To LEED or not to LEED

The Following Article was adapted from RaeAnn Slaybaugh’s recent Church Executive Magazine. It features insights from NACDB members.

The LEED Green Building Rating System is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. It’s a point-based system that’s becoming the national standard for sustainable design and quality control

While other green building certifications exist, LEED — issued by U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) — is the leader. According to Kimberly Lewis, senior vice president of alliances, conferences events for USGBC, 53 U.S. churches are LEED-certified; another 200 are registered.

Lewis says pastors at LEED-certified churches aren’t focusing on environmental stewardship alone. “They’re also keeping in mind congregational health and, perhaps most important, cross-generational engagement,” she explains.

To keep project costs commensurate with traditional construction, Lewis urges early implementation. “The perceived ‘higher-cost’ issues associated with LEED are, at this point, really a result of not planning it early enough in the design process. This is true even in design-build projects, Lewis adds. “Sustainability consultants are starting to get involved very early on. So, it doesn’t have to be more complicated than traditional construction.”

Full LEED ahead!
John Banting, sustainable construction manager at Hedrick Brothers Construction in West Palm Beach, FL, remembers when “green” was a trendy term no one truly understood.

“Many project owners got burned this way, so green got an undeserved ‘bad rap’ as a result,” he recalls. “But, building green is really about building intelligently — to save energy, water and more. And, the cost differences don’t have to be astronomical if you plan it early in the building process.”

Whereas the cost to pursue LEED certification was 10 percent to 15 percent higher than traditional construction in the early days of LEED, Banting says it’s “fractions of fractions” today. “It all depends on what level of LEED certification a church wants to pursue,” he says.

Less than LEED
LEED certification is certainly an option for church facilities — one that has gained popularity in worship environments in recent years. However, architectural experts agree that lesser degrees of green design can be incorporated, yet still speak to the spirit of environmental stewardship.

CDH Partners’ Timothy Black knows well how design choices can drive sustainable outcomes. He cites building orientation as an example of built-in energy efficiency. “Placement of building fenestration can help to avoid west-facing glass and favor north-facing glass,” he explains. “With less solar heat load to contend with, HVAC construction cost is lowered. And, improved indoor visual and thermal comfort is a welcome side effect.”

Jim Sherrer, AIA, president at Design Development Architects in Raleigh, NC, agrees with Black. “For instance, a ‘compass’-style building uses more glass on the south side than on the north side, making it particularly energy-efficient.”

According to Hedrick Brothers’ Banting, some of these “baked-in” green code requirements include mechanical systems and building performance. “In other words, a building needs to perform above a certain baseline in terms of energy efficiency.”

Yet, in pursuit of environmental and financial stewardship, many pastors opt to implement above-and-beyond-code green (but short-of-LEED) elements into their new facilities. In Sherrer’s experience, these often take the form of day lighting — especially in lobbies and children’s areas — as well as LED lighting. While he acknowledges LED systems are more expensive upfront, “they pay for themselves, over time, in energy savings.”

As with the pursuit of full LEED certification, Banting emphasizes the fact that environmentally friendly design elements — even if they’re not LEED-focused — are implemented most successfully early on. “For example, [choosing] a light-colored, highly reflective roof and more energy-efficient insulation, or ‘low-E’ glazing/glass, means you can install smaller-scale mechanical equipment,” he says. “That keeps upfront construction costs in the same range as what a church was planning to spend anyway.”

For his part, Design Development Architects’ Jim Sherrer points out that a LEED building must be commissioned. “In other words, it has to be verified that the building does what the church said it would do,” he says.

Original Article Published for June/July 2013 issue of Church Executive Magazine. Used with permission. See full article here:

(Photos courtesy of SAGE Electrochromics, Inc./Copyright Jeffrey Sauers Photography)