Green Design Trends: The Road To Sustainability

By Anne Cosgrove
Published in the June 2006 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Throughout history, cultures around the world have found methods to build and operate their structures in ways that did not threaten the surrounding natural environments. Over time, however, many building design and operation strategies have not been as kind. A seemingly endless supply of resources created a system in which regard for consumption of land, energy, and materials was not a high priority.

However, the tide appears to be changing as more and more building professionals seek ways to reduce the environmental footprint. Whether these efforts are called sustainable, green, eco-friendly, or high performance, the common goal is to reduce the impact a building and its site has on the resources and occupants of the earth.

As this trend continues to gain momentum, facility professionals taking action toward sustainable goals have numerous sources to consult. This presents the task of distinguishing reliable sources from the others. Once those sources have been identified, the other part of the sustainable journey is to decide what measures to take first, second, and so on.

As part of this planning, some facility professionals work within specified guidelines created by organizations offering certification of achievements. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is one such organization. When the Council launched its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for existing buildings (EB) in 2004, it marked the introduction of a certification tool focused exclusively on existing facilities. (The Council’s first rating system—LEED-NC released in 2000—addresses certification for new construction.)

As of March 2006, 26 buildings had been certified under LEED-EB; 157 additional buildings were registered to pursue certification. In contrast, under LEED-NC, 337 projects have been certified, and 2,969 are registered. Taking into account the later release of EB, those certifications are still substantially less than NC. Is there something inherently different about what the end users of each of the certifications require to be successful?

TFM spoke with several facility managers, members of the magazine’s Green Building Advisory Board, and the LEED-EB experts from USGBC to address these issues.

How does your organization define sustainability? What are the guiding principles and goals?

Baker: We look at sustainability as part of our operational parameters. Armstrong recognizes the importance of protecting the environment and using resources intelligently. We are committed to exercising environmental stewardship in our dealings with customers, employees, government, and community and in meeting our obligation to future generations. Our overall goal is to make sure our objectives and activities as a corporation are in harmony with the natural world around us.

As part of our daily operations, we try to look at the products that we use within our buildings; this includes the life cycle of those products and what we can do to recycle them as we bring in new products. As an interior finishes company, it’s important for us to demonstrate how we use our products throughout our own spaces. We can then pass that information on to our customers.

Our corporate center in Lancaster, PA was completed in 1998, and we continue to maintain the assets we incorporated then. For instance, we continually update our building controls system. We focus on creating a good indoor environment, which includes lighting efficiencies, time of day controls, and HVAC controls. We were fortunate when we designed the building that we incorporated many of those design ideas from the start.

Carron: JohnsonDiversey, as part of the SC Johnson family of companies, has a long history of sustainable business practices and achievements. The principles that form the basis are captured in a corporate document entitled “This We Believe,” which was first articulated by one of the founders of the company back in the 1920s. Over the years, actions have included planting Carnuba palms as a renewable raw material resource in the 1930s to the voluntary, unilateral early elimination of CFCs in the product line in the 1970s to the construction of LEED-certified facilities.

JohnsonDiversey’s current sustainability program is called “Responsible Solutions.” This corporate program impacts everything we do from product development through manufacturing through resource use through program development for our customers, employee well being, community development and involvement, financial performance, and ethical behavior. When we apply this program to our facilities, I look at the things we are procuring, the environment we’re providing our employees, and how we manage our assets for total life cycle costs and energy efficiency.

Reeve: We define sustainability as meeting the needs of the present without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Even before the word became popular, sustainability was a part of our culture in terms of energy efficiency, as well as material choices and construction practices.

That really evolved and became much more organized in 2000 when we adopted sustainable design guidelines for our school district. These guidelines were in concert with our technical and educational specifications and more fully defined sustainability for us. That led us to earn LEED for New Construction (NC) silver certification for our Fossil Ridge High School in 2005.

Poudre School District has updated its Sustainable Design Guidelines since 2000, with the newest adaptation in 2005. It’s a reflection of the evolution of how our schools are moving forward.

There are many sources for guidance, including Energy Smart Schools, Green Globes, and CHPS [California High Performance Schools]. Now LEED is also a piece of the puzzle and is in our toolbox when we embark on remodeling or building a new facility.

Also, it’s not just about new construction or remodeling anymore. Our approach encompasses existing practices, which has evolved into our school district embracing a Sustainability Management System to track our environmental footprint. This relates to the materials we purchase all the way to how business travel is conducted. We have a green team to look at how we can continue to grow our sustainability efforts.

