Want a healthy building? Follow this primer on two new wellness standards

This article is republished on Sustainable Benefits for educational purposes.
View the original article here: Perkins+Will’s Ideas + Buildings

By Kate Kerbel


While our industry’s focus on wellness may seem like just the latest trend, occupant health has been an important goal of the built environment for centuries. In the 1800s, urban infrastructure allowing access to fresh water, natural light, and clean air significantly reduced the number of deaths from infectious diseases like tuberculosis, cholera, and yellow fever. Additionally, in the 1900s, doctors consulted on the design of school gymnasiums, advising on how the environment could help support human health.

Today, with individuals spending on average over 40 hours a week at work, health and wellness are taking center stage. Labor and healthcare spending also comprise the bulk of operating expenses—making happy and healthy employees a smart investment.

Since its development in the 1990s, the LEED rating system has been applied to over 19.1 billion total commercial square feet. Along with other systems like BREEAM, Energy Star, and the Living Building Challenge, green building design and operations work to conserve energy across the globe. A serendipitous byproduct of green design has become apparent: people like working in green buildings better. Green buildings ensure access to daylight, incorporate biophilia, provide clean air, and leverage healthy materials; it’s no wonder people like spending time in them.

In recent years, two new wellness rating systems have emerged. Both use research-based strategies to evaluate buildings not by how much energy they save or how they impact the environment, but by how they can directly contribute to occupant health.

WELL was developed by Delos and has a somewhat similar framework and documentation process to its “cousin,” LEED. Both certifications are administered by the Green Business Certification (GBCI), which continues to improve and streamline the synergistic documentation processes.

Fitwel, developed by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the General Services Administration (GSA), and administered by the Center for Active Design, aims to identify the most impactful strategies for space and does not require a technical design background to administer.

Perkins+Will is well versed in both systems. We’ve committed to achieving Fitwel certification for all our North American offices, and we have a handful of WELL-certified projects, including the ASID Headquarters—the first space in the world to earn both both LEED and WELL Platinum Certification.


The ASID Headquarters in Washington, D.C., was WELL Certified at the Platinum level under WELL v1 in June 2017.

As a Fitwel Ambassador and our firm’s first WELL Accredited Professional, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the two systems. In just one year, I have seen a huge increase in interest, especially from developers. In response, here are my answers to two of the most frequently asked questions from those considering these emergent systems.


Impact Categories

As opposed to LEED’s Location & Transportation, Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality categories, WELL divvies up its 100 Features (credits) into: Air (Quality), Water (Quality), Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort, and Mind. There are naturally some synergies between the categories: For example, an automated daylight sensor that dims overhead lights when sufficient daylight is present saves energy, but it also reduces glare and allows people to work in a naturally lit space. Conversely, some of the categories prioritize occupant health over energy savings . For example, WELL requires that paper towels be provided in restrooms because automated hand blowers are less sanitary. Through the LEED lens, the additional use of material would be discouraged.

On-Site Testing

LEED requires thorough documentation for the majority of credits, including annotated floor plans, measurements, manufacturer documentation, etc. WELL, on the other hand, requires signed letters of assurance from the architect, contractor, MEP engineer, or owner for many Features. Then, the GBCI sends their own WELL Assessor to the site to visually observe that all the policies are in place, and to conduct rigorous testing to confirm air and water quality standards.


Unlike LEED, WELL requires project recertification for construction/major renovation projects as well as interiors projects every three years, which means a WELL Assessor will come back to the site to make observations and rerun quality tests. Projects may either meet the same level of certification they originally earned, be awarded a higher certification than their original level, or lose certification. Core and shell projects, however, do not need to be recertified.


There are more preconditions in WELL (called prerequisites in LEED) than you might expect. For certification or compliance to be awarded, all applicable WELL preconditions need to be met. The number of preconditions that must be met depends on the project typology. For example, new construction/major renovation projects have 41 preconditions, while core and shell projects have 26.

Levels of Certification

Certification starts at silver and consists of Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Meeting all of the preconditions earns a silver certification. Gold level certification is achieved by meeting all WELL preconditions, in addition to between 40 to 80 percent of the optimization features. Platinum level certification is achieved by meeting all preconditions, as well as 80 percent or more of the optimization features.


