Fin MacDonald

Information on me and my current projects

Category Archives: LEED EB:O&M

Robinson Place wins 2016 Canadian Consulting Engineering Award

Robinson Place in Peterborough Ontario became the first government building in Canada to earn the prestigious LEED Platinum certification in August of 2014.  The building was awarded certification using the LEED for Existing Building: Operations and Maintenance (EBOM) rating system.  Morrison Hershfield were the consulting engineers responsible for sustainability, retro-commissioning, and mechanical/electrical design.  My role on this project was to develop and implement a strategy to achieve LEED Platinum certification.  The building had a number of impressive features including:

  • Green roof
  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Storm water retention cistern and pond
  • Energy star score of 89
  • Community garden
  • Recreated natural habitat

The building was awarded a Canadian Consulting Engineering Award on October 25, 2016.  This was not the first award Robinson Place has won either.  The list of awards includes:

  • 2016 Canadian Consulting Engineering Award of Excellence
  • 2016 Consulting Engineers Ontario Award of Excellence
  • 2015 CaGBC Greater Toronto Chapter Existing Building Innovation Award

More information on Robinson Place is available here.

robinson-place-acec-award

Robinson Place Project Team

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Robinson Place

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What Makes LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations + Maintenance So Great?

I have been working on an existing building that is targeting LEED Platinum for the past few months.  I believe that the greenest building is one that is already built.  This rating system allows existing buildings to certify as green by making their operations as sustainable as possible.  This is my first LEED EBOM project, and I’ve noticed 3 great improvements between this rating system and the one for new construction.

The first big improvement I see is that most of the credits are based on actual performance rather than modeled or estimated performance.  This rating system has an advantage because the building has already been built, but that doesn’t make it less great.  Some of the areas you see this with are the energy consumption, water consumption, light pollution, and alternative transportation credits.

The second big improvement is that tenants are engaged in the process.  In a new construction job most LEED work is done before the tenants move in, but in LEED EBOM your success depends on them.  Tenant purchases, commuting behavior, energy and water use, recycling and waste habits, and overall comfort all have an effect on how many credits the building earns.  By involving the tenants you also get the opportunity to educate them on the affects their decisions can have on the buildings sustainability.  LEED EBOM has the profound ability to affect behavior!

The third big improvement is that certification is not for the life of the building, as it is with a LEED for New Construction building.  LEED for Existing Buildings certification is only good for up to 5 years.  At this point the building needs to re-certify in order to keep their plaque on the wall.  This means they have to keep up the good work!  The building is also able to try for additional credits every time it recertifies, and there is the opportunity to recertify at a higher level than before.  This encourages continuous improvement.

I have only been working on the job with LEED EBOM for the past couple months, but I’m sure I will find more things I like about the rating system as I go on.  I’m looking forward to more exciting and engaging LEED EBOM projects.

Canada’s Newest LEED AP

Today marks a big achievement for me. I passed my LEED Accredited Professional exam with the Existing Building Operations and Maintenance (O+M) specialty. I have been studying for this exam off and on for almost a year now. My college exams and the European exchange trip I was on caused some major delays in writing. I put a big push on in the last couple of weeks to be able to write this before my summer vacation starts next week.

This is what the Green Building Certification Institute who manages the certification has to say about it:

“The LEED AP Building Operations + Maintenance credential demonstrates the exceptional expertise of green building professionals implementing sustainable practices, improving performance, heightening efficiency and reducing environmental impact in existing buildings through enhanced operations and maintenance. Those who hold the LEED AP O+M credential are vanguards in their industry, transforming the built environment and possessing thorough knowledge of the LEED rating systems and their implementation.”

The exam was very challenging and required memorization and application of a wide range of information. The reference guide for LEED O+M is over 700 pages long and the pass mark on the exam is 85%.

There are a huge amount of buildings that have been constructed over recent years to the LEED standard, but this deals with construction only. How these buildings are operated is exclusive of that. Buildings that were constructed to LEED standards are eligible for LEED O+M, but so are buildings that were not built to LEED standards. Raising the bar on our existing building stock is a big step towards a greener built environment.

