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A Step-by-Step Guide for Finding a Green Building Consultant

Tue, Jan 21, 2014 @ 09:42 AM / by Chuck Lohre posted in Green Building Consulting, LEED Platinum Certification, Green Building


Inspired by this post from K4 Architecture -- Here's the intro to the piece about how to procure architectural and building services: A building program is a major effort entailing the investment of much time and money.  Therefore, an important step in achieving success is the selection of the Architectural/Engineering firm (A/E) that will play a very important role in the undertaking.  The basic components of the A/E procurement process include the following: 1. Develop the program for which the project must be designed. 2. Gather available data. 3. Prepare the scope of A/E services required. 4. Submit the Request for Proposal to A/E firms. 5. Interview A/E firm(s). 6. Make the selection.

Note that K4's post does not focus on LEED or sustainable building like this post does exclusively. That's not a criticism since we are greenies, because the K4 blog post author makes many good points that anyone should heed. It's just that the biggest difference between a sustainable building, versus a code building, is gathering an integrated design team led by an experienced sustainable project manager. The owner is the only person who can force this major change in the direction of the building process.

Green Building Consulting GreensourceHaving dealt with building owners who want to fly their green flag, they are likely the only team member who can personally enjoy and share the sustainable level of concept, design, construction, operation and employee comfort a green building exemplifies. The (resulting) building is their inspiration and their story. Someone can ask for a LEED Platinum or other certification, but if they don't understand the intent of sustainability, the project will not perform. Let's be clear, we're saying the building won't "live up to its potential" because you can't pay someone to care about measurable environmental benefits. The photo is of Greensource Cincinnati, LEED Platinum.

Here's a good example: Messer Construction LEED for Existing Building Certified headquarters in Cincinnati. It's an employee-owned company, and the employees conceived, planned, executed and documented the LEED EBOM Certification. Congratulations to the employees of Messer Construction!

However, no matter how much an owner may desire personal involvement in their project, that may not be possible. An owner must have someone manage the project. Someone they can trust with their goals and objectives. Many of which don't have a measurable (or even accepted) traditional dollar value. That project manager is the lead on a sustainable building project because Green Building projects require managing location administrators, lawyers, financial institutions, engineers, architects, trades, designers, consultants, occupants and the public. None of these segments or professions have standard ways of dealing with sustainable design and may need to be educated as to best practices for the decision-making process and responsibilities.

The basic components of the project manager procurement process include the following:

  • Establish the owner's project requirements and basis of design.
  • Gather similar project data.
  • Plan the timeline.
  • Prepare and submit team RFPs.
  • Team interviews.
  • Help advise the owner on the team selection.

Green Building Consulting Elements iVIncidentally, if you have a well-established, trusting relationship with a highly qualified professional for your project, you may very well elect to provide them with the RFP and attempt to negotiate an agreement rather than using the competitive selection process. LEED Silver Elements IV Office Furniture Systems in Dayton did this with Heapy Engineering for its HVAC system. The photo is of of their lobby.

Develop the Program for the Project
Even with lofty goals and unlimited aspirations every project will have budget limitations. There will be trade offs of materials, technology, new versus reused, and other goals. The first steps include integrated design meetings of all individuals involved in the project. The first team members will be required to assist in selecting the other team members until the entire team is assembled.

Interview team members:

  • Evaluate communication skills.
  • Track record in fulfilling past requirements.
  • Track record in meeting budget and time frame requirements.
  • Track record in avoiding costly extras resulting from deficiencies in understanding sustainable systems.

Green Building Consulting Frank Lloyd WrightIntegrated design is the single most contrasting element in sustainable design versus the current silo process in building. Traditionally drawings are approved, construction bids go out and decided, project managers come and go, the building is built, and occupancy permit received. Integrated design is needed for sustainable design because many times the last steps in the building process can effect the first steps. We are assembling the integrated design team for a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Cincinnati, see photo. Economical sustainable projects need not give up quality or distinctive architectural features, though the large glazing is making it much harder to plan and budget.

Make the Selection
Fees are obviously important, but there are other factors to consider in making team selections. Since you and your project manager are entering into relationships that will involve intense collaboration over a significant period of time, it's helpful to select team members with whom you will be able to work harmoniously both professionally and personally. Also, in accord with what has previously been learned by word of mouth, website research and interview, you may decide the best value will be provided by a firm whose fee was not the lowest quoted.

After gathering the team, they prepare the program consisting of, but not limited to, the following:

  • The desired timeframe, budget, space use while under construction and possible future expansion.
  • Site considerations and how to leverage to meet project goals.
  • Water use with an eye for water independence in the future.
  • Energy maps, what are the energy flows on site? How can the site be net-zero in the future?
  • The basic evolution of the building materials to limit carbon footprint.
  • Interior environment quality.