There are several compelling reasons to use each system. For instance, if a client comes to us with a large real estate portfolio and is interested in tracking hundreds of locations, Fitwel would be the best choice. Fitwel is relatively quick and straightforward for facility managers to use themselves to find out if their buildings earn zero, one, two, or three stars. Furthermore, with a large portfolio, facility managers would be able to benchmark all of their locations and set company goals. For example, they may want to bring all of their locations up to two stars over a certain number of years. Fitwel gives the user feedback regarding what changes the building/operations can make that will have the most impact on improving their workplace.

WELL, because of the more substantial effort and cost, realistically would be ideal for a few featured locations of a large portfolio at this point in time. The process of achieving WELL looks similar to that of achieving LEED: It should be discussed early in the project design process and will require members of the architecture, engineering, and operations team to work together to submit documentation.

Lastly, a client could also pursue both Fitwel and WELL for a building, as we are doing with our own Perkins+Will Dallas office, since there are unique benefits to both. Also, keep in mind that certifications are not necessary to ensure the design of a healthy space. Similar to designing green buildings, it is completely possible to design the healthiest of spaces using thoughtful design concepts that great architects have pursued throughout history without completing a formal documentation system.



South Florida-based Emerald Skyline brings 21st Century technology to energy management.

“Over 75% of businesses say that Internet of Things (IoT) is critical to their future success, and nearly half of adopters are using IoT to support large-scale business transformation.” Vodafone IoT Barometer 2016

January 10, 2017 from Emerald Skyline Corporation (www.emeraldskyline.com)


Today, Emerald Skyline announced that it has partnered with Blue Pillar, Inc. to provide the Energy Network of Things powered by Aurora for hospitals, office buildings, retail centers, industrial and municipal facilities. Together, we’re transforming the energy industry by developing intelligent energy management solutions to help facility managers achieve their energy resiliency, efficiency and sustainability goals.

Blue Pillar connects any energy “thing” (i.e., any asset that consumes, switches or measures electricity — including meters (water, gas and electric), generators, fuel tanks, automatic transfer switches, chillers, boilers, HVAC control panels, CHP, solar panels, EV chargers and just about any other intelligent mechanical equipment you can think of — into our Energy Network of Things platform.
Blue Pillar’s Aurora Energy Network of Things™ platform has an architecture that is open at the device and application layer, so it is perfectly positioned to solve the energy management data crisis. In addition to being open and providing ubiquitous connectivity, we also offer dozens of energy management applications the same way that a calculator or calendar app would be offered on your Apple or Android phone.

“As a sustainability and resiliency consulting and LEED project management firm, this partnership enables us to provide the industry’s most flexible platform for connecting and managing energy devices,” reports Abraham Wien, LEED AP O+M, Director of Architecture & Environmental Design for Emerald Skyline. “We are always looking for ways to provide superior products and services to meet our clients sustainability and resiliency needs and Blue Pillar is an IoT provider that we are proud to offer to the market.”

For nearly a decade, Blue Pillar has connected thousands of energy assets at a wide variety of deployment sites from hospitals and energy service providers to data centers and higher education campuses enabling them to work 75% faster and realize 30% more affordability.

To find out more information about the employment of the Blue Pillar IoT for building energy systems in your building or facility and unleash the power of real-time data that strengthens your infrastructure and improves not only your efficiency but provides opportunities for differentiation and even new revenue sources while providing for a greener tomorrow, please contact Abraham Wien at aw@emeraldskyline.com or call us 305.424.8704.

LEED Project Update

JulieBy Julie Lundin, Founder, LEED AP ID+C, NCIDQ, ASID
Director of Sustainable Interior Design for Emerald Skyline Corporation

Emerald Skyline Corporation in conjunction with Golden Spiral Design, is designing, renovating and repurposing an unoccupied industrial building located in Boca Raton, FL. This building was formerly an auto garage that stood vacant for several years and was environmentally contaminated. Our renovation includes many sustainable features with the intent to obtain LEED certification from the USGBC.

