Archives for category: LEED

Washington DC has a new LEED adaptive reuse project to be proud of, and it comes in the form of the residential remodel of the former EPA headquarters designed by Wiencek + Associates. Located in D.C’s Southwest waterfront community, the former EPA headquarters was revitalized and remodeled into the new Sky House development by The JBG Companies and Urban Atlantic. The Sky House will provide 530 new residential units – 106 of which will be affordable housing!

The Sky House towers usher in a future of adaptive reuse for the Southwest side of Washington D.C. These towers will be the tallest in the area, and boast rooftop pools with some of the nicest views of the city’s monuments. The retrofit includes removing the existing concrete skin to install beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows for studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units. Wiencek + Associates is in charge of the exterior, while RD Jones & Associates is responsible for the interiors.

The buildings flank the Waterfront Metro station, and besides being close to public transit, are designed to be LEED certified. Mayor Vincent Gray hailed this project as “a significant step in the evolution of the Southwest Waterfront, helping to define the area as a premier urban location to live and enjoy the benefits of waterfront amenities, Metro accessibility and a thriving, culturally rich local community”.

Before and after pictures here:

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PORTLAND, Ore. — An eco-friendly building rating system that has powered a green arms race across the nation now faces a challenge from policymakers and an upstart rival.

LEED, the longstanding king of green construction and renovation projects, has become a de facto brand in cities such as Portland, Ore., where sustainable growth has been the rage for years.

But that could change as legislation and executive orders in several states have all but banned Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design from public contracts, and a new system known as Green Globes has emerged and marketed itself as a simpler, less expensive alternative.

green globes“LEED is a good process,” said Byron Courts, director of engineering services for Portland’s Melvin Mark Companies. But it represents “a huge bureaucracy that’s extremely complex and costs quite a bit.”

Courts has used both LEED and Green Globes, which has issued about 850 building certifications in the past few years and has recently picked up support from the federal government.

LEED supporters say the emerging opposition comes from lobbyists seeking to damage the industry leader and increase the prominence of Portland-based Green Globes.

The timber, plastics and chemical industries support “Green Globes because it does not represent a threat to them, it’s their way of having a green building without having to change their practices,” said Scot Horst, a Green Building Council senior vice president who oversees LEED.

From Seattle to Chicago, LEED has certified thousands of buildings and provided a marketing tool, tax breaks and other incentives to contractors eager to cash in on the sustainability craze.

In Portland, LEED adorns everything from the arena where the NBA’s Trail Blazers play to condos in a trendy warehouse district.

Administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., LEED aims to reduce the use of energy, water and greenhouse gas emissions in new construction and renovation projects.

Though it’s voluntary and market-based, more than 30 states, multiple cities and the federal government either require LEED construction or incentivize its use in public buildings. LEED has 44,270 U.S. projects, many of which are federal, state and local government buildings.

Critics say it’s a cumbersome monopoly that doesn’t always deliver what it promises. But supporters counter that opponents are pushing the alternative system to redefine the meaning of “green” and skirt LEED’s stringent environmental standards, which were updated last month.

As the debate spreads, lobby groups are asking Congress to ban the use of LEED in federal projects. In several states, including Maine, Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama, LEED standards have essentially been banned in public construction. North Carolina, Florida and, most recently, Ohio also have seen anti-LEED legislation.

Even in eco-friendly Oregon, the governor has ordered officials to examine how green building rating systems benefit the state, though no ban has been put in place.

While most of the orders, amendments and bills don’t mention LEED by name, several ban rating systems that they say discriminate against American wood products.

That’s a direct stab at LEED, which recognizes a single, stringent forest certification system — one that’s opposed by timber industry giants such as Weyerhaeuser, because it does not certify some of U.S. timber. Green Globes accepts less stringent forest certification programs.

Other bans target green building rating systems that don’t use the American National Standards Institute consensus process. Green Globes does, but LEED uses a different process.

Groups such as the American Chemistry Council say LEED lacks true consensus building and its latest requirements discourage “certain products without adequate input from technical experts.” Such statements are a reaction to LEED’s rejection of certain toxic materials.

Some critics are calling Green Globes is an effort at “green-washing,” founded by a former timber executive and overseen by a board of directors that includes the American Chemistry Council, the American Wood Council, DOW Chemical, and the Vinyl Institute.

Its administrator, the Green Building Initiative, says Green Globes should be judged on merit. And though most experts agree the alternative is less strict than LEED, it does offer some advantages.

Just like LEED, Green Globes offers a point-based rating system. But unlike LEED, Green Globes applicants fill out an online questionnaire and get an on-site visit and feedback during the process. The system cuts down on the price of hiring certified consultants who usually complete a LEED application, Courts said.

Green Building Rivals

LEED certification for retrofitting Portland’s Columbia Square building, for example, would have cost about $100,000, Courts said. A Green Globes verification cost only about $20,000. The building was one of nine Green Globes projects completed recently in the Portland area.

That might soon change, however. In late October, the federal government gave Green Globes a stamp of approval.
On new construction projects, LEED certification is still a must, Courts said, otherwise “you might have a problem marketing the building.”Though Green Globes is less stringent in some ways, especially when it comes to the types of materials permitted, Courts said, both rating systems use the same yardstick for energy use in existing building renovations.

And for the first time, the U.S. General Services Administration recommended that Green Globes can be used alongside LEED for new construction and renovation projects.

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A living building is a green economy initiative that is defined by the Cascadia Region Green Building Council (CRGBC) as a building that is able to generate all of its energy resources with renewable nontoxic sources. The living building also treats and captures all of its own water.

A living building, to be considered legitimate, must be able to be certified by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), a subsidiary of its Leadership in Energy and Efficient Design (LEED) program. certification can mean that a building is eligible for many tax breaks and other types of parks.The CRGBC, in order to promote the idea of a building that could live on its own, actually launched a challenge to the construction and design communities to pursue adding sustainability in the environment surrounding the building. As of today there are more than 60 different projects spanning North America which are trying to meet the high standards of the LBC group, which are even higher standards than the LEED program.

The first building that was considered for this much higher standard of green sustainability was the Omega Center for Sustainable Living, in Rhinebeck, NY. This building is a 6200 square-foot single-story building which serves many businesses in the area. It features rain gardens that use water runoff in order to irrigate the surrounding plants, solar panels for energy, heating and cooling system that is geothermal, and a 4500 square-foot greenhouse that recycles wastewater.The building also incorporates a design that capitalizes on the natural light flowing into the building, minimizing the need for electric lights. The building is also, most importantly, “net zero,” meaning that the building uses no more energy than it generates. This is the top criteria for certification by the LBC. The building must operate for a full year before it can be considered for this type of certification.

There is one reason above all that the concept of this type of a building has not yet hit the mainstream – the cost. The cost of creating any kind of net zero building that generates only as much energy as it uses is especially high, and there is as of yet no way to bring that cost down. However, the concept of this type of building is definitely possible in the future, as builders begin to source locally for materials and local economies gradually warm themselves to the concept of a green economy which can create jobs.

Many distinguished educational institutions have caught on to the idea of this living kind of building, and are conducting experiments, both thought and actual, which vet the concepts that the current projects are testing in the field. Many studies are expected to be released about this concepts in the coming years.

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