Yesterday I attended a test preparation seminar for LEED certification. I must admit it was something of an eye-opener.
I don't want to go off on the many, many goofy things that LEED covers. To say that this mess gladly embraces every wacky feel-good idea out there would be an understatement. Instead, I'd like to narrow the scope to how it impacts electrical work.
In practice, LEED is something handled by project management, and the majority of criteria - such as a bias in favor of having very few parking spaces - have no connection with our trade. Other criteria are sure to have unintended complications.
For example, there is a bias in favor of disturbing the site as little as possible, and in favor of building in city centers. The effect of this just may be to prevent you from having efficient access to the site.
Being a paper-driven process, expect materials to be specified in great detail. There is no substitution, or using 'generic' materials, without a pile of paperwork. Folks, paperwork is to these LEED folks what mud is to a pig. Are you willing, or able, to get documentation from Wheatland as to the recycled content of the conduit, or from Southwire for the wires?
A major effort is made to reduce, and recycle, job-site trash. As far as they're concerned, it's better for you to spend hours sorting through the waste for wire scraps, than to just pull that short piece you need off the reel. LEED has absolutely no interest in the reliability issues you KNOW you will have re-using stuff ... to them, it's all about being "green."
Likewise, they expect you to sort, and recycle, your steel offcuts and wire bits.
A LOT of claims were made regarding things like solar panels and windmills. We were literally told that affordable, efficient solar would already be here, except that demented EC's had relationships with the makers of less efficient, outdated gear - and were suppressing the new technology. Folks, I'm not making this up!
We were also that our local laws were all wrong, our local PoCo was the 'bad guy,' and that we needed to work to change all that.
OTOH, we were also gleefully told that each CFL saves 600 pounds of that nasty coal each year, and not to worry about the mercury in them.
Naturally, they fully embraced the sundry 'energy codes.' There is some irony here, in that the energy codes do not recognize the use of those CFL's. Therre was also a point issued if you eliminated 'light pollution.'
At numerous times, we were told that LEED had to defer to sundry other codes ... as there certainly are a very large number of conflicts between the LEED bias and the principles of these other codes.
The administration of the LEED program certainly is a cash cow for the "Green building council." Take your worst opinion of the NFPA, multiply by 10, and they still look like angels compared to the USGBC. These folks are positively salivating over the "stimulus" money.
Now ... it would help us all if those of you who have actually encountered this stuff in the field would chime in with your experiences.
I wonder when someone will actually start putting the regulatory cost on their bids. Florida passed a law last year requiring recycling your construction debris. If you don't recycle a certain percent you pay a fine/fee. You do a work sheet based on your dumpster tickets and recycling certificates.
I have attended a couple of LEED workshops/seminars as part of my AICP certification continuing ed program. I seem to recall that the 'costs' were downplayed as being mostly neutral when balanced against savings in energy efficiency.
Our Metro Development Center here in Louisville was recently giving a 'green' treatment-literally. They planted trees and bushes on the roof!
A lot of LEED is a scam just to make the tree-huggers happy but kill a lot of trees doing it (paper forms DO grow on trees). Most of the time I get folks who want a LEED project, then are either upset that it will cost more...or want to do things the way they used to get done (incandescent can lights everywhere) but still get the LEED credit.
Good LEED ideas for our trade: limiting the amount of power consumed by lighting; provisions for a few possible future electric car charging stations here and there; occupancy sensors to turn the lights off in most of the rooms and offices; daylight harvesting near the windows; metering to keep the Utility billing honest; zoning the switches so that an entire floor doesn't have to be lit up for a few occupied cubicles; dimmers; energy efficient motors; VFDs.
Dumb/worthless LEED ideas for our trade: buying materials based on distance from the worksite; recycled content in our supplies; mandatory recycling; solar panels; wind power; green roofs UNDERNEATH the solar panels; most of the rest of the program.
Fun fights in LEED: the battle between using larger wire sizes to reduce electrical losses and using the smallest size wire possible to reduce the usage of Copper on the job; watching the 'lighting designers' ignore the energy codes...then watching them whine and try to squirm out of redesigning the job to meet them.
IMHO, mandatory recycling isn't dumb or worthless... Requiring a certain percentage might be a little much, but just like with residential/office recycling it takes some time to get used to... Keep two trash barrels onsite and have things separated at the point of waste.
One of the best uses of a "green" roof that I've seen, is a community garden on top of housing. Around here, there is a huge demand for community gardening space, and very little public land that is available/suited for it.
I agree that the regulatory aspects of the LEED program are a little ambitious, but I don't think all of the ideas are wrong or bad. They just need time to become easier to implement and work their way into standard practice.
The flaw I saw in the recycling computation was it was done on percentage of dumpster weight. If you are a very frugal guy and don't throw anything away that is not usable you take a hit. In my case I tore out 4 yards of concrete that was recycled so I could have thrown away every other supply that came onto my job and still been under the limit. When it was all over I think I recycled about 99% I still have the work sheet here somewhere I think.
Basically unless you have separate dumpsters or another way to segregate all of the waste, that is the only thing you really can measure. They do want to see the dump tickets. I couldn't get the credit for aluminum and copper that I gave to the "scrappers" in the neighborhood because there was no ticket and If you simply reuse stuff from your own job there is no credit. The recycled material I got from my wife's dumpsters didn't count for anyone, although it did cut down on their unrecycled content since they would have chucked it all and paid the fine. I got all of my steel and block that way. That was a number weight wise.
Working fot the gov't, LEED is the town of the town with new buildings. It is now required that new govt buildings are to meet LEED silver certification. The electrical trade is on the job site has little impact on the big LEED cert. It is all in the design and in the paperwork. I went through a project review recently that everyone was gung-ho about getting the cert because it sounded cool. Some of the concepts the designer proposed in order just to get the cert were insane. The cost to build and maintain these systems were abserd and the environment up here would not have benefit from them. It may be a benefit in some areas but not everywhere.