The above paragraph still holds true months later. However, we have had to re-think the project scope and move forward on a smaller scale. We spent months working on the design and drawings in preparation for submission as a development project. In our original design concept we envisioned a larger building footprint and a second floor addition. Vision often becomes qualified by reality, and our project is no exception. The property size cannot accommodate a larger building footprint and the FAR (floor area ratio) requirements limit the building size allowed. An addition of a partial second floor (FAR compliant) was our solution to the lot size and FAR restrictions. Although only a partial second floor was now being considered it would still require stairs and ideally an elevator. Also, the limited first floor square footage available to accommodate the new stairs and an elevator almost negated the second floor addition. Our conclusion was that adding the partial second floor was not adding the square footage desired, and the cost of construction and engineering did not make economic sense.

In January we made the decision to proceed with the project as a renovation of the existing building only. No additional square footage is being added. Our intent is to repair and replace what is there. The building will visually retain the auto garage industrial look but will be transformed into a sustainable, repurposed space.   As a sustainable consulting firm, it makes sense for us to not increase the size of the building. Our society often believes that bigger is better and we briefly fell into this way of thinking. Now we are committed to working within a limited space and we are re-focusing on creative design and the best use of that space.

As stated in our previous post, this project is a proposed LEED certified building. A key component of a LEED project is its reduced energy use. We have replaced the existing flat roof which was old and leaking with a new roof that has a high SRI (Solar Reflectance Index). We are also designing a high efficiency HVAC system and building envelope to optimize the energy performance of the building. All of the existing windows are being replaced with product that exceeds the Florida Code and are High Velocity, Hurricane Zone approved for Miami-Dade as our project is located in South Florida. In addition, to optimize energy performance in a hot climate our windows have a high VT (visible transmittance) and low SHGC (solar heat gain coefficient) to ensure adequate daylight is being admitted while still blocking significant quantities of solar radiant heat gain.

window radiation

LED lighting fixtures designed with specific task usage will be installed on both the interior and exterior of the building. The existing concrete floors of the auto garage are going to be polished and used as they are. The specifications of the interior finishes are just beginning and as an interior designer, this is the fun part. Low VOC products, adequate air ventilation, and controlled air temperature and humidity will be utilized to protect the buildings IAQ (Indoor Air Quality). Low flow toilets and faucets, and Energy Star appliances will all be specified to reduce the amount of water and energy that is consumed.

We hope to be in our new location by early fall. Once our building is completed we will post descriptions of the renovation details and photos. This project has been a long journey. We are proud that it is a shining example of a correct decision to repurpose a building that might have otherwise been overlooked.

U.S. Green Building Council’s New Report Reveals Hospitality Industry Poised for Tremendous Growth in Green Building

U.S. Green Building Council’s New Report Reveals Hospitality Industry Poised for Tremendous Growth in Green Building

LEED in Motion: Hospitality report highlights hotel brands across the world incorporating LEED and other sustainability practices

Washington, D.C. — (Feb. 18, 2016) — Today, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) released its LEED in Motion: Hospitality report, which showcases tremendous industry growth in green building and defines the scale up opportunities for the hospitality sector. More than 109 million square feet of hotel space is currently LEED certified, and the report highlights some of the most impressive LEED-certified hotels throughout the world.

“Across industries we are seeing an increase in consumer demand toward sustainability practices, and no industry is better poised to meet these demands than hospitality. This growing sector is rapidly adopting green buildings because owners and developers want to enhance their triple bottom line – people, planet and profit,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair, USGBC. “LEED is a transformative tool that positively impacts the quality of our built space by creating a healthier, more sustainable environment that saves money and resources.”

Hotels consume natural resources at an extraordinarily high rate as they are occupied 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With more than five billion square feet of space in the U.S. alone, there is an enormous opportunity for the industry to transform the impact of the built environment. A

LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design), the world’s most widely used green building rating program, has a growing presence in the hospitality industry – and the number of LEED-certified buildings is expected to continue at a strong pace. Currently, there are more than 1,400 hotels participating in LEED representing 638.7 million square feet. Of that, there are more than 300 LEED-certified hotels comprising nearly 109.2 million square feet of space.

According to a recent study by McGraw Hill Construction, green construction in the hospitality sector has increased by 50 percent from 2011-2013 and now represents 25 percent of all new construction in the sector today. USGBC’s recent Green Building Economic Impact Study also found that across industries, green construction is outpacing that of traditional construction and is poised to create more than 3.3 million U.S. jobs and $190.3 billion in labor earnings by 2018.