Green Building Consulting LEED PlatinumWith careful planning, sustainable building projects can come well under the budget of a comparable traditional building. It's a fundamental feature of sustainable buildings to be lower in cost to construct and have lower water and energy costs. If that's not the case, the project isn't as sustainable as it could be. We achieved LEED Platinum on our office for less than $12 per square foot.

Another outstanding sustainable and LEED building example is Greensource Cincinnati. Owner Ez Housh and his children, Elizabeth and William, took a historic building shell in downtown Cincinnati and achieved LEED Platinum. Lohre & Associates provided the LEED Documentation on the project.

If you liked this post you may enjoy, "The Joys of a LEED Platinum Green Office and How You Can Achieve It."

describe the imageRequest your free guide to obtaining LEED Certification on your office, building or home.

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Green Marketing the Wright Way: A LEED Platinum Home

Fri, Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:12 AM / by Chuck Lohre posted in Green Building Consulting, Green Marketing, LEED Platinum Certification, Green Building

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A recent blog post in POLLUTION ENGINEERING inspired us to plot a path to LEED Platinum for a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home.

LEED Platinum HomeEditor Roy Bigham's piece was about new EPA clean air standards being considered for for wood stoves. We use a sawdust pellet stove in our office to demonstrate renewable energy. The U.S. Green Building Council considers the burning of sawdust a renewable energy source because sawdust would decay anyway and release its carbon. Since the production of lumber is considered a proper use of natural resources if it is a common species, its byproduct, sawdust, satisfies the renewable energy requirement for that credit.

Our green building consulting division, Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy, is working on LEED documentation for a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home. HVAC systems are particulary tough aspects in the quest for LEED Platinum certification. In this case, there is only a modest area available for solar panels, which may barely be able to power the AC system during the summer. The real problem was the boiler for the hot water heating system which is in the main floor. The solution is to use sawdust pellets for the heating system. By having the two systems, we will avoid having to install a costly ($30,000+) geothermal system which would require two separate systems, one for the hot water floor heating and one for the air conditioning system on the roof. The stove shown in the photo is in our LEED Platinum office. It's an EPA Certified sawdust pellet system that has very low emissions but still smells great. The combustion system is completely separate from the forced hot air system which heats the office.

Frank Lloyd Wright Green HomeHere's a preliminary scorecard on our path to achieve LEED Platinum. We may get four credits because we are using an existing home's shell and providing access to open space on the generous lot. It will be a sustainable site because it's entirely planted in native wildflowers and grasses which require no irrigation and doesn't use toxic pest control -- that should give us 24 credits.

A full 15 credits may be achieved by improving water efficiency with rainwater harvesting and high-efficiency toilets and faucet aerators. Low water-use clothing and dishwashers would be specified, as well.

The energy and atmosphere systems for the home built in 1956 will be hard to modify and improve. Air sealing, air-to-air heat exchangers and high-quality interior storm windows will barely bring the home up to conventional comfort levels. Using the renewable sawdust pellet stove and solar panels for electricity production will raise the credit count by 27.5.

Boulter House Tom Schiff Photograph resized 600

Indoor environmental quality will be improved by extra outdoor air ventilation, better air filters, enhanced combustion air venting and the lack of a garage -- 18 credits could be achieved. Rounding out the project will be green cleaning and green building education programs at the home. An innovation in design point will be awarded because of the passive solar orientation popular with Wright's designs. The more than 450 square feet of windows are a signature feature as well, but more than five times as much as needed for passive solar heating systems. The lack of roof overhang is mitigated by external shading in the summer. This proposal totals 112.5 credits, LEED Platinum is achieved for projects over 90. Photo by Thomas R. Schiff.

Honda Insight Top SpeedSo let's get back to Bigham. We disagree when he concludes, "These and many other changes are not driven by market pressures to improve anything. These are bureaucratic changes that the government tells us is better for us. Nobody in my circle of friends wants to be forced to spend up to $100K for their next car. My last purchase was around $18K."

U.S. citizens' tax dollars fund the EPA's work to develop air quality standards. I want to follow them for my and my neighbors' health. We paid $3500 for our EPA Certified sawdust pellet stove. You can get one like it in size at Walmart for $1500, which pollutes the atmosphere unnecessarily. We achieved LEED Platinum for $12 per square foot. We believe you can be environment-positive and economical by spending where it's needed and saving through reusing materials. My last car purchase was $7K 12-year-old Honda Insight. It gets 100 mpg once you learn how to drive efficiently. Now that's green, clean and inspiring!

If you liked this post, you may also like, "The Joys of a LEED Platinum Green Office and How You Can Achieve It."