Bullock: Sustainability can have a number of definitions, but as we have gone through the LEED-EB journey, a few things have become very clear to us. First of all, as an educational institution with a large visitor population, the Getty has public exposure to people from all over the world. We also have a very important relationship with our neighbors in the Greater Los Angeles area. The Getty occupies approximately 800 acres, 110 of which are developed. Our consumption of resources—from water to natural gas to electricity—affects the entire area.

We also want to make sure we’re purchasing the right products. The LEED-EB process has helped us do that. The concept of being proactive and demonstrating that we are conscious of trying to do the right things has really helped us in numerous respects, many of which are intangible.

There are numerous ways to implement sustainable practices. What are some of the overall practices you employ in your facilities?

Baker: Two major things we focus on at our corporate headquarters campus are energy conservation and the development of procurement standards.

In terms of energy conservation, we look at our entire campus and consider what we can do to create high performance buildings. Part of this is continuous evaluation of the control systems in order to provide an indoor environment that enhances employee productivity while saving as much energy as possible.

Another major aspect is the development of building standards for procurement. This involves a wide variety of products, including furniture systems, HVAC equipment, and lighting. When we go out for competitive bids for renovations we use those standards to be consistent in how we procure products and services and at the same time modify our standards to reflect sustainability guidelines as outlined in the USGBC Reference Guide.

Bullock: Three areas come to mind in terms of implementation. First, we’ve done many things to reduce energy, including lighting retrofits. We’ve also addressed how to reduce the energy used by the large motors in our systems.

One notable project was the installation of a carbon monoxide detection system in our two main parking structures. The fans in those structures ran all the time; these large 75 horsepower fans were running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. By putting in a carbon monoxide monitoring system, we’ve significantly reduced the runtime on those fans to four hours per day.

Also, our electrical shop is very proactive. The electricians in the field come back to their supervisors and say, “Why don’t we reduce the lighting in this space? Or, maybe we should turn off the lights in the library earlier, because no one is in there after a certain time.”

We’ve done a lot to reduce water consumption. We have a very large area to water in order to maintain the landscape. We have several thousand Coastal Live Oaks planted around the site. We found we were overwatering the trees, and they weren’t as healthy as they could be. By reducing watering on the hillsides, we’ve reduced our costs and improved the health of the trees.

Finally, as part of the LEED-EB process, we are recommissioning our plant facilities including our boilers, chillers, and the building management system connected to that equipment. It has been nearly 10 years since the Getty Center opened to the public, and we think it’s time to look at discharge air temperatures, how much outside air we are bringing in, and how we can be more efficient with new technology.

Carron: In my conversations with many facility managers, I think sustainability programs in general are driven by cost and by regulatory issues. From a cost standpoint, just about everyone has some level of energy conservation program in place, because it is a large cost line item on their expense statements, and it is somewhat controllable both on the supply and demand side. Facility managers have a key role to play in that.

On the regulatory side, one of the things that just about everyone has is a waste management program. Though this will vary from facility to facility, whether it be a solid waste management program with recycling or whether it includes things like hazardous waste, nearly everyone has some type of waste management program in place.

We had those programs in place here, but when we became aware of the LEED-EB program, it opened our eyes to a whole new world. It’s a very comprehensive program and offers a lot in terms of green procurement and operations and maintenance practices. We use LEED-EB as our continuous improvement program in numerous areas.

Hall: Many of our strategies have led into each other over time. In the mid 90s, we started on a pretty aggressive energy management program. As we developed that strategy, the implementation of the green team led to the integrated approach with guidelines using the technical and educational specifications that we have now.

From there, we’ve expanded into the utilities management role, understanding it’s not just energy per se. It’s also water conservation through irrigation management strategies; it’s solid waste management through recycling.

One aspect we’ve really enjoyed is educating the students. We have an outreach into the schools called the Energy Rebate Program that’s very successful. We have about 20 schools on board, and a rebate goes back to those schools that encourage energy and utility conservation. It has been very successful, and the Sustainability Management Systems we’ve embarked on validate what the multiple departments in business services do on a daily basis to provide for a sustainable environment. For us, it’s getting the buy in of our constituents, our customers, and our administration.

Baker: Prior to reviewing and understanding the LEED criteria, facility management’s selection of products was based on previous experience with the product, its reliability, consistency of material components, and the training/repair aspects for efficient maintenance. Those criteria continue to be reviewed; however, moving forward, we are continuously improving the material/product selection criteria to meet the sustainability standards as outlined in the USGBC Reference Guide.

In reference to third party involvement, we look at the overall company and its total actions in the environmental area. Important product attributes are recycled content, the materials that go into their products, how the products are designed, and moving to more of a life cycle viewpoint versus single attributes.

