessment that “one of the key success factors [in design-build projects achieving LEED certification] was having the entire team together make the decision of what were the most valued approaches to getting innovation credits.”

Lehman believes the new Integrative Process credit will increase the likelihood of design-build being used to deliver projects that want to, or must, seek LEED certification. “Project teams want LEED certification to be successful,” Lehman says, “and if they hear that other teams are able to deliver a project that is awarded LEED certification using design-build for the same cost, if not less cost, than a code-compliant building, I am hopeful they will see the benefits of the design-build delivery process, and will follow suit. USGBC and the LEED green building rating systems has undoubtedly been a leader in transforming the marketplace. I see the Integrative Process credit helping to further that transformation.”