Monday, November 18, 2013

Keys to a Sucessful LEED Building: Communication, Documentation, and a Concrete Vision - by Lauren Campbell Kong

After being in Cincinnati a few months, I finally found a group of individuals at Lohre & Associate who shares my passion for green buildings and marketing. Meeting people like this is difficult and when Mr. Lohre offered me an internship and would pay pay for my LEED AP exam, I was even more excited.

The internship involves working on a LEED project, something that I have wanted to do for over a year and something that wasn’t available to me in Indiana. The experience of working on an actual project is needed to take the LEED AP exam and all the nuances I am learning are immensely valuable. The project is hoping to get certified for LEED gold status and with that comes serious documentation of all aspects of construction. The project involves a major renovation and under LEED standards it is labeled as new construction. This means that everything from what type of dry-wall was used to what kind of paint was put on the dry wall, to what kind of grout and caulk was use to seal it tight must be documented. Needless to say, getting deep into the details of a LEED project is similar to delving into a crime mystery looking for clues or searching through a massive academic database for a specific research paper. It is right up my alley.

This experience also taught me the value of communication in the professional world. The construction industry is so disjointed that communication does not often happen at the right time or with the right information. I have learned that open communication is key to a fluid working dynamic resulting in a highly efficient and environmentally friendly building. If proper communication is not utilized and documentation is not done correctly from the beginning, not only does the LEED project suffer, but the individuals involved in the project also suffer. 

During my work with this project, I am surprised by how many companies have embraced LEED. Many businesses, small and large, offer LEED certified products, as well as information necessary for the LEED documentation process. For example, Sherwin Williams has an entire 13 page PDF dedicated to environmentally friendly paint. They are even nice enough to break down the paint products based on what building certification is being used. The list provides LEED documenters with the information needed to document the project and it provides project owners with a list of compatible paints, making the choosing process that much easier. Having tools such as this one at your fingertips makes the LEED building certification move along faster and with the largest complaint about LEED buildings being that they take longer to build, utilizing such tools is definitely advantageous.

I have also been witness to the downfall of not properly documenting activities or products for LEED. There were a few credits in this project I'm working on that could not be filled due to a lack of documentation. I appreciate individuals taking the time and care to properly dispose of waste or to make sure that low VOC products were used, but when that information is not written down or communicated properly then the LEED credit cannot be reached.

So for me, while it is exciting to be working on a LEED project and gaining experience for my LEED AP exam, it is also frustrating to know how much effort is being wasted when people don't properly communicate, don't document, and don't care enough to address a LEED project the right way. After all, if the project owner wants to get the building LEED certified for marketing purposes, missing the critical information regarding what environmental friendly materials were used will only hurt the marketing efforts intended.

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