The Changing Face of Waste Management and the Shift Toward a Circular Economy

KG ResizeBy: Kendall Gillen, LEED Process Management,
Emerald Skyline Corporation

The concept of waste is well known in today’s linear consumerist society. Once a material or substance is no longer considered useful, it is discarded and left in the hands of waste management. The conversion of waste materials into reusable materials helps to reduce the amount of waste and the consumption of raw materials, otherwise known as recycling. Since both of these concepts have been around for most of human history, and we are still producing alarming amounts of waste, 251 million tons of which only 34.5% is recycled in the U.S. according to the EPA, it is clear that responsible management of waste is essential to sustainable building.

Designing for responsible waste management and sustainable building requires a plan so that it can be carried through from construction/renovation to operations and maintenance. The LEED credit(s) on solid waste management call for diversion of both construction and demolition debris from landfills and incineration facilities. Instead, these materials should be properly redirected back into the manufacturing process or sent to the proper facilities for sorting and reuse. In addition, regular building operations must include a recycling plan to sort materials by category such as paper, plastic, glass, cardboard, food waste, and metals. For more information on the intent and requirements of the solid waste management credit, please visit the USGBC website. Not only does having a plan have a better impact on the environment, sustainable waste management has many other incentives such as valuable resources found in waste, taxes, reduced transportation costs, and growing public awareness of environmental stewardship.

Image Credit: The Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Image Credit: The Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Reducing waste and increasing reuse and recycling are critical, but some have even posed the question whether or not we could change the way we view waste altogether. The circular economy concept is gaining momentum which accentuates keeping resources in use for as long as possible, extract maximum value from products, and repurpose them at the end of their life. To quote Stacy Glass of Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, whose aim is to eliminate the concept of waste rather than just reduce waste:

“For too long, the value has been simply put on recycling with no concern for what that material is and if it has a valuable second or even third life. Recycling is dealing with the problems of past design. We need to change the emphasis to be: safe ingredients, perpetually cycled, design in ways that harmonize with humans and the environment. The future is nutrient management, not waste management.”

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has wonderful educational resources pertaining to the circular economy, including this aesthetic and informative General Resources Map.

As a graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Science, I find the circular economy concept to be brilliant as it emphasizes Biomimicry, or mimicking the processes already found in nature. However, our existing linear economy will require a changing mindset that ultimately lies with the demand by individual consumers as well as the supply side that must switch from cheaply made goods to goods designed with the intent of “made to be made again,” meaning quality ‘nutrients’ or materials.

Since construction and demolition waste constitutes nearly one-third of all waste, it is necessary that the industry be methodically directed toward a circular economy, minimizing waste and maximizing value. Using the following methods and many others, construction waste can be limited by:

  • Developing a construction waste management plan
  • Identifying and sorting materials such as drywall, lumber, concrete, plastics, etc. that can be reused or recycled
  • Salvaging materials such as doors and windows for future use
  • Chipping branches and trees to use as landscaping mulch
  • Purchasing in bulk to reduce packaging waste

Buildings should be dismantled and sorted rather than demolished, which is a core principle of the LEED program. Emerald Skyline Corporation can handle the management of this process. Please visit the website for more information. The same goes for construction in that the building materials themselves need to be designed for eventual disassembly. What do you think it will require for the industry to make this shift?

One point is evident, and that is the fact that the future of waste management, recycling, reuse, and how we view these constructs is changing to meet the demands of our global economy as well as preserve our natural resources. As professionals in the sustainable building industry, we must all do our part to encourage the responsible disposable of solid waste by redirecting recyclable resources back to the manufacturing process and reusable materials to appropriate sites.


Sources: http://www.environmentalleader.com/2015/11/06/the-future-of-recycling-waste-management-is-resource-management-experts-say/#ixzz3yNPIryJl






Commercial Building Project Update

JulieBy Julie Lundin, Founder,
Director of LEED Process Management for Emerald Skyline Corporation

Emerald Skyline’s repurposing of our commercial building located in Boca Raton, FL is progressing and changing as we go through the development process. We have concluded the Planning Advisory Review and are now working on the Site Plan Application. As with any project, basic requirements must be met. These may include zoning, future land use designation, and city codes. One city code we were hoping to get an exception for is the Floor Area Ratio (FAR). The FAR is governed by the zoning district regulations applicable to each property. Based on our property’s zoning our “floor area ratio” – the floor area of our building divided by the lot area in square feet, cannot exceed 0.4. Since our project is registered as a LEED project we were hopeful that an exception to the 0.4 FAR could be made. The response regarding this issue during the Planning Advisory Review is that according to City Code, no variance may be granted which has the effect of increasing the intensity/FAR on a plot or parcel.

