LEED O+M: Existing Buildings v2.0
The Christman Building
LEED Platinum 2010
* This profile has been peer-reviewed by a USGBC-selected team of technical experts.
Goals and successes
What were the top overarching goals and objectives?
The goal of this LEED for Existing Buildings effort was to manage and operate the building in an as environmentally sensitive way as possible. Being the first building in the world to achieve a triple Platinum LEED certification was an added plus.
What were the motivations to pursue LEED certification and how did they influence the project?
Operating the building as efficiently and sustainably as possible was the main motivator. Achieving an additional Platinum certification for LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance, making the Christman Building the first triple-Platinum building in the world, was an added plus. Other motivators included cost-utility savings, light pollution reduction, market competitiveness, waste reduction/avoidance, the integrated design process, and organizational priority.
The Christman Company executive team committed to expanding current green housekeeping and recycling programs to comprehensive green operations company-wide program. The LEED for Existing Buildings rating system was chosen as a guide to greening the headquarters building operations, and all company operations, and then to use the certification process as a test of our success.
Aside from LEED certification, what do you consider key project successes?
Using a re-commissioning and then an ongoing commissioning process resulted in the ENERGY STAR score improving from 39 to 81 in a single year, providing a total annual net savings of $46,026 with a simple payback of total LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance Building Incremental Operating Cost of 1.4 years. Also, we achieved a lifecycle net present value of $6.44 per square foot.
What were the most notable strategies used to earn LEED credits?
The first step to improving energy performance (EA credit 1) was to benchmark the building using EPA's ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. After the utility data from the first year of operation was input, the building received an ENERGY STAR score of 39, revealing substantial room for improvement. This number was far less than the previously modeled score of 75, and fell well below the required score of 69 needed to satisfy Energy & Atmosphere prerequisite 2 for LEED for Existing Buildings certification. An extensive re-commissioning process was initiated to verify and fine-tune the operation of all energy using systems within the building. This re-commissioning was the jumping off point for many low- or no-cost solutions which drove the project forward and identified areas for improvement. During this first LEED for Existing Buildings effort, some consultants were used to assist with developing standard operating procedures and policies. Developing a building operation manual, required by EA prerequisite 1 has proven to be a valuable tool for training and day to day operations.
What unique strategies were applied specifically because of climate or region?
The way we operate our building is different to the norm in that systems are set up often with a reset schedule that adjusts the operation of components to the different climate temperature. I’ve trained our facilities person to also manually change set points for an hour or two, especially during seasons with very variable temperatures throughout the day. By fine-tuning to actual climate and occupancy, we can squeeze out an extra percentage or two of energy savings.
What considerations were integrated into the lease to support LEED certification?
Ten-year-long term leases were already negotiated with each of the three major tenants prior to the LEED for Existing Buildings certification process.
What products were most effective in helping to meet project goals?
Green cleaning products and green office supplies were particularly helpful in meeting our LEED for Existing Buildings goals.
How was the integrative process applied and what was the greatest benefit gained?
We formed a green team composed of the operations administrator, VP for IT, facility technician, marketing reps, and myself to work through which LEED credits to go for and how to implement them, and we spread the load to some extent. The operations admin focused on waste flow and food and sustainable purchasing; IT managed strategies to ensure all computers were actively turned off at certain points but could still be accessed for maintenance in the evenings; marketing ensured that everything met our marketing and publicity criteria and helped tell the LEED story in-house on our intranet. The operations admin and I had meetings with two major tenants to discuss the LEED process. When we discovered the low ENERGY STAR score, the controls contractor/technician, mechanical engineer, and I worked together on a smaller team to identify the problems; this team was composed of those with mechanical roles because most of the problems were HVAC-related.
When was energy modeling used and how effective was it?
A level-II ASHRAE energy audit was conducted in-house to identify all low- and no-cost energy saving measures, as well as measures that required capital expenditure. All utility data was entered into the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager in order to benchmark the building’s energy use.
What value did commissioning add?
Re-Commissioning and Energy Use Improvements:
The formal re-commissioning process was used to ensure that all components and the entire HVAC system were operating per the design. The primary re-commissioning team was comprised of an HVAC systems design engineer, a temperature controls technician, and the controls contractor and myself from The Christman Company. An ASHRAE Level II Energy Audit was conducted in-house to identify any low- or no-cost energy conservation measures (ECMs). The process identified that many sensors and controls were either out of calibration or were not operating properly. It was discovered that fire dampers were closed in many locations. All controls were calibrated, their operation verified, and thorough component and system level functional checks were completed. Fine-tuning of schedules and sequences of operation were also implemented, such as additional reset schedules, a morning warm-up program, and fine-tuned scheduling of equipment and building load responsive sequences of operations. Extensive trend logging was implemented to facilitate and confirm the re-commissioning efforts.
