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LEED, GreenPoint address greenhouse gases and water use

NORTH BAY – The two green-building standards several local governments use are set to undergo major changes this year.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, rating system developed by the Washington-based U.S. Green Building Council is used as a benchmark for commercial projects in local green-building ordinances. New checklists for LEED 2009 are scheduled to be released by this spring.

Laurie Gilmer, a project manager and mechanical engineer in the Santa Rosa office of Facilities Engineering Associates, is awaiting the release, which will detail the council’s new emphasis on greenhouse-gas reduction and use of building commission studies, a specialty of the firm, in doing so. “We have a lot of questions and not many resources at this point,” she said.

A big change in LEED 2009 is the alignment of points in the existing LEED rating systems – Existing Buildings, Core & Shell, New Construction, Schools, Healthcare, Retail, Commercial Interiors and Homes. For example, “energy and atmosphere” points in one version of a rating checklist previously may not have equated to energy points in another system.

Now all the rating systems would have a total number of 110 points. Because of the priority the council has put on greenhouse-gas reduction, 32 percent of the points relate to “energy and atmosphere” versus 24 percent in the current version.

Yet while energy use is getting more attention in LEED 2009, water management has more emphasis in version 4 of Berkeley-based Build It Green’s GreenPoint rating system, which local green-building ordinances often reference for residential projects. It is scheduled to replace the current version 3.7 in August in conjunction with updated California building codes.

Public comment on the GreenPoint update is set to run from March to April, according to Program Manager Tenaya Asan. New to the GreenPoint system are provisions for stormwater management, a model water-budget ordinance that calls for submetering of irrigation and less toxic off-gassing allowed indoors from paints and adhesives.

“We’re worried about water in Sonoma County and in California in general this year for sure,” said Josh Earell, a LEED-accredited architect with Dwellsol in Santa Rosa.

To be sure, LEED 2009 has a prerequisite for 30 percent water conservation, but some local green-building experts are looking to the four new regional “bonus” points that local council chapters can determine to encourage greater water savings.

As part of the update to the GreenPoint system, Build It Green has dropped credit for some increases in home ventilation and energy efficiency that are part of the new building codes taking effect this year. While the changes would make a home built in Roseville that earned 100 points eligible for only 89, the differences in climate in Petaluma would knock off only two points of the 72 for which Delco Builders’ Southgate development was eligible, according to a Feb. 4 analysis by Build It Green.

As more local governments adopt green-building ordinances or increase requirements under existing ones, they may start facing conflicts with existing design policies, according to Mr. Earell.

“One of the typical problems I run into with design review is with design overlays that require a classic look,” he said.

For example, getting the full number of energy-efficiency points can require more windows than would be allowed in a historic district, Mr. Earell noted.