The adherence to the required FAR has presented us with design challenges resulting in both positive and negative impacts for the project. The property on which our building is located and it’s required setbacks is not large enough to accommodate any outward (horizontal) added square footage. Therefore, our option to increase the building size is by building up (vertical). This requires that a structural engineer is engaged to beef up the existing foundation and wall structure under the new space to ensure that it can support the added weight. With the addition of a second story, a stairwell has to be utilized which will use some of our already limited square footage. We have also decided to include an elevator which impacts the design and available square footage of the building. The height restrictions of 30’ based on the zoning district does not impact the addition of a second floor including the elevator shaft. The elevator component is a key design element to the exterior elevations.

The FAR of 0.4 has required us to significantly reduce the size of the second floor addition than we originally designed and wanted. This has impacted the layout of both floors and require that we re-think what is important to be included and where. As designers we have learned that what initially is perceived as negative impacts can actually lead to a better designed project. The second floor is now smaller but the green terrace is larger. This allows for more roof top vegetation and promotes a peaceful, connected to the environment space for the occupants. For more in-depth information on the benefits of a green roof please see Kendall Gillens’s post from last month’s newsletter “Vegetation is Not Solely for Landscape: The Benefits of a Green Roof”.

We are now preparing the drawings and documentation for the Site Plan Application. The site plan requires many issues to be addressed; parking, ingress and egress, landscaping, exterior lighting, ADA requirements, water and sewer, fire and life safety, etc. One of requirements of the site plan is to provide the design of the dumpster enclosures and their location on the property. Our property has very limited space which must accommodate many different elements to meet codes. The project is LEED registered with the intent to obtain the highest level of LEED certification that is possible. Sustainable design and LEED certification should positively impact all phases of a building including its design, construction and operation. We are proposing our building will be a zero waste facility in which no trash is sent to landfills or incinerators. Our goal is to send no garbage to the landfill. We will utilize new avenues for any waste and think creatively in terms of reducing, reusing and recycling. An example of this initiative will be the creation of an organic garden located at the rear of the building to process and compost organic materials to create a product that can be used to enrich the soil. Additionally, we will send materials that can be repurposed to innovative companies that will use the waste to create new products. We also plan to install portable carts with several recycling receptacles to facilitate the collection and sorting of waste materials. Our company will transport the recyclables to the recycling facilities. No commercial waste hauling will be contracted and there will be no dumpsters on the property.

We will pursue a dumpster deviation request from the City of Boca Raton and a Zero Waste Facility Certification. This is a third-party certification and we will need to meet all of its requirements. One requirement which is important is that our policy meets all federal, state, and local solid waste and recycling regulations. A zero waste facility will meet criteria to earn points toward LEED certification.

Our site plan will also contain a bicycle rack, an electric charging station for cars and pervious pavement rather than asphalt. For more information on pervious pavements please see our post “Exploring Permeable Pavement Options for LEED Projects”.









Zero Waste Business Facility Certification

Inspired by the Zero Waste business community, the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council and its Certification Development Committee have created the first third-party Zero Waste Business Certification program for facilities that meets the Zero Waste Principles of the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA). Our facility certification program goes beyond diversion numbers and focuses on the upstream policies and practices that make Zero Waste successful in an organization. We have crafted the facility certification to meet the requests of Zero Waste Businesses for a valid, comprehensive verification of their Zero Waste achievements.


