Crossing the Chasm to Green Buildings

Crossing the Chasm to Green Buildings

Our Havanese, Bono, is sitting here growling at me. It's his way of saying, "Hey, mister, pay attention to MEEE." And, in the mysterious way of creative connectivity, it somehow led me to think about the rumblings of change in the market as green buildings go from boutique to beaucoup (that's French for "a lot").

We got an indication of the traction of the building market sea-change while doing research for the Green Building Market and Impact report, which found that more domestic floor area registered in LEED than was started in the U.S. in 2009 (those who have read the report -- hint, hint -- will know the likely explanation of this paradox). From corporate real estate to organizational leadership to the potential for intelligent organization of larger-scale energy and water systems, recent articles illustrate the integration of green building into daily practice.

Undoubtedly we will be seeing much more in the upcoming year about the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Portfolio Program, which streamlines the documentation and certification process for owners holding large, essentially similar buildings or storefronts. If you're thinking retail chains, you got the idea. When I was chairing the LEED Steering Committee, we started looking at how to approach these types of projects even before the system was launched in 2000, but the challenges of mass customization at both the technical and operational level are very knotty, so it wasn't until 2007 that the portfolio program was released into pilot and the first results are now being seen.

As witnessed by the LEED Portfolio Program's warm embrace by Office Depot, among others, it looks as though the years of hard work put in by LEED's dedicated volunteers, consultants and professional staff have paid off.

Office Depot is committing to seek LEED-CI (Commercial Interiors) certification for all its new leased properties going forward. In addition, Office Depot was the first retailer to earn LEED-Gold pre-certification for its new construction prototype that includes active solar tracking skylights, energy-saving lighting and light-colored parking lots to reduce heat islands and decrease outdoor lighting needs significantly.

Darden Restaurants -- owner of the Olive Garden, Red Lobster, LongHorn Steakhouse and more -- is in the process of developing eight green restaurant pilot projects across its three principal brands. The first restaurant was completed in January, while the rest will be completed later this year or in 2011. The lessons learned from these sites will be developed into corporate standards and rolled out across their portfolio. Not surprisingly, energy and water are high on the list of things to do in the pilot restaurants. They also should check out the cool (pun intended) variable-speed Capture Jet ventilation hoods from Halton.

Another sign that green buildings have "crossed the chasm" is the General Services Administration's seeking its first CGO -- Chief Greening Officer. Just as environmental programs have graduated from cute marketing campaigns to "hold the little b*stards" (yes, I know it's an urban legend but it's too fun to pass up here) to being the subjects of entire corporate reports and may soon end up being part of required SEC disclosure, environmental management has migrated to the C-suite and will soon be coming to Main Street if the USGBC's Top 10 lists of green building legislation get enacted.

In other Main Street news, Honeywell is teaming up with Wilmington, Del., for a $14.5 million initiative that includes a solar project and energy and lighting retrofits. For practical lighting tips, check out Richard McNitt's piece on buying compact fluorescents. In addition to picking the right wattage, make sure that the lamps' color temperature (soft white is under 2,800K, bright white is over 4,000K and "natural" light is over 5,000K) fits with the existing lighting scheme and the overall environment of the space being lit.

As Greener World Media Managing Editor Matt Wheeland reported from IBM's Pulse 2010 conference, another thing that could help scale green rapidly is IBM's newly unveiled Integrated Service Management (ISM) platform. IBM is partnering with Johnson Controls Inc. to adapt ISM into a Smart Buildings Solution that will enable the two industry leaders to roll out intelligent facility and resource management far beyond the building envelope. JCI's Clay Nesler noted the fractal possibilities for scaling this platform from the building level to the city, state and regional levels through the Smart Grid.

The latest Look-Grandpa-I-picked-up-the-$20-bill-you-said-was-fake-but-it's-real! award goes to Office Depot for the success of the Austin pilot store, which opened in 2008 and lowered energy use and carbon intensity in the 15 to 20 percent range and led to the adoption of green construction standards companywide.

Rob Watson is the executive editor of GreenerBuildings.com. You can reach Rob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @KilrWat

Image CC licensed by paul (dex) busy @ work