The Christman building
The server room cooling unit was identified as being over-sized due to recent IT equipment changes. Accordingly, the ten-ton unit was replaced with two 1.5-ton units. During re-commissioning, it was noted that some of the hot water piping in the under floor air distribution plenum space was not insulated, and this was corrected. The IT department purchased a network management program that enabled central control of computers and monitors, allowing this equipment to be put into a verified sleep mode when not in use.
An infrared scan was completed on the building envelope that identified substantial air leakage around the sashes of the restored 1928 windows on the west elevation. All of these windows were subsequently sealed, resulting in reduced infiltration and improved comfort conditions.
The lighting systems were investigated and unnecessary night lighting was eliminated. Lighting control schedules were refined to match actual occupancy. Occupancy sensors in private offices were reset to turn lights off after eight minutes and additional occupancy sensors were installed in seven conference rooms and offices. The lights and exhaust fan in the elevators were programmed to turn off when the elevator was unoccupied.
Approximately six months after the re-commissioning effort was completed, an ongoing commissioning process was initiated. This program includes ongoing training, calibration, and preventive maintenance on all HVAC controls and structured functional checks on all equipment on a regular basis.
As a first step in this ongoing commissioning process, Questions and Solutions Engineering was retained to remotely monitor the Niagara Tridium building management system (BMS) over an approximate one-month period in October/November 2009. Using the remote access to the BMS and the extensive trend logs previously developed, Questions & Solutions Engineering confirmed that: “In general, the systems appear to be well-conceived, programmed with energy conservation in mind, and operating as we believe they are intended to operate.” Other areas that merited additional attention were identified.
These additional improvements included:
- Controlling economizer dampers for discharge air temperature
- Implementing enthalpy economizer control
- Implementing unoccupied return fan speed control
- Resetting supply duct static pressure setpoint to match demand at VAV boxes
- Resetting chilled water differential pressure setpoint to match demand at chilled water coils
- Controlling the bypass valve to maintain a setpoint minimum differential pressure across the chiller
- Refining the hot water flow control sequence of operation
- Implementing unoccupied reheat valve control on VAV terminal units
- Implementing unoccupied setback control on VAV terminal units
- Implementing unoccupied setback control for the perimeter floor zones
The ongoing commissioning plan also uses the trend logs and actual observation to formally check the operation of all energy-consuming systems several times per year. On a daily basis, the facility technician and facility manager check all systems via the BMS to ensure they are operating with the correct parameters. All opportunities, even minor, to fine-tune systems to actual occupancy and climatic conditions are continually implemented. A scheduled preventive maintenance program for all control devices and mechanical equipment is ongoing to ensure smooth efficient operation.
What synergies impacted the project and how?
Many of the LEED for Existing Buildings credits have synergies with other credits and also make good business sense. Building exterior and hardscape management reduced the use of harmful salt run-off into storm water and reduced costs. We reduced light pollution by replacing a 250-watt flagpole light with a solar-powered LED spotlight, which reduces both costs and carbon output. Indoor plumbing fixture and fitting adjustments have reduced costs and system strain on the municipal water and waste water treatment systems; energy costs and pollution are also reduced by reducing domestic hot water use. Optimizing energy efficiency performance reduces costs and associated pollution. Purchasing renewable energy and carbon offsets encourages the growth of the renewable energy sector, reduces carbon pollution, and makes good business sense. Purchasing sustainable materials reduces waste output, encourages recycling, reduces the need for virgin materials and reduces costs. And implementing indoor air quality best management practices keeps the air fresh and clean, reduces absenteeism, and increases productivity and occupant well being.
What were the most important long- and short-term value-add strategies and what returns on investment (ROI) have been experienced or anticipated?
The biggest short-term and long-term value-add was improving the energy efficiency and making the building work better than designed. Re-commissioning and ongoing commissioning have enabled us to achieve that. People are more comfortable than they were and we’re seeing the dollar energy savings and increased ability to control our carbon footprint. Also, our renewable energy certificate cost was cut in half by doubling energy efficiency.
There were some things we decided to do, such as purchasing sustainable office products and food, that we thought would cost us more, but both cost us less. We’re saving $1,500 per year compared to what we were paying before for office products. The sustainable food doesn’t cost any more than it did previously. We selected the vendor through an interview process. During that process, vendors said they were happy we’re doing this because it confirms their desire to do food processing sustainably and we expanded their business.
During the first year of operation, we contracted out snow plowing and de-icing. As part of LEED process, we made adjustments. We replaced the use of salt with magnesium chloride to reduce environmental impact. Snowfalls less than one inch in depth are also now cleared by in-house staff using a newly-purchased ergonomic snow blower. These changes resulted in a reduction of $12,000 in annual operating costs.
Implementing retro-commissioning and then ongoing commissioning resulted in doubling the energy efficiency of the building with a simple payback of less than six months.
How is occupant behavior impacting the project’s sustainability?
Christman has helped its tenants determine which office products to purchase and who to buy from. We have also supported them in sharing catering services and provided tools for them to track their purchases. Tenants are totally on-board with sustainable purchasing. One goal of LEED for Existing Buildings is to apply standard operating procedures, which has gone well with office supplies and recycling throughout the building.