The USZWBC 3rd Party Zero Waste Business Certification does the following:

  • Supports ZWIA definition of no waste to landfill, incineration and the environment
  • Drives the development of new markets and new ideas towards a Zero Waste Economy
  • Meets Zero Waste Businesses request for valid and comprehensive third party certification
  • Focuses on upstream policies and practices beyond diversion or recycling
  • Emphasizes strong Total Participation: Training of all employees, ZW relationships with Vendors and customers

Requirements for Certification

1. Zero Waste policy in place
2. 90% overall diversion from landfill and incineration for non-hazardous wastes

-Discarded materials are reduced, reused, recycled, composted or recovered for productive use in nature or the economy at biological temperatures and pressures
-Materials can be processed above ambient biological temperatures (>200° F) to recover energy from the 10% residual, but they do not count as part of the 90% diversion
-Reused materials (office furniture, pallets, paper, etc.) are eligible to count as part of the 90% diversion requirement

3. Meet all federal, state/provincial, and local solid waste and recycling regulations
4. Data provided to USZWBC has been published formally
5. Data documents a base year and measurements since the base year
6. Commit to submit 12 months of data to USZWBC annually (Data submitted will be public and published on the USZWBC website)
7. Case Study of Zero Waste initiatives can be published on USZWBC website
8. Recertification is required every three years
9. Contamination is not to exceed 10% of each material once it leaves the company site

Exploring Permeable Pavement Options for LEED Projects

By Julie Lundin, NCIDQ, LEED AP ID+C, Principal
Emerald Skyline Corporation

As business owners and designers of our renovation project in Boca Raton, there are many decisions and variables involved in the design of both the building and the site. This project is a LEED registered project which impacts our design decisions and materials selected to incorporate sustainable goals. It gave us the opportunity to explore sustainable pavement options rather than the traditional blacktop used in most projects. The size of the project, location, cost, financial incentives to explore alternatives, and local city requirements all impact decisions to be made. When a pervious pavement is used in building site design, it can aid in the process of qualifying for LEED Green Building Rating System credits.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) is a rating system developed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) to evaluate the environmental performance of a building. LEED is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings.

LEED provides a framework for evaluating building performance and meeting sustainability goals through five credit categories: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. It should be noted, however, that LEED points are not gained directly by the use of a product but by meeting a specific sustainability goal of the rating program.

Pervious pavement options can contribute to many LEED categories including: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Materials and Resources, and Innovation in Design. Pervious pavement choices are unique and innovative ways to manage storm water and as a method of delaying roof runoff from entering city sewers. Considering these gives environmentally conscious business owners options to use in parking lots and walkways. When they are used in the building site design they function like storm water retention basins and allow the storm water to infiltrate the soil over a large area and recharge the groundwater supplies.

Why consider pervious pavement options?

Storm water is polluted

  • Oils and greases
  • Metals
  • Sediments
  • Fertilizers

Sustainability Factors

  • Low-Impact Development
  • Pollution Treatment
  • Recharging Ground Water
  • Tree Protection
  • LEED Requirements
  • Cool Communities

Meets LEED Requirements

  • Reduce Storm Water Runoff
  • Improve Storm Water Quality
  • Reduce Urban Heat Islands
  • Recycled Materials
  • Regional Materials

Description of specific credits where pervious pavement can aid the business owner or designer include:

 LEED Credit SS-C6.1 Storm Water Design – Quantity Control

LEED Credit SS-C6.2 Storm Water Design – Quantity Control

The intent of these credits is to limit disruption and pollution of natural water flows by managing storm water runoff, increasing on-site infiltration and eliminating contaminants. Pervious pavement can contribute to this credit by reducing storm water flow by allowing water to soak through and infiltrate to the ground below. Pervious choices can also reduce the pollutant loads by filtering contaminants as the water is transferred through the pavement.

 LEED Credit SS-C7.1 Heat Island Effect- Non-Roof

 Pervious pavement acts to reduce the heat island effect by absorbing less heat from solar radiation than darker pavements. The relatively open pore structure and the light color of pervious pavements store less heat, therefore, reducing the heat reflected back into the environment and helping to lower heat island effects in urban areas. The heat island effect can be further minimized by the addition of trees planted in parking lots. The trees offer shade and produce a cooling effect for the paving. Pervious pavement is ideal for protecting trees in a paved environment (many plants have difficulty growing in areas covered by impervious pavements, sidewalks and landscaping, because air and water have difficulty getting to the roots). Pervious pavements or sidewalks allow adjacent trees to receive more air and water and still permit full use of the pavement.

