LEED 2009 Closes Loopholes But Does It Address Climate Change?

Today I had a cursory foray into LEED 2009. I like a lot of the advancements that have been made. I do think that weighting energy and water efficiency more heavily will result in a more stringent certification with a more solid reputation. But I was disappointed to find out that it still does not address the impact of buildings on our climate. LEED 2009 does not signal strongly enough that we were going through a climate crisis and that the owners, operators and designers of our buildings bear a large responsibility for that impact.

Some energy advancements have been made by closing some loopholes that were in the rating system. On example is the change of status on process loads in energy modeling. In the old system process loads were not part of the building model so were exempt from the energy efficiency effort. Now they have to be considered. Yes, this will help to address the impact of the building, but will it change the mindset of the building owners or designers quickly enough?

The energy efficiency points are still dependent on the ASHRAE base model comparison assessment. This leaves much potential impact of passive design and design brief program changes out of the realm of assessment for LEED. Much is left on the table in terms of passive design potential, and essentially this is like trying to make lemonade but leaving the lemons unsqueezed and throwing the slices in only to flavour the water.

Instead, I would recommend a comparison to an energy benchmark much like 2030 Challenge and this is similar to energy benchmarks that are used in the EU. It would be a more truthful comparison, and would utilize architectural and engineering teams more fully to their capacity of leveraging the integrated design process for the achievement of a magnitude of energy savings. Put this energy benchmark in the client’s design brief would allow the design teams to create a fee proposal (and project team workplan) against this goal, and would leave enough time in the budget to reach this level of achievement.

In summary, LEED 2009 makes an attempt, and still does a modicum of effort towards the full potential of gaining architectural eco-efficiency. Unfortunately, many projects will use LEED 2009 and think that they have made every effort to minimize their impact. For this huge amount of paperwork they will be rewarded greatly. Project teams will feel justified in their reward of LEED Certification because of the level of effort that it entailed. But in the meantime, much, much more could have, and should have, been done for this matter that affects the very survival of our species and the ecosystems on which we depend.

Rejuvenating Retail on the Danforth

Today I met with James at The One Cafe, just east of Jones, on the north side of Danforth with Chris Caldwell (http://www.caldwellforcouncil.ca/), who is running in the Toronto City Council election this fall for Toronto-Danforth, Ward 29.

It was a hot hazy and humid Toronto summer day and we held onto our expectations as we climbed onto the asphalt roof above his cafe/ residence. Almost immediately I went off into ‘designer sustainability guru mode’ talking about extensive, intensive, roofing and using solar panels as shading devices.

Then I started rhyming off incentive programs that he had never heard about.

The most important one is the OPA Microfit Contract. If you own a building in Ontario you should apply for the 30-year contract from the Ontario government. Then they can pay you 80.2 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity produced by your solar panels, while you pay under 10. This is a win-win because we achieve distributed power generation capacity in the province. The locations are closer than your local power station, reducing transmission loses and building a more resilient electrical grid.

To get an OPA MicroFit Contract for your residential home or business get Sunrise Solar to walk you through the process and you can start by referencing these documents:
http://sunrisesolar.ca/Documents/Sunrise%20Solar%20-%20OPA%20Application%20Quick%20Reference%20Guide.pdf
Contact them if you have questions: http://sunrisesolar.ca/contactus.aspx

The next important is the City of Toronto Eco Roof Incentive Program. If you attended the June TF4GBD then you would have learned that Green Roofs divert rainwater from our storm sewers, and saves energy:
http://www.toronto.ca/livegreen/greenbusiness_greenroofs_eco-roof.htm

Lastly, (but one that examination before you alter anything) is the Ontario Home Energy Savings program (yes, this is the provincial equivalent to the program that the Feds pulled the plug on):
http://www.mei.gov.on.ca/en/energy/conservation/ohesp/

We started envisioning a deck area, urban agriculture for his restaurant in intensive roofing planters, and an extensive roof that looked like a natural meadow. I could see how James was starting to see the future that wanted to emerge for his roof.

We came back down to ground level inspired to help other business owners see the potential in these netherworlds lurking overhead. We are seeking to create a buyer’s cooperative movement on the Danforth for retrofit projects, so contact me or Chris if you are interested in becoming involved.