The other important standard is if a company practices extended producer responsibility. In other words, does it have a process to recycle its products at the end of their useful life?

Carron: We use the LEED-EB rating system as our guideline for facility O&M purchases. LEED uses third party certification programs, such as Green Seal, as one way to assure the products meet sustainability requirements.

Life cycle expectations are also always considered in our procurement practices. We recently went through a filter change on our major HVAC systems. We searched for filters that meet the LEED specifications for MERV 13. Although these had a higher first cost, they are expected to last twice as long, solved some of our minor operational problems, and remarkably have reduced the variable fan speed required to maintain the duct static pressure. Reduced energy use, less solid waste generation, higher filtration performance, and lower maintenance attention have made this replacement a win-win for the company, and we may not have developed this proposition if it were not for the LEED requirements as our starting point.

Bullock: Third party certification does make a difference. We have recently taken steps to obtain new carpeting that meets the CRI [The Carpet and Rug Institute] Green Label and carpet testing program requirements. We also use Green Seal cleaners (GS-37) and disposable janitorial paper products that comply with U.S. EPA Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines.

What information sources about sustainable practices are useful to you?

Bullock: One thing that helped me was to attend a presentation on LEED-EB. It piqued my interest, because we were doing the sorts of things the presenter spoke about.

When I returned to the office and talked to the people who would be dealing with this—the “champions” as we call them—I came to realize that we could do it, but we’d need some help. We hired a consultant, and that was another key aspect. The money you spend to have a consultant that really knows LEED is money extremely well spent.

A consultant can also keep you on track. In my opinion, if you try to do it alone, the schedule will keep getting pushed out further and further. If you set guidelines and deadlines and adhere to them, you’re more likely to succeed. We had artificial deadlines imposed upon us, and that’s what led us through the process on a much quicker timeline than what would have normally occurred. [Bullock’s team initiated the certification application process in October 2004 and was awarded LEED-EB for the Getty Museum in February 2005.]

One of the advantages of consultants is not only do they know the guidelines; they also have an ability to work closely with the USGBC when it comes to the discussion of certain achievements. For instance, we had discussions early on about mercury content in fluorescent bulbs and also the fact that museums don’t fit Energy Star criteria very well. Those are conversations that we could not have conducted successfully on our own.

Reeve: Our partnerships have helped our efforts substantially. We work with the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and its Energy Star program, and our state office of energy management, to name a few. Those continue to be sources of information for us.

The partnerships have also been valuable simply for feedback. These relationships have become a national network for us, and we’re constantly looking for opportunities to learn more about the progress being made around the country with proven success.

Gatlin: One thing we’ve heard from our EB users and registered project facility managers is that EB is a useful roadmap for implementing sustainability, because it’s comprehensive but not prescriptive. We like to think of LEED-EB as a roadmap for implementing sustainable practices in buildings.

Because it is so comprehensive, LEED’s initial documentation might prompt the use of a consultant. However, that does not mean the only route is through hiring a third party consultant to do the submittals. We’re also hearing from people that their existing service and product providers can be good resources as well.

One of the benefits reported to us is that the breakdown of main categories in LEED—whether it’s energy efficiency, water conservation, green cleaning, or materials—helps with the formation of high performance teams in those key areas to help implement sustainability. I think those teams can and should include the service and product vendors that are already working with facility managers on an ongoing basis. This can also help to channel up the efforts in those relationships into an overall framework.

Baker: I agree. At our campus, we have partnered with Johnson Controls for a number of the control system changes, and the company has been very helpful in the LEED-EB arena with input associated with controls and documentation. It has definitely moved the relationship forward.

Carron: We have found along the way that because it’s such a new standard, LEED-EB and its specific requirements still demand explanation even for companies that have had good sustainability practices for a long time. For instance, in our furniture procurement, we work with several companies highly regarded for their environmental practices, but when it comes to extracting the information from them that’s necessary to report against LEED-EB, there’s a significant complication around the definitions of the requirements.

Similarly, in the case of local vendors that we use for minor renovation work—carpeting or carpentry, for instance—we ask them to align to LEED-EB and green practices, and they think they know it. But if for example, we ask about the VOC content of their adhesives, sometimes they don’t know and have to go back to the books on it.

Not all vendors are created equal in this. There are some great leaders in the industry, but there are a number of companies that still need to be educated.

Bullock: For the most part, our product and service providers have been very helpful. We’ve had very good success with our waste management contractor. There’s a large market for construction waste here in California. We also have had really good luck with our custodial contractor and the supplies being used for cleaning. They were more than happy to give us the right type of cleaning items from paper towels all the way down to the sprays used. We also just had a very good session with a carpet supplier to develop a specification for us for green carpeting.