I’m looking forward to applying my new credentials in the work place. I believe the next wave of LEED work will be for existing buildings. I am particularly interested in the greening of existing schools because of the impacts of green buildings on learning. I plan to seek out opportunities to improve the learning environment for students.

Fin MacDonald, LEED AP O+M

Sustainable Purchasing Policy

I drafted a Sustainable Purchasing Policy for my Campus’ Student Association and it was successfully approved by council this week. The policy sets guidelines that can be followed to ensure that items purchased have as little effect on the environment as possible. The goal is to reduce the waste we generate, support manufacturers who use recycled content, and support local businesses.

The policy clearly states that it is a guideline and that it does not need to be followed. This is to ensure that the Student’s Association is able to function in its role. The policy is in place to get people thinking about how the purchasing choices  they make can effect the environment. In my role as the VP of Finance I track and report all purchases, and with this new policy in place I will also be tracking which purchases meet the criteria set forth. We will measure our performance based on the percentage of purchases that are sustainable. There is currently no minimum threshold that we need to achieve, but over time we may adopt an acceptable standard.

The purchasing policy was drafted using the LEED Operations and Maintenance guide as a template and it meets the requirements of Materials and Resources Prerequisite #1. Under LEED O&M a sustainable purchasing policy is mandatory, and you get extra points if you follow it. I feel that just by having one in place people are likely to follow it, and by not making in mandatory you are far more likely to have it adopted by building managers.

I have uploaded a copy of the purchasing policy here.

Sustainable Transportation at my Campus

This week at my campus is Sustainable Transportation Awareness Week. I am on the executive of the student association and I am organizing this event. This week we are giving out prizes to encourage people to use sustainable transportation. I am also using the event as a learning exercise for LEED for Existing Buildings. The event kicked off on Friday with a transportation survey. The survey meets the requirements of LEED EB:O&M Sustainable Sites Credit #4. Normally there would be a mandatory minimum number of responses to the survey but we don’t have the authority to make it mandatory. We are also only sending it out on one day, instead of for an entire week like LEED requires. The survey should give us an idea of the times of commutes that students and staff take. We will be giving out a cash prize to one randomly selected person who responds to the survey.

Every day this week you can be entered into a second draw if you use sustainable transportation to get to school. We will accept walking, cycling, or any other non-motorized transportation. Also accepted are hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles, and carpools of 3 or more people in a traditional vehicle.

On Friday of next week we will be doing “Crazy but Safe Sustainable Transportation Day.” We will be giving a prize out to one random person who uses an unconventional method of transportation to get to school. Some examples might be roller skates, skip-it, or stilts. This day is designed to bring awareness to the need for sustainable transportation, and to be fun.

The student association executive at our campus this year is made up entirely of students in the Energy Sustainability Engineering Technology program. I expect that we will have several new green events over the course of the year.

The results of our transportation survey.

Let the Studying Begin: LEED AP (Operations and Maintenance)

I have started studying for my next LEED exam. I am planning to write the LEED Accredited Professional exam with the Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance specialty. It was a tough decision between this and the LEED for Homes specialty, which I still plan to earn someday. LEED Operations and Maintenance is a rating system that certifies that an existing building is operated and maintained in an environmentally sustainable way. This differs from the other LEED rating systems that deal with the construction of the building only.

Buildings that certify under the Operations & Maintenance program need to stay current, and re-certify at least every five years. Buildings earn credits in the following categories:
– Sustainable Sites
– Water Efficiency
– Energy and Atmosphere
– Materials and Resources
– Indoor Environmental Quality
– Innovation in Design

The key areas of difference are the Energy and Atmosphere and Indoor Environmental Quality. Building energy systems need to be commissioned regularly to make sure they are working the way that they were originally intended too. This is often not done once, let alone every 5 years. Buildings can also earn points for using environmentally friendly cleaning products and equipment. There is even a point available for using sustainable and local food sources for the food court or cafeteria of the building.

The reference manual for LEED EB:O&M is 542 pages long. This is significantly larger than the book for the LEED Green Associate exam. I am giving myself a year to prepare for and write this exam. I’m planning to take it slow and study hard. By the time I graduate from NSCC I plan to be a LEED AP.

Studying hard for my LEED AP exam