Sustainable By Design: On The Continuum: Life After LEED-NC

By Anne Cosgrove, TFM Managing Editor

Published in the October 2007 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

The William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, AR opened in November 2004 having earned LEED for New Construction (LEED-NC) Silver certification. In 2006, the Clinton Foundation, which oversees the property—along with National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which owns and operates the 153,779 square foot facility—decided to pursue LEED certification for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB).

The idea to pursue this certification had been a goal from the conception of the former president’s library. “The Foundation considered LEED-EB from the beginning, before the building was even a drawing,” explains Debbie Shock, director of Clinton Center operations and facilities. “[Bill] Clinton’s commitment was to construct this building with sustainability in mind, and after we did that, it became it important to manage the building in the most efficient way possible.”

The building had been operating for about two years when Shock met Michael Arny, president of the Madison, WI-based Leonardo Academy, Inc. and a member of the TFM Green Building Advisory Board. After some discussion, administrators at the Library decided to work with the Academy, a non-profit organization that provides assistance in achieving sustainability, to evaluate the facility’s operational procedures and to guide implementation of the actions needed to support pursuing the highest level of certification, Platinum.

Says Arny, “LEED-NC minimizes the construction impact and creates the opportunity for sustainable operations. But actually capturing this opportunity requires the continued effort of operating the building well over its entire useful life. LEED-EB provides a framework that helps organizations follow through on maintaining sustainable performance and continuing to improve it over time.”

Commenting on the collaboration with the Academy, Shock says, “It is difficult to pinpoint the most valuable guidance we received. The Leonardo Academy has an entire team, and Arny assigned a different person to each of us to go through the sections we needed to address. I don’t think any of us had an idea of all the different things that we could do to be more efficient that didn’t require a lot of cost. Having the Academy refocus us and give us guidance through each step was outstanding.”

The simple, low cost strategies implemented included replacing C-fold paper towel dispensers with roll dispensers to reduce the number of towels taken, placing walk off mats inside the front door, and mulching mowed grass instead of bagging it. “Those were simple things that weren’t cost prohibitive,” notes Shock, “but it made us pay more attention to doing the right thing.”

Working toward LEED-EB Platinum also required the Library to address items of larger scope. For instance, the facility created a sustainable site management policy and tracking system to earn two points. Due to the focus on sustainability during original construction, many of the components to create a plan were in place; the facility staff simply needed to organize, fine tune, and document performance.

In other areas, it was a matter of recommissioning existing equipment to confirm that those items met LEED-EB requirements. Steve Samford, LEED AP, facility manager with NARA at the Library, explains, “Our equipment was commissioned during the LEED-NC process. So when we needed to recommission those items, it was not very difficult, since they had been operating at peak levels.” In another instance related to existing systems, the performance of water saving, low flow fixtures in the restrooms was verified as meeting LEED-EB requirements for water use reduction.

In the realm of energy, the Library stepped up efforts to procure it from renewable sources by deciding to purchase renewable energy certificates (RECs) to offset 100% of its energy use and resulting emissions over the next two years. This doubled the amount of RECs the Library had purchased during the preceding two years.

The Library’s recycling program was also improved. By conducting a waste audit, the team identified opportunities to increase effectiveness. “We greatly improved our recycling program,” says Samford “We’ve increased the types of materials we recycle, and my operations and maintenance team now tracks and records the amounts sent to the recycler.”

Shock and Samford also needed to ensure that policies and procedures for purchasing and maintenance met requirements set out by LEED-EB. “Leonardo Academy helped us create tracking forms for our green purchases,” says Shock. “We had forms for this already, but the new forms made the process easier.”

The Library also adopted green cleaning in pursuit of LEED-EB certification. “That was a significant change for us,” says Samford. “We implemented policies and procedures for using green products, and now 100% of our cleaning products are environmentally friendly.”

Samford emphasizes involving staff members and vendors in the facility’s ongoing move toward sustainability. “It is important to provide necessary training and encourage facility personnel to get enthusiastic about the changes,” he says. “It is also crucial to get staff members on board; they have a continual role in ensuring we have a green building.”

The public nature of the Clinton Library motivated the team to ensure that the message of sustainability would be communicated to visitors. As such, a small educational display is being created to showcase the green aspects of the facility’s construction and operations. “We put a lot of thought into how to make our sustainable efforts a public awareness piece,” says Shock. This move is also expected to earn a credit in the Innovation in Operations, Upgrades and Maintenance category.

Moving Closer, Not There Yet

Not all the green strategies implemented earned a credit in the LEED-EB application. “Whether or not an action gets the Library a point toward certification didn’t stop them from adding the pieces that they can,” says Arny. “They want to do the right thing, and if they choose, they can build on these incremental actions and eventually earn these additional credits.”

Notes Shock, “We know there are some points we may never achieve, but it is important we keep taking positive steps. During this venture, we added control upgrades for our irrigation system, for instance. And we also changed our fertilizing system by adding an injection pump. We made enough changes so we don’t have to irrigate as often as we were before, which moves us toward better water efficiency.”

Another strategy that is moving the Library closer to sustainability is the installation of a vegetative green roof on a portion of the facility. The area covered with the green roof is not large enough to earn a LEED credit for reducing the urban heat island effect. However, Arny points out, “It’s a very positive approach to not ‘point pick,’ but rather to use the LEED-EB rating system as a guide to improving sustainability.”

And then there are strategies not yet acted upon. For instance, while the Library expects to earn a point toward a water use reduction credit with its low flow fixtures, Arny notes the second point toward the credit was out of reach for this round of recertification under LEED-EB.

“You can earn the first point on water fixture efficiency improvement by doing basically the same calculation you do for LEED-NC, with some alterations,” he explains. “But to earn the second point, you need to have separate metering for the fixture water use. The Clinton Library has a restaurant—a cafe—and it uses a fair amount of water. Separate metering wasn’t in place for that, so because that water use is included in the overall fixture water use for the building, we weren’t able to earn the second water efficiency point. One of the action items for the future is to install metering, so we can separate out the water use for the kitchen.”

With the application recently submitted to the USGBC, the team at the Clinton Library is awaiting word of the facility’s status. In the meantime, the facility is operating at an elevated level of sustainability.

Information for this article was based on interviews with Arny, Samford, and Shock. For more information, visit