But one problem we’ve had is in the area of sustainable food. We did a fun coffee taste test in which we tested organic, fair trade coffee. Guatemalan coffee was selected, but tenants decided they didn’t like the taste and wanted a local coffee again; this may put achieving a LEED recertification credit for sustainable food in jeopardy. We also have some restaurants that provide sustainable food grown locally and organic, but we’ve found that people really like going to alternate fast food places that are unwilling to provide the documentation needed for LEED.
Beyond the project, what impacts have the LEED and green strategies had?
This project has allowed our company to expand its consulting services in the area of operations and maintenance.
What project challenges became important lessons learned?
We learned that even though a building may be designed with efficient energy-using systems and achieves two LEED Platinum certifications, that is no guarantee it will actually operate at maximum efficiency. Our greatest challenge was when we found the ENERGY STAR score to be just 39. We began LEED for Existing Buildings not even knowing if we’d be able to meet the prerequisites. We needed to double energy efficiency just to get LEED-EB certified. We went into it with faith knowing that we had a good design and construction and just needed to make it work right.
I was the LEED project administrator for the Core & Shell and Commercial Interiors projects and was also involved in the design and lifecycle cost analysis of the systems. After we finished the project, I moved onto other projects and was just an occupant of the building. But I plugged data into an energy tracking system which illustrated the opportunities for improving our efficiency and how much that could save the company. This really stood out, because people were basically comfortable from an occupant experience standpoint. We were able to re-gather the original team members – including the mechanical, controls, and electrical contractor – to work with us to fix it. It was a “big ask” to get the contractors to come back, especially since this was after the warranty labor period, but we had a long history of working together, which played a factor. Together, we reprogrammed all energy management systems; developed trend logs; and checked and serviced every control and device throughout the building. Using a formal re-commissioning process and continuous operational fine tuning, The Christman Building’s ENERGY STAR rating improved from 39 to 81 in one year, exceeding the original design goals and putting the building in the top 19th percentile of similar office buildings in the country. This clearly showed the value of re-commissioning and fine-tuning equipment operations to daily occupant and climatic conditions.
Also, we've conducted three post-occupancy surveys. Our office furniture is built-in counters and casework, and with the low-velocity under-air distribution system and perimeter heat not getting to knee space under desk, we’ve had a lot of people complain about cold legs. So we found very energy-efficient personal space heaters/foot warmers (just 250 watts) that we provide to occupants who complain about cold feet. If someone's productivity increases even just by a few percent, this far exceeds extra cents per hour to run a heater.
Analyzing the options for converting to a sustainable purchasing policy was an interesting exercise and showed that green products are readily available and can be purchased at no additional cost.
This was our company's first green cleaning contract and was competitively bid. We were concerned that the green cleaning products would not work as well and also that it would take more time and be more expensive. But we found that these concerns were unfounded. We have since developed and extended client base that are very happy with green cleaning practices.
What key moments adjusted the project’s direction or outcomes?
A key realization was that the building wasn’t performing well energy-wise as modeled and the whole team needed to go into a re-commissioning effort – this was pivotal time and an important decision to redeem the fact that it was suitable for LEED Platinum and show that LEED for Existing Buildings had measurable results. The decision to go ahead with LEED for Existing Buildings was critical, with energy as one of the drivers that got us to move in that direction.
How has this project influenced your approach to other projects?
Since this project, The Christman Company executive team has committed to implementing a comprehensive green operations company-wide program. The LEED for Existing Buildings rating system was chosen as a guide to greening the headquarters building operations, and all company operations. During construction, indoor air quality and waste management/diversion programs are now implemented as standard operating procedure on all Christman Company projects; the company typically has several dozen projects (LEED and non-LEED) in process at any time. Sustainable purchasing for ongoing consumables plus durable goods, recycling, green cleaning and energy efficiency programs have been implemented at our five regional offices. Initiatives to make all the construction project job-site trailers more energy-efficient are underway. The green initiatives implemented company-wide impact all of the 150+ employees in one or more ways on a daily basis. And after this project, we renovated an old power plant – a project that largely grew out of what they saw we could do on the Christman headquarters, and it is a very high-profile project.
Although being the first to achieve triple LEED Platinum is unquestionably a rewarding thrill for our company, it is in reality merely a by-product of our quest to provide the best possible tools and expertise to our customers in achieving their own green building and operations goals. What better way to learn how to do that than by taking ourselves (in our headquarters building) through the process, and experiencing it first-hand from an owner’s perspective?
The main takeaway that I have from Christman is the importance of re-commissioning and ensuring at a systemic level that your system is doing what you hoped it would – and addressing and rooting out the issues that are negatively impacting that performance and turning it into what you hoped it would be. We apply this to all projects now.
So, what do you think? Help us improve our new LEED project library by completing this short survey.