Gatlin: Increasingly, we’re seeing people specify either some or all of an EB upgrade in their RFPs [Request For Proposals]. Perhaps in those ongoing relationships as facility managers re-bid out work, whether on energy services or other areas, they can consider specifying it in those RFPs.

von Paumgartten: Whereas the infrastructure for delivery for LEED-NC is the architect and design community, the delivery infrastructure for LEED-EB is just beginning to form.

Smith: To that point, the mistake sometimes made is believing that LEED-EB is simply an extension of LEED-NC. And we wonder why it isn’t getting into the market just as fast as LEED-NC. In fact, isn’t it a different delivery mechanism altogether, a different group of people to educate, and a different way to market? We shouldn’t necessarily presume that we can entirely capitalize on the education of the architects and designers that was so critical in launching LEED-NC.

Gatlin: It is a very different delivery. There are different suppliers in the supply channels.

To that point, I’ll mention the current top three categories of improvement in LEED-EB projects. The first is water use reduction; 95% of projects have at least 10% water use reduction. The next is improved energy efficiency; right now the average Energy Star score is 83 for all the EB certified buildings. Green cleaning is another; 100% of all EB version 2.0 certified buildings employ green cleaning strategies.

Those three areas do not fall under the umbrella of architectural work. Those areas are part of ongoing equipment management and operations. So, again, it’s working with product suppliers, the energy service companies, retrocommissioning services firms, and so on.

Bullock: That’s right on the button. Earlier, as we were talking about the difference between NC and EB, someone said that NC was an event in time, while EB is really a journey. And as you go through the journey, the momentum should build. As we look toward recertification and going to the next level, it’s important to get people passionate about it.

What are the challenges of LEED-EB? Why do you think some facility managers don’t pursue certification?

Bullock: I made a presentation at a conference a while back, and some attendees told me they were concerned about the cost. They don’t have it in their budget and can’t afford the costs involved.

Again, if you can’t get that support from your boss and can’t convince him or her that this is a worthwhile effort to spend $20,000 or $30,000 or $40,000, you may not be able to make much progress.

Some people may find they can get certified without having to do a lot of retrofits. In our case, we didn’t have to spend a lot of money fixing things in terms of hardware. Our efforts were mainly around recordkeeping, record gathering, and documentation.

There’s a certain fear, I think, that it’s going to cost too much. Also, many want guarantees on the payback.

In pursuing certification, when I did need to spend capital dollars, I was required to look at payback depending on the size of the project. For instance, if we’re going to make a major retrofit to our HVAC system, that would be a capital project for which we’d have to demonstrate some kind of a payback. But, if it’s a retrofit of LEDs for exit lamps, for instance, that’s something that we can budget for within facilities.

Gatlin: Looking at the LEED-EB certified projects overall, the upgrades to achieve certification come in at around a two year payback. However, many of the items, even on the energy performance side, can be done at no upfront cost through changes to operations and maintenance practices.

Arny: One of the things that a lot of people see as a revelation—and this goes back to seeing LEED-EB as a journey—is that with EB you can do all of the low cost and no cost things now and essentially set up policies that address your capital improvements if and when they happen. Essentially, it’s a plan for how you spend your capital dollars in a way that’s compatible with LEED. When you look at it that way, the fear of capital improvement requirements is mitigated, because you know how you’re going to do a project if and when you get the money, but you don’t need to do it today.

What can vendors, associations, and TFM do to encourage facility managers to adopt more sustainable practices in purchasing and operational strategies?

Arny: I’ve done a lot of work with facility managers both in our work with USGBC and earlier work with performance contractors. One of the things that has really struck me as important to facility managers—and this is probably true for all professions—is they need to hear over and over again how their peers are successfully implementing this and how it’s benefitting them. Until they feel that their peers have done this and prospered, it’s really hard to develop the momentum to move forward to do something new.

Baker: There needs to be an awareness of what the successes are. Facility managers, on a day to day basis, have many, many things to do, and this is just one more thing. There is a benefit to doing, it but the awareness of the benefits is key.

Bullock: I would be interested in hearing more from the major utilities providers. Here in Los Angeles, the Department of Water and Power does a great job of promoting green power, but LEED is not specifically discussed. It may be that they address it, but it doesn’t get to my level. If major utilities providers stressed the benefits of LEED certification, because they’re going to save energy and water, maybe that would give us as facility managers additional impetus.

For more information on the activities of the facility managers featured in this article, visit their organizations’ Web sites at;;; and