Q&A: LEED Platinum Recertification Project

LEED certificationIn September 2014, Armstrong World Industries earned LEED Platinum recertification from the U.S. Green Building Council for its headquarters facility in Lancaster, PA. The facility (also known as Building 701) is the first in Pennsylvania, and among 17 buildings globally, to achieve recertification at the Platinum level possible under the LEED EB+OM (Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance) program.

In 2007, the building earned Platinum certification under the LEED Existing Building v2.0 program. This most recent certification involved 127,100 square feet being awarded LEED Platinum under the 2009 version of the LEED EB+OM rating system,

TFM recently spoke with Jim Baker, facilities management director for Armstrong, about the recertification effort and the results.

Photo of Jim Baker, facilities management director for Armstrong World Industries
Jim Baker
Facilities Management Director
Armstrong World Industries

Q: When the LEED recertification process began for the Armstrong Headquarters facility (Building 701), how did you and the rest of the team begin evaluating the status of the building, in terms of its readiness to be re-certified?

A: Since our initial certification in 2007, we had established specific policies/procedures to follow for the building. We had these in place so it was more a matter of reviewing what information was needed and fine tuning some of our data processes. We continue to utilize our building automation system (Johnson Controls Metasys) for controlling all of our building systems and collect much of our operational data through that system. During our performance period, we read our data points on a more frequent basis to understand if systems were operating as designed. If readings were off, metrics signaled a physical change to be made to improve operations and data.

One surprise to our team was our Energy Star score. We realized we had some searching to do when we saw that our building score had dropped below the 90’s where it had been in 2012. However, to recertify and meet the prerequisite for the E&A category, our Energy Score needed to be 70, and we met that.

In short, our recommissioning process helped us pinpoint many opportunities for improving building operations.

Q: For the recertification, which systems or strategies were newly introduced to the facility?

A: As a building owner, you are always thinking about improving building operations along with budgeting dollars to make the changes. Items that were budgeted for 2014 that were included in our building recertification included: a new roof with an SRI (Solar Reflectance Index) of 78; LED lamp replacements in the lobby; and electrical sub-meters for building lighting.

One other item that was completed in 2010 after electrical deregulation was daylight housekeeping. We traditionally did our housekeeping from 5 pm to midnight. However, as we reviewed our electrical costs and determined a savings opportunity, we moved to daytime hours for cleaning. This saved Building 701 approximately $750 weekly in energy costs. We implemented daylight housekeeping across the entire corporate campus, saving the company $150,000 annually in energy costs.

Exterior photo of Armstrong headquarters building in Lancaster, PA
Armstrong headquarters facility in Lancaster, PA

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of running a LEED Platinum facility? And what is most rewarding?

A: The most challenging aspect of operating and maintaining a LEED- EBOM facility is making sure you have qualified and trained technicians to understand and manage the building operations.

The most rewarding aspect is meeting with customers and guests to discuss the sustainable characteristics of the building and thinking about what to budget for in the upcoming year to improve overall building operations and maintenance to reduce costs.

Q: Building 701 is the first in the U.S. to earn a recertification credit for its superior acoustic environment (having been the first commercial building in the country to earn an Innovation credit for its superior acoustic design). In 2013, Armstrong made improvements to raise the level of acoustic comfort in the open plan areas, and you were able to reduce noise and improve speech privacy further, resulting in a 29% increase in employee satisfaction. What improvements were made to raise the level of acoustic comfort in open plan areas, and how did you survey employee satisfaction?

A: During the initial certification process in 2007, superior acoustic performance was achieved largely due to the acoustical properties of the Armstrong Optima® ceiling panels installed in the open plan areas. The 1” thick fiberglass ceiling panels have a high NRC (noise reduction coefficient) of 0.90 and a high (AC) articulation class of 200.

When a 2007 UC Berkeley Center for the Built Environment (CBE) Occupant Satisfaction Survey revealed occupants were noticeably dissatisfied (-1.03) with the level of acoustic comfort, we added an electronic sound masking system and 6-foot high furniture partitions between adjoining work stations in the open plan areas. When the same online survey was repeated in 2013, occupant satisfaction with the level of acoustic comfort in the building had increased by 29 percent to +0.67.

Interior hallway of Armstrong headquarters in Lancaster, PAQ: Water management appears to be a strong focus for Armstrong. In 2007, Building 701 earned 15 of 15 points in the Water Efficiency category; for the recertification, the building earned 13 of 14 points. In terms of water conservation and efficiencies, what are some of the successes you’ve seen from the 2007 implementations, and were there any significant changes made for the recertification effort?

A: Our 2007 effort was very specific to focusing on the fixtures in all the restrooms along with recommissioning the building humidification system.

We have been maintaining those systems since 2007, so for recertification we took a closer look at our water metering devices. Our humidification sub meter was replaced due to manufacturer’s requirements, while we focused on reviewing the operation and maintenance of the building’s main water meter to make sure data was accurate.

Q: In your sustainability decisions, whether for this LEED certification or otherwise, who or what serve as resources for you (e.g., LEED consultants, peers, industry associations)? What sustainability lessons have you learned since the first certification in 2007?

A: Sustainability resources include:
• Armstrong Environmental Sustainability Manager, Anita Snader
• ReVision Architecture and Bala Engineering (which assisted with our initial certification and recertification applications)
• USGBC, which has always assisted with any of our questions through the processes
• Peer groups, such as IFMA, AFE, and USGBC, with whom we meet to share information that will improve our sustainability direction.
• Monthly periodicals, such as Today’s Facility Manager, and myfacilitiesnet.com, also serve as sustainability resources.

The main sustainability lesson we have learned since initial certification in 2007 is how critical it is to have someone on your team that understands and manages the building operations “vital signs.” Don’t assume that all building operations are fine if you don’t hear from the occupants. Have regular building operations reviews to make sure the team is on board and understands the building operations. If you decide to recertify your building, make sure you have “buy in” from your executive team and have a team that is focused on working together to meet your timeline for completing the recertification process.

(The building earned 88 out of 110 points on the LEED EB+OM Scorecard; details can be viewed at this link.)