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CaGBC intros existing building certification, new construction changes and accreditation updates

On August 3rd the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) will launch the second phase of the LEED Canada Initiative: LEED Canada for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance 2009. This is one of many changes to LEED in Canada this year. Later this year, LEED Canada for New Construction and Major Renovations will be updated as well, with new weightings for a variety of elements. Meanwhile, the accreditation process for LEED APs is getting an overhaul as well.


July 15, 2009
July 15, 2009
By Lenny Talarico and Robert Colman

LEED EBOM
Currently, existing buildings in Canada can only earn LEED certification if they register under the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) rating system. But with the introduction of CaGBC’s Existing Buildings: Operation and Maintenance rating system in August, existing buildings will have the opportunity to obtain LEED certification that is specifically tailored to Canadian environmental and energy concerns.
    
It comes as no surprise that the CaGBC is expanding its certification program to include existing buildings. For nearly a decade, LEED—which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design—has helped businesses design environmentally sound buildings from the ground up. In March, CaGBC expanded its program to include LEED certification for homes. LEED Canada for Neighbourhood Developments will be introduced next year.
   
Unlike LEED’s rating system for newly constructed buildings, the new program for existing buildings will assess the ongoing sustainability and lifecycle of a building, rather than providing design guidelines for new features. This way, owners will be continually pressed to ensure that their buildings meet LEED’s criteria for environmentally friendly and energy efficient operation. In order to maintain LEED status, buildings must recertify at least every five years. And to earn recertification, owners must demonstrate that they have continually complied with LEED standards since their previous certification.
   
LEED certification for existing buildings has been available in Canada, but only under the U.S. model. The upcoming system, though derived from its U.S. counterpart, is specially styled to accommodate environmental issues unique to Canada. To review a list of some of the difference between the two, click here.  
   
Because of these key changes, buildings already certified under the USGBC Existing Buildings version will have to undergo full certification—not simply recertification—if they want to be part of the Canadian model. In addition, all new renovations that affect less than 50 per cent of a building’s floor area can certify as an existing building under the new rating system. More substantial renovations, however, fall under the LEED Canada for New Construction and Major Renovations program.

LEED online
The CaGBC is also working to improve its own efficiency of operation. Processing is to be made simpler. What was a three-step audit and review process will be cut back to a two-step process.

As part of the LEED Canadian Initiative, CaGBC will also be working towards introducing an online user interface, which would allow owners to register for certification on the web, monitor and record their water and energy use, measure their building’s carbon footprint, and access their LEED scores. By digitizing LEED, CaGBC also believes it can make registration easier, faster, and more affordable.

LEED for New Construction Update
At this year’s CaGBC Summit in Montreal, a panel of experts explained some of the main changes being introduced with the updated LEED for New Construction in Canada (LEED Canada NC), which will likely be introduced later this year. The panel included Alex Zimmerman, CaGBC Board member and principal of Applied Green Consulting Ltd., Mark Hutchinson, Director, LEED Program at the CaGBC, and Steve Dulmage, Director of Education and Training with the CaGBC.

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Rating system changes
One basic change in LEED this year is that all certifications will be based on a 100-point scheme. Previously, because each different LEED rating system was developed separately, each had a different number of points. Now, all the core credits have been taken up to 100 points.

Regional credits
On top of those core points in LEED NC are four potential regional priority points. The idea behind this is that it had been noted that LEED wasn’t responsive to regional differences. For instance, in an arid climate, water becomes a much more critical issue than in other areas. For this reason, LEED Canada for New Construction (LEED Canada NC) will now add regional credits. In the U.S., they are taking a prescriptive approach to this, laying out precisely what will be considered for regional credits in different parts of the country. In Canada, this will work slightly differently.

“In Canada, it will be up to the developers to make the case to us (the CaGBC) as to why a particular element should deserve regional credits,” notes Zimmerman.

Changed weightings
The weightings of each section of LEED Canada NC are also adapting to increased concerns about environmental impact, says Hutchinson.

“The USGBC went back and reviewed the environmental impacts of all areas of the program and, through a complex matrix, determined different point ratings based on what sort of impact each issue would have on the environment,” he explains. “Thus, the energy and atmosphere section is worth much more than it used to be.”

The changes in the rating system also took into account the fact that everyone seemed to get awarded some credits, while some potential credits were rarely awarded at all.

For instance, water. There is now a prerequisite for a 20 per cent water reduction. To get your first point will require hitting a 30 per cent reduction. There is also a prerequisite for whole building water metering.

For energy, the thresholds for the prerequisite are going to be referencing ASHRAE 90.1 2007. With ASHRAE, it will involve a 10 per cent over baseline cost improvement or Model National Energy Code Building (MNECB) 23 per cent over baseline on cost. Just like water, there’s a prerequisite for whole building energy metering.

Another example of where CaGBC has looked at how buildings have done is with respect to renewable energy. Currently, less than 15 per cent of applicants go after the 2.5 per cent renewable energy threshold. Now, with as little as one per cent renewable energy, you can get your first point — at three per cent you get two points, and the points rise incrementally from there.

In regards to reuse of building materials, the thresholds were 75 per cent and 95 per cent for first and second points. Less than 10 per cent were meeting that first threshold, so a third has been created. The first point is now available at 55 per cent.

Recycled content, meanwhile, at a threshold of 7.5 per cent, was being reached by almost everyone, so that is being raised.

The regional materials credit was another one that everyone seemed to be getting, but the rules around it didn’t appear to be stringent enough. The current version states that you can’t source material from further than 2,400 km from where you are building. But that calculation doesn’t take into account where the suppliers of those products are sourcing their raw materials. The rules are now being rejigged to consider the distance from extraction to the manufacturer to the building site.

As for controllability of systems, the rules are now going to be that 90 per cent of occupants have to have control over lighting, but only 50 per cent have to be able to control heating and cooling levels. In addition, there has to be a post-occupation survey to rate thermal comfort as well.

Training and accreditation
The rules for becoming a LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP) are also set to change soon. In 2008, functions of the USGBC were divided into two organizations — the USGBC and the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI). GBCI is responsible for LEED certification worldwide, as well as certifying APs. This allows accreditation to reach ISO and ANSI requirements, by decoupling education from accreditation. Essentially, it means more credibility for the LEED AP designation.

Next year, instead of having only one LEED AP exam, individuals will have the choice of  becoming either a LEED Green Associate or a LEED AP. A Green Associate will have to take an introductory level exam, and will be required to take 15 hours of educational credits over two years, with three of those relating directly to technical LEED training. To become a LEED AP will require 30 hours of educational credits over two years and six hours of LEED-specific training.

LEED APs will have the opportunity to specialize in certain areas: building design and construction; existing buildings; homes; neighbourhoods; or commercial interiors. A third designation, LEED Fellow, is being introduced but is not yet clearly defined.

“The purpose of the LEED Fellow program is to recognize individuals who bring that much more value to the green building movement,” notes Steve Dulmage.

The purpose of this new approach to certification is to differentiate those involved in green buildings – to provide options for those that don’t need deep technical knowledge but still require core knowledge for the benefit of their organizations.

All of these changes demonstrate that LEED — here in Canada and around the world — is becoming a better established and more responsive certification program. According to Mark Hutchinson, as many as 1,000 projects in Canada are currently aiming for certification under LEED NC. Although there is still some distance to run, LEED seems to be becoming the de facto standard for new buildings. Hopefully, existing building stock will gradually be brought up to the same standard.