It is hard to believe we are soon approaching the end of 2011. I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and were able to spend time with family and friends. Throughout this month I also hope that each of you have spent some time reflecting on your accomplishments this past year, of course while you are planning for next year!
As I wind down my time as Chair of our Chapter I am relfecting on the things we have accomplished in the past few years and the transitions that we have gone through. I believe there are four impact areas that we must continue to work on in the near future:
- Expanding our reach
- Continue to work on greening our schools
- Convince more building owners of the need to pursue LEED EB O+M
- Measuring the performance on the LEED buildings in our area
Let me expand on each of these briefly:
EXPANDING OUR REACH
Our Chapter's geographical territory covers 34 counties on the western side of Michigan from the Mackinac Bridge to the Michigan/Indiana border. The concentration of our outreach and successes with LEED buildings has been in Kent County with some successes in the these adjacent areas: Kalamazoo, Holland/Zeeland, Muskegon and Lansing. There are a few others scattered throughout the rest of our very large geographical area. We still have much educating to do.
GREENING OUR SCHOOLS
Almost four years ago we formed a Green School Committee. Roughly 15 schools in West Michigan that have achieved LEED Certification. Many of our schools are focusing on energy conservation and some on recycling. There is much work that needs to be accomplished here and I believe if we can engage with parents and teachers, as well as other stakeholders in our schools, we will make significant progress. Our April membership meeting will focus on green schools.
LEED EB O+M
The largest impact we can make on our region and state is to green our existing buildings. LEED EB O+M has been slow to take off for many reasons. The two that rise to the top are: the fact that LEED EB O+M is difficult to achieve, and the resources (people, time and $) are not available. People do not understand the cost of LEED EB O+M compared to new construction, and the decision to pursue this will depend on whether building upgrades are needed and how much of the work needs to be outsourced. Most, if not all of the time, the budget that supports EB O+M would be operations and not a capital expense. We need to continue to educate stakeholders in all of our buildings about the "pay from savings" model. LEED EB O+M is affordable and has a tremendous pay-off, both of which can be analyzed before spending much money.
The last category is the "IMPACT" that we have already made on our region and the continued research that needs to be accomplished. I recently studied a report titled: "U.S. Green Building Council Green Jobs Study". This report specifically shares some of the economic benefits, ties them to green jobs across the United States, and lays out the impact of green and LEED construction. This study used data from a meta-analysis of 10 reports of about 69 LEED-certified buildings. Results of the study show that the overall economic impact from the green building market is significant, and will continue to grow as the demand for green buildings continues to grow. Green construction investments support over 2 million jobs and generate over 100 billion dollars in gross domestic product and wages. Estimates are that by 2013, nearly 8 million jobs will be supported by green building construction with almost $400 billion in labor earnings... USGBC and LEED, specifically by 2013, will support the addition of 230,000 jobs with over $10 billion in labor earnings. There is an assumption here: McGraw Hill Construction's definition of the green construction market includes the total value of a building, not just the incremental value attributed to environmentally friendly equipment and materials. For example "green construction jobs" will capture the solar installers as well as the traditional construction jobs such as welders who are applying their traditional skills to a green building.
This study resulted in identifying the following savings (or cost avoidance) per square foot (commercial buildings only) and we can immediately apply this to West Michigan: Energy $0.52/sf; Operations and Maintenance $0.32/sf; Waste $0.05/sf and Water $0.02/sf. The study also arrived at the average cost per square foot to construct a building: $144.80/sq. ft.
What does that mean for West Michigan?
The number may change daily, but recent reports put the number of LEED buildings at 159. This equates to approximately 26,970,801 square feet. If we multiply that by the average cost of construction ($144.08/sf) we have an investment of nearly $4 billion dollars in LEED buildings in West Michigan. By applying the savings or cost avoidance averages we can arrive at some very positive impacts: Energy = $14 million; Operations & Maintenance = $8.5 million; Waste = $1.3 million and Water = $540,000 for an overall cost avoidance of more than $24 million. Our board is beginning the process of analyzing these numbers. We hope to arrive at an exact number, but for now will apply these averages to make our point.
Continued research is very important and we must encourage our current LEED building owners in West Michigan to join USGBC's Building Performance Partnership. Click here for more information.
I hope you had a great Holiday and have a Happy New Year!
Renae Hesselink, LEED AP, Chair