Sustainability: LEED Certification

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The Adelante Healthcare facility in Peoria recently was given LEED gold level certification for commercial interiors for meeting certain environmental standards. The project on the existing building was managed by Green Ideas Sustainability Consultants of Phoenix, which worked to create the healthiest indoor environment possible while helping to conserve resources in the building. Green Ideas’ president Charlie Popeck will discuss what it takes to meet LEED certification standards

TED SIMONS: Tonight's look at Arizona sustainability focuses on LEED certification. The Adelante Healthcare Facility in Peoria was recently granted LEED gold-level certification for commercial interiors. This after meeting certain environmental standards. The project on the existing building was managed by green ideas sustainability consultants of Phoenix. Green ideas' president Charles Popeck is here to discuss what it takes to meet LEED certification standards. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon."

CHARLES POPECK: Thank you, Ted.

TED SIMONS: We talk a lot about LEED certified this and LEED certified that. It sounds great, there's platinum, gold, silver, what are we talking about?

CHARLES POPECK: There's four levels of LEED certification and LEED is a point based system. So the bottom level, certified level, you get more points, you can get to silver, then gold, then platinum. So a lot of people think you have to earn all these points and do all these crazy green things but really you only pick the points that make environmental sense and financial sense for your project.

TED SIMONS: Now, the Adelante healthcare facility, we have a shot of this from the exterior and a couple of shots from the interior as well but what is this place all about?

CHARLES POPECK: Adelante has made a commitment to sustainability and LEED and green building really makes sense for healthcare projects. Healthy people and healthy buildings, you know. So Adelante really focused on the interiors of this building so they're using low emitting carpeting, paints, glues, adhesives, they're eliminating the source of contaminants and things that make people sick, and then they're bringing more fresh air ventilation through the building, providing views to the outdoors in order to make their patients recover.

TED SIMONS: It sounds like it ought to be required, forget the LEED, make it required.

CHARLES POPECK: You would think so.

TED SIMONS: You tried to preserve the building's resources, as well.

CHARLES POPECK: This was a renovation in a little existing strip mall so what LEED for commercial interiors is, it's a tenant improvement LEED. So no matter what your building looks like, if it's an existing shell, you can go in and do the tenant improvement like Adelante did and that building can now be LEED C.I. commercial interior certified.

TED SIMONS: I would imagine there has to be some projects where you look at it and go let's start all over again.

CHARLES POPECK: It's true and most of our projects are new construction but as I said there are -- for instance, there's LEED for existing buildings, not the greatest building, it should be called LEED for facility management and this is what companies like Intel have done because that's where you get the most bang for your buck in green building, it's not the first building, and then you're green forever. It's in the operation and maintenance of your facility for the next 10, 20, 50 years, that's where you save the money.

TED SIMONS: When you're green, you've got to stay green, you can't be fading off into another color. The Garmin corporate center campus, what are we looking at here?

CHARLES POPECK: That building was also gold level certified and nearly net zero energy. I believe they're saving about 98% on their energy costs because they installed solar on the project.

TED SIMONS: New building?

CHARLES POPECK: Brand-new building yes sir.

TED SIMONS: And now, Intel has a campus building that were involved with as well? Tell us about this building.

CHARLES POPECK: The Intel project was LEED for existing buildings, which is the facility management so they implemented that sustainable facility management program for the whole campus. And so it uses all the same fundamentals of the green building, you're treating your site with respect, keeping your storm water on your site, you're saving energy, saving water and creating environments that are healthy for people, so that Intel project ended up getting a LEED gold also, and it's the largest LEED E.B. certified facility in the world and the most complicated building to ever achieve that certification.

TED SIMONS: I would think the Phoenix convention center, which is another building you were involved with, that would strike me as being quite the complex project, as well.

CHARLES POPECK: Well, it is but you know, when you're thinking about the chip manufacturer versus a convention center, there's a lot of complicated machinery in that Intel and Phoenix Convention Center, just the west building was LEED certified, not the remainder of the facility.

TED SIMONS: Beautiful building we're looking at right now. It's a gorgeous facility.

CHARLES POPECK: It is high end.

TED SIMONS: You talked about low emitting materials, air quality obviously, a factor. Janitorial program. I would imagine you've got to watch what you're cleaning, correct?

CHARLES POPECK: Huge, huge. It's the same with paints and glues and adhesives. They off-gas volatile organic compounds and they continue to off-gas those VOCs for years and years but with a green cleaning program it's the same thing. The most harmful place in your home is under your kitchen sink because that's typically where people keep their cleaning fluids, right? So you've got to clean a building anyway, so why not use the right kind of chemicals instead of the wrong kind that can make people sick? And that's another thing Adelante did.

TED SIMONS: Adelante was also big with the low flow plumbing fixtures and fittings, those sorts of things. How big a deal is that?

CHARLES POPECK: It's a big deal especially in Arizona and LEED continues to evolve, like in prior versions of LEED there was no minimum set for water efficiency but in the current version of LEED, you need to save at least 30% below a baseline on your energy. The more water you save, the more points you earn, the higher level of LEED certification.

TED SIMONS: Could the rating scale change again?

CHARLES POPECK: It has changed. We're currently on version 3 but version 4 of LEED was just introduced last year so if you were doing a new building say today, you have a choice of choosing version 3 or version 4 so they give you a little bit of a leeway there before they implement the more stringent requirements because it keeps getting tougher and tougher and tougher.

TED SIMONS: How tough is it to convince some of these business owners, these corporations that making these kinds of changes, retrofitting or starting new, makes good business sense?

CHARLES POPECK: It can be very difficult because we are a first cost mentality society. We want to know what's it going to cost us to building that building or buy that car. We don't often look at life cycle costs and that's why as I said earlier with the LEED for existing buildings, it not only looks your first costs but it looks at the costs throughout time so it's not just what you're spending. It's what are you getting for what you're spending? And a lot of times it doesn't have to cost any more even up front but the real savings is over time.

TED SIMONS: And are people getting that? Do they understand that?

CHARLES POPECK: Unfortunately, it's an uphill battle. I do like the education part of green building because when you see the lightbulbs go off over people's head, when they start to get it it really makes sense but if you don't understand what we're trying to do, it's just an additional first cost that people don't understand.

TED SIMONS: I was going to say, the reaction after the construction is done uniformly above? Does anybody have a question or problem? What kind of reaction do you get?

CHARLES POPECK: From the businesses?

TED SIMONS: Yeah.

CHARLES POPECK: Once they do it once or twice and they see their bills coming in that can be half or less of what they could have been, they start to get it just like Adelante. This is the second project we've done for them. We did two for Intel, two for general dynamics and all these companies plan to do more.

TED SIMONS: Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

CHARLES POPECK: Thanks for having me.

Charles Popeck: Green Ideas' president

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