the agritect

@VELD architect, southwestern Ontario

Archive for LEED

to LEED® or not to LEED®…

…that is the question I get all the time.

But first, what is LEED®. LEED® stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is a process of third part certification that determines the energy performance of your building. Based on a scoring system you can achieve a number of different levels;

  • just certified (40-49 credits), 
  • Silver (50-59 credits), 
  • Gold (60-79 credits), 
  • Platinum (80+ credits).

These credits can be achieved by meeting the various requirements from each of the following categories (note that each category has prerequisite credits that must be followed in order to achieve any certification);

  • Sustainable Sites (14 available credits) – deals with choosing brownfield’s for your developments, encouraging alternative transportation (hybrid, cycling, etc), protect and restore habitat, manage stormwater, reduce light pollution, reduce heat islands from roof and paving surfaces.
  • Water Efficiency (5 possible credits) – deals with minimizing water use in building, processes, landscaping, maintenance, etc. Also credits for innovative water technologies.
  • Energy & Atmosphere (17 possible credits) – This category deals with reducing your energy use by using innovative technologies, renewable energy, measuring and monitoring energy use.
  • Materials and Resources (14 credits) – the credits associated with this category is about supporting local business and regional materials, using certified wood, using renewable materials, using materials with recycled content, or recycled materials, and maximizing waste diversion to recycling centers.
  • Indoor Environmental Quality (15 credits available) – this category encourages you to use low off-gassing materials, increasing the comfort of occupants with daylight and access to views, providing good ventilation and operable windows.
  • Innovation & Design Process (5 possible credits) – this category suggests you hire and architect (just kidding)! But it would definitely help in coordinating and managing all these credits. This category is for interesting and unique ideas that do not fit into other categories.

After you total up your points then submit the necessary paperwork, you can have LEED® certification! See here for a more detailed checklist.

So what good is that most people ask?

LEED® has a number of benefits. It does good things for the long term operating costs of your building For example less turnover of employees because of the great environment, reduced energy costs, a sense of responsibility to the future quality of the environment. LEED® can also be a major marketing tool, for example the Fifth Town Cheese was the only LEED® certified facility in Canada of its kind, that pretty unique marketing.

So how much will this cost me? 

This is another common question.  The costs are becoming less and less as more and more people implement green strategies. The legal standards set out by the Building Code, Conservation Authorities, and Municipalities become more in line with LEED® criteria and thus the credits are now required by law anyways. It depends what point you are pursuing and what your project baseline is, but generally there seems to be a range of 0-3% of your construction costs additional. However this upfront cost, will pay itself back many times over through the life of the building. It requires some long term thinking, which most business owners would appreciate.

Material, Energy, and Water savings

Should I pursue LEED®?

This is the most important question! Is LEED® right for you and your project? I recommend that LEED® certification be used where your clients will recognize the certification or you can use it for marketing purposes. But I also always recommend good sustainable design and construction practices and LEED® is a great guide to the options.  But there are other options as well such as Passive Haus, ecological footprint, Green Globes, etc. All which have good ideas for building sustainably.

…in the end its up to you to define what sustainable means to you and how you want to pursue it in your next building project.

Find out more about LEED® here. Or send me a comment if you have more questions about sustainable energy-efficient design


Who moved my cheese?

That's what I felt like after biking 35km to the Fifth Town cheese factory in Prince Edward County. Designed by Lapointe Architect, it has been on my architecture bucket list for many years for a few reasons; it was designed by an architect; it gave me hope that an architecture career in agritourism was possible; it is LEED platinum, and I love cheese. Unfortunately, within the past few weeks it entered bankruptcy and was closed (and not because the architect went over budget), just as I had the time to visit Prince Edward County.

After a 30km bike ride to get there it was a welcome rest point, with dedicated VIP bike parking (a LEED point). Unfortunately I was not able to go in or get a guided tour there was lots to see from the outside, and I had done my research on the unique green features.

The factory is one of Ontario’s only cheese factories (or any rural building excluding wineries) that is LEED certified. It meets the criteria for Platinum, which is the highest level of certification. For those of you who don’t know what LEED is, (a post is coming) it stands for Leadership in Energy and Efficiency Design and it is a certification process the measures and confirms reductions in energy use for your building. The diagrams below shown the energy, water and material savings the design provided to this business owner, when compared to other industry standard designs of the same type of building. These savings would get passed onto the business owners! you the farmer! Not to mention its a great marketing tool!

Material, Energy, and Water savings

The building has some unique building materials to give it character and make it unique. Not only does it have corrugated steel cladding (inexpensive) it uses a composite lumber (the red stuff), as well as this unique product called Durisol blocks for the foundations. Durisol blocks are like insulated concrete forms (ICFs), but they are made of a concrete wood fibre blend, giving them additional strength, more insulation value, and more sustainable materials. The Durisol blocks make up the walls for one of my favorite features of the facility; the aging cave. You can see me standing on what looks like a big mound of dirt, which it is, but it is cover and keeping cool the cheese aging cave. You can see in the photograph the viewing window/cave entry on the bottom right. The cool temperatures of the earth significantly reduces the energy required to keep the cheese cool as it ages.

Aging Cave viewing entry, and earthen covering

The facility also looks after water management and waste in a sustainable manner. Whey and wash water are waste products from the cheese making process. The site was designed with bio-wetlands to filter and clean this waste water so that it could naturally infiltrate into the ground again. The Factory also uses cistern to collect roof water and use it for non-potable (non-drinkable) uses.
Whey bio-filtration system

Whey bio-filtration system

Although there was no opportunity for me to taste cheese, there plenty for the building to “say” cheese, with all its goodness!20120605-124500.jpg