Increase Your Points Toward LEED Certification

Federal Center South

Federal Center South, the most energy-efficient office building in the Pacific Northwest, may achieve LEED Platinum. Energy Piles, recycled wood and construction debris, and stormwater infiltration galleries contributed LEED points.

Most LEED points come from efficiency in design and construction areas such as energy, water, materials, and indoor environmental quality. That’s why it may not be obvious how geotechnical engineers and environmental scientists contribute to LEED certification. Since LEED Silver is a requirement for most new public buildings, with LEED Gold the new normal, owners need every possible point. Here are several avenues to gain more:

Sustainable Sites – Several credits are available, including Brownfield Redevelopment (Credit 3); Protect and Restore Habitat, including green roofs (Credit 5.1); and Stormwater Design, including infiltration, reuse, pervious paving, swales, and other LID solutions (Credits 6.1 and 6.2).

Water Efficiency – Credits are typically based on the percentage of reduction in the use of potable water for the new development. Water-efficient landscaping, reuse of rainwater, and capture and reuse of groundwater in the irrigation or building systems can cut water use by 20% or more. Designing efficient filters for graywater recycling can lead to additional points.

Energy and Atmosphere – Credit 2 (On-Site Renewable Energy) allows as many as 3 credits for generating up to 7.5% of the building’s power usage on site. Properly designed ground source heat pump geothermal systems will achieve this goal and these points.

Materials and Resources – Again, several credits are available: Credit 2.1 Construction Waste Management (diverting demolition debris from landfills or incinerators), Credit 3.2 Materials Reuse (reusing salvaged building materials like foundation piles), Credit 4 Recycled Content (using materials such as ground down tires or recycled glass for backfill).

Innovation & Design Process – New or innovative energy saving solutions that have been applied to a site development can be described, justified, and submitted for potential extra points.

Geotechnical and environmental professionals can work with design and construction teams to gain as many as 5 or 6 additional points – and that might be the difference between Silver and Gold, or Gold and Platinum.

Infiltration and Laboratory Testing Support Green Design

Federal Center South Swale

Swale at the new Federal Center South Building in Seattle

Rain gardens and bio-filtration swales are an increasingly important part of the sustainability approach for new construction. They keep rainwater from flowing over impervious surfaces where it can pick up pollutants and carry them to water bodies. This benefit is more and more imperative when it comes to controlling non point source pollution. The Washington State Department of Ecology, for example, has reconfirmed surface runoff as the leading pathway for toxics to get into Puget Sound. (Phase 1 study, Phase 2 study).

Infiltration testing allows you to determine whether a swale will be successful at a given property. An infiltration test involves excavating a test pit (typically 5 feet by 5 feet). A hydrogeologist adds water to the pit, then records how much water is necessary to maintain the water level at the same level over a period of 10 to 12 hours. The hydrogeologist then stops the water flow and measures the drop in water level. The infiltration rate determined from a field test is called a field infiltration rate. To determine the design infiltration rate, the hydrogeologist then adjusts for a number of factors such as site variation, number of tests conducted, degree of long-term maintenance and influent pre-treatment/control, and the potential for long-term clogging from silt and bio-buildup.

Geotechnical laboratory testing is useful for rain gardens, which require a specific mix of soil types that helps scrub some of the contaminants from the rainwater before it reaches a major body of water, yet still allows the water to drain. Rain gardens are also an effective way to store water from large storm events and prevent it from overloading the storm drain and sewer systems in the public streets.

Devastating Presentations

Businessman Writing on Whiteboard

In theatrical improvisation training, there is a truly devastating exercise involving audience attention. You stand on the stage. The other improvisation students are standing in front of you. The teacher instructs you to tell a story, and tells the other students to sit down the moment they have lost interest. They must be brutally honest, without sparing your feelings. Once everybody sits, you have to stop telling the story. The goal is to see how long you can keep your audience standing.

Going through this exercise makes you realize what a dull person you can be. You are astonished at how soon people sit down, often within seconds, regardless of how much they like you as a person or admire your skills. Even the most brilliant performers struggle with this exercise. The audience is looking for reasons to not be interested, and they easily find those reasons.

Keeping audience attention can be just as difficult during a business presentation, where time is money, and people want to know how you’re going to solve their problems, or at least entertain them enough to make that rubber chicken luncheon worthwhile. Sure, the audience won’t sit down (they’re already sitting), but the odds are they won’t remember most of what you’ve said.

Applied to a business presentation or interview, the improv exercise would happen something like this:

You say, “Hello, my name is X.” Several people sit.

“I’m going to talk about the X project.” A third of the audience sits.

“This was a really exciting project.” Everybody except one person sits.

“After that, I’m going to discuss the X project.” The last person sits. You’re done. You’ve failed miserably. Your presentation was devastating every imaginable way.

The next time you’re preparing a presentation, keep this exercise in mind. How will you grab attention from the very start of your presentation, so that nobody is tempted to “sit down?”

Check out this post from Fast Company that might be of some help.