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Making history in present tense

Published on Written by Posted in LEED

The thing about Washington, D.C. is that it’s filled with historically significant buildings. From the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, from the Old Stone House to the Willard Hotel, it seems every building inside the District has stature, either because of its age, its design, or because history was actually made there.

So to suggest that an attractive but fairly typical office building at 1800 K Street has also earned historical status might raise a few eyebrows. But it did just that when it received its LEED certification at Greenbuild a couple of weeks ago, because it was the first building in the world to earn certification LEED for Existing Buildings certification under USGBC’s new LEED v4 rating system.

I come from the manufacturing world, where continuous improvement is simply what you do, and I have to admit I was astonished that type of thinking has only very recently been applied to buildings. Though I admit I’m prejudiced, I give LEED a lot credit for shifting the mindset of owners to this way of thinking about their building assets.

In the U.S. alone there are more than five million commercial and industrial buildings, and every day each one of them will use a little more energy and waste a little more water unless they are continuously improved. LEED gives owners a clear path to do this, and it has been a catalyst for the innovative products and services that help facility managers monitor a building’s performance in real time. The newly introduced LEED Dynamic Plaque will play a key role for existing buildings in the new rating system because it helps make the invisible – like inefficient air exchange or a leaky valve -- actionable.

I was thrilled to give the plaque to the building’s owner, Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management (formerly RREEF), a company dedicated to seeking improvement in the environmental performance of its buildings. In this case it turned to a Transwestern project team to help it achieve this important milestone. Transwestern has been at the table since the introduction of the earliest version of LEED for Existing Buildings. The company was the first to raise its hand when we needed beta projects to help us make sure v4 would be ready for prime-time at Greenbuild, and 1800 K Street nicely fit that bill.

In the process, the building at 1800 K Street made history in the present tense. And that was really something.

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    Mahesh Ramanujam made 10 contributions in the last 6 months

Mahesh Ramanujam

Chief Operating Officer U.S. Green Building Council

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