Chuck Lohre, LEED AP and Documentation ConsultantFor a no obligation green building consultation for your home or office please contact Chuck Lohre, LEED AP ID+C. He'll go over the U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Reference Guide with you and offer helpful suggestions for Green Building Consultants, Architects, Interior Designers, Building Material Suppliers and Contractors. You can even borrow the Reference Guide if you like. Article from the Cincinnati Business Courier.
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LEED Certification Documentation for Your Home or Office

Tue, Feb 19, 2013 @ 01:13 PM / by Chuck Lohre posted in LEED, LEED Certification, Green Building Materials, LEED Platinum Certification, Green Building, Cincinnati Advertising Agency


By planning ahead, you can LEED Certify your home or office for little or no additional expense.

At Lohre & Associates, we self documented our own offices to the LEED Platinum level for only $12 per square foot for the complete office makeover including application fees. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a non-governmental, non-profit agency founded in 1993. LEED has become the most widely accepted Green Building standard.

The office remodel included:Lohre   Shickel Design Building

  • New carpet
  • Energy Star copier
  • Flat-screen computer monitors
  • Occupancy lighting sensors
  • 100% LED or CFL lighting
  • Low-flow toliet adapter
  • Integral hand-washing station above water closet
  • Pellet stove
  • Mini-blinds
  • Glass display case
  • Green electricity
  • High-efficiency air filter
  • Entrance mats
  • Carbon Dioxide sensor
  • Mini-FridgeLohre   Zero Irrigation Landscape

The U.S. Green Building Council publishes reference guides to the various types of Green Building Certifications: residential, commercial office, new construction, schools, retail spaces and existing buildings. The first thing you will want to do is purchase the appropriate guide for your project and learn what Green building products and features to include. The following examples are from the five different LEED Green Building categories: site, water use efficiency, energy use, materials, and indoor environment quality.

Site of the building, home or office

The best Green building will be the reuse of an existing structure. Orientation to the sun and dimensions of the building can reduce energy use by about 25%. Light-colored concrete parking lots and roofs are cooler than black asphalt. Shade from trees and gardens will also help cool the site. Access to public transportation and community services are important to limit automobile use.

Water savings and efficiencyLohre   Rain Pot Barrel

City-water water use can be limited by capturing rain water. Interior water use can be limited by efficient-flush and flow fixtures. Limiting storm water runoff is also also an objective of a Green building. Rain gardens, green roofs, pervious parking lots and walking paths can help keep rain water where it falls.

Energy efficiency

Air leak sealing and insulation are the most important investment for a Green building. Sealing the air leaks in existing buildings with high-performance spray foam can deliver the benefits of both at the same time. 

As you reduce the requirements of an HVAC system, you reduce the size, the expense and cost. Renewable energy systems such as generating electricity from solar panels or hydro-electric, and sawdust pellet stoves can also reduce the use of fossil fuels. Operating and maintaining your HVAC systems at their most efficient is an important feature of Green buildings.

MaterialsLohre   Sawdust Fuel Pellet Stove

Use reclaimed or salvaged building materials wherever possible. Materials with recycled and regional content help reduce the environmental impact of your building. Cork, linoleum, bamboo, agricultural waste plywood, and castor oil content in spray foam are materials that take less than 10 years to grow and reduce the use of hard wood and similar limited materials.

Indoor Environment Quality

Green buildings are very tight and don't have drafts from air leaking through the building. This makes it important that harmful chemicals contained in some paints, caulks, cleaning agents, furniture and floor coverings aren't allowed into the building. The gas appliances also have to operate without leaks. Green buildings have better views to the outside, thermal and lighting controls.

Once you have decided on the location and design of your building, you'll purchase the materials meeting Green building standards. Green building construction has minimal waste and a builder with experience working on a LEED project will help reduce waste. Once your project is done, you can gain Green building points by using it as an educational tool to teach others.

Green buildings are at least 20% more energy efficient and 30% more water efficient than code buildings. By Certifying your project LEED, occupancy rates and resale value will be higher. LEED Certification includes a commissioning agent who serves only the owner of the project. It is your third-party verification that your project was built and will operate to the highest standards. There is no other Certification like it available. If you build inside the city of Cincinnati you may qualify for tax abatements on the structure. There are also tax incentives for HVAC and energy-efficiency windows, insulation and other products and services.

How can we help?

Want to discuss a Green Building project? Review sustainable building materials? Learn how to save water? Have a presentation made to your organization? Lohre & Associates' Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy division can help with any of these requests. We did 100% of the work and documentation on our own LEED Platinum office and currently expecting LEED Platinum on a new construction project. We are also working on the LEED Certification of the Frank Lloyd Wright Boulter house in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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