Tuesday, July 15, 2008

LEED update...

Well, today was a very exciting day indeed. We had our second meeting with Ted and Karin at the ECA (Energy Coordinating Agency), the LEED for Homes provider for Pennsylvania. We spent a couple of hours running though all the sections on the checklist and figuring out various interpretations. Since our first meeting with them we have made a few 'green' upgrades, with the most significant being the green roof, so things have changed a bit. When the dust cleared and we finished adding up all the sections, guess what we discovered...











We were not expecting this. Of course, it is 'preliminary' and there is still a long way to go as far as this becoming a reality, but it is very encouraging. The last we left it, we were comfortably in the Gold category (and very happy about that.) We figured achieving Platinum was frankly an impossibility for this project. More on all this later...

Also, we finally got the straw bales in place to help with our erosion control during construction. The images below show the bales at the rear of the back yard (basically, the property line) and at the front gate where the side alley easement meets the sidewalk.



5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think it is a very big accomplishment getting the LEED Gold rating and to get a Platinum rating is definitely "press-worthy" at a minimum!

I think my respect for this project comes due to the fact that LEED was done after the fact. This is about being responsible first and doing the right thing...with LEED being the 'icing'!

I have seen many projects get ratings in the past...I wouldn't mind seeing a study or breakdown of the points of your project with other LEED projects in Philadelphia. Is that information public record? I only ask this question because as I read your blog (besides the obvious differences such as the green roof, water management, and the choice of FSC certified wood) what sets your project apart? And why has it taken this long for a project to get a platinum rating?

Southern Liberties, LLC - Phila, PA said...

Thanks for the kinds words, "anonymous". We too are very proud of the fact that we designed this house before pursuing LEED (and then took it this far). It tells us 3 things: One, that we made a lot of good design decisions from the start and stuck to them, second, that LEED ("for Homes", at least) is somewhat in tune with these decisions, and third, that we have a great team. I do wonder if it might have been more difficult to achieve this rating if we simply "designed to the checklist". I have to think that it would probably not be as 'clean' a design as it is. We hope this project helps architects see that if you approach design, from the very beginning, with comprehensive sustainable strategies, that LEED can simply be the "icing" and not an obstacle.

Your other questions are good ones. You can see a breakdown of how and why (at least a few) projects received the rating they did on the USGBC website in the "Project Profile" section in the LEED Projects Directory. I don't think there is anything specifically geared for Philly though. True, we are not doing any real progressive green features like geothermal, solar power, or graywater recycling, but I think with us it was all the little things that kept adding up. A decent amount of points right of the bat were achieved by simply doing an infill project in the city. Those were the easiest ones. I think achieving Platinum is difficult if you can't get all those initial points. I will eventually publish the entire checklist and try to comment on each section as to how we achieved each point. That might help clarify things. Thanks again!

Dubin said...

Ok, so just out of curiosity - do you think the bales are really going to do a lot for erosion control? Or more to the point, will there be a lot of erosion associated with your job? Just wondering... and carry on the good work!

Southern Liberties, LLC - Phila, PA said...

Dubin,

Good question. I was actually a little skeptical at first seeing that the site is so small and thought we might just be doing this because LEED asked for it. But after a few weeks and a number of heavy rain storms, I can honestly attest to the fact that it is helping...if only a little. I was out at the site last week and noticed a build-up of soil on the inside face of the bales. This would have most likely washed into the neighbors yard or the street if nothing was in its way. So I guess it's doing its job!

Hope this helps. Thanks again for the question.

Southern Liberties, LLC - Phila, PA said...

Oh yes...you asked if there will be a lot of erosion on this job. Well, typically there shouldn't be. But seeing that the elevation of our rear and side yards are currently about 12-18" higher than they will ultimately be (due to the fact that too much fill was left on site after the demo and simply spread around), there is potential for some erosion and runoff. I think in the future, with a site of this size, we will be able to maintain a better elevation with the surroundings and eliminate the need for extra control. Of course, I don't know whether taking these steps will "make up" for the bales or fence and get us the LEED point, but that's where I disagree with LEED sometimes...when they ask you do something that is unnecessary for a particular case on in order to get the point, even though you made a good design decision which resulted in eliminating the need in the first place.