LEED Credit WE C1.1 Water Efficient Landscaping

 The intent of this credit is to limit or eliminate the use of potable water, or other natural surface or subsurface water resources available on or near the project site, for landscape irrigation. The gravel sub-base under pervious pavements can be used to store storm water for irrigation, helping to satisfy this credit. If no irrigation is required for a project, two points may be earned.

LEED Credits MR-C4.1 and MR-C4-2 Recycled Content

The intent of this credit is to increase the demand for building products that have incorporated recycled content material reducing the impacts resulting from the extraction of new material. Almost all ready mixed concrete contains recycled materials in the form supplementary cementitious materials (SCM) such as fly ash, slag, or silica fume. The use of SCMs or recycled aggregate in pervious concrete or base material contributes to recycled content needed for this credit.

LEED Credit MR-C5.1 and MR-C5.2 Regional Materials

The intent of this credit is to increase demand for building products that are extracted and manufactured locally, thereby reducing the environmental impacts resulting from their transportation and supporting the local economy. The majority of materials in pervious concrete and pavements are considered regional materials. In addition to aiding in gaining LEED certification points, pervious concrete can provide a safe and durable surface for most pavement needs. Light colored pervious pavements require less site lighting to provide safe night-time illumination levels, whether on parking lots, driveways, or sidewalks.

Types of Pervious Pavements

  • Porous Asphalt (Blacktop)
    • Low Cost
    • Effective Porosity
    • High Maintenance – Biannual cleaning to prevent clogging
    • Does not allow for plant growth
    • Contributor to heat island effect but better than standard ashphalt
    • Alternative for large projects
  • Pervious Concrete
    • Same concept as porous asphalt, except it is concrete
    • Easy to order and have installed
    • Light in color and not contribute to heat island effect
    • Higher Cost than Asphalt
    • Request use of local or reclaimed aggregates
    • Use highest amount of Fly Ash and/or Slag (both are reclaimed waste products)
    • Requires cleaning to prevent clogging
    • Can serve as a retention basin for storing rainwater during a storm
  • Pervious Block Pavers
    • Many different types on the market
    • Can look like traditional pavers for aesthetics
    • Filled in with grass or gravel
    • Allows for plant growth
    • Pavers are pricey
    • Installation requires laying of individual small blocks
    • May settle or become misplaced after use
  • Drivable Grass
    • Unique product
    • 2” x 2” mats that are more affordable individual pavers
    • Good infiltration for grass growth or ground cover
    • Plants remain cooler and receive uniform watering
    • Greener parking surface than other plantable systems
    • Low maintenance
  • Plastic Grid Systems
    • Made of recycled plastic and fully recyclable themselves
    • Low maintenance
    • Easy installation
    • Can provide a fully sodded surface if desired
    • Use only appropriate for light or occasional use parking lots

Decision making is a critical process for any project. Well informed choices and decisions can help keep a project timeline on track. Decisions in all areas including design and specifications need to be clearly and fully described. There should be at least three options to choose from that include how, what, where and how much? All the implications and impact of each option must be considered. Will it delay the project? Will it increase the cost?   A LEED project also needs to incorporate the analysis of products and design and their sustainable impacts. We are considering 3 categories of pervious pavement products for our project; pervious concrete, pervious block pavers, and drivable grass. With the ever evolving development of sustainable products, there may also be a hybrid solution available that will meet all of our project goals.




Renovation Versus New Construction – Choosing the Right Path


By Julie Lundin, NCIDQ, LEED AP ID+C, ASID, Director, Emerald Skyline Corporation

As both the owners and the designers of a commercial building in Boca Raton it was essential that we examine the pros and cons of renovation vs. new construction and the impact on our project. When considering renovation vs. new construction for any project, it is important to understand that both paths lead to different and unique results. Comparing the merits and challenges of each against the needs of a project is crucial in determining what the best options are. Our design team collaborated and brainstormed to determine the issues involved, document the issues and prioritize them. This process helped us to determine that a major renovation will make the most sense for our building and our sustainable goals.

The building is an unoccupied auto body shop located on a former brownfield. Whether to save or demolish an old building has always been a question for owners, developers and cities. We are applying the concept of adaptive reuse to this project. It is the idea of “twice green”, not just repurposing an older building, but also making it even more environmentally friendly in its new life. This project will convert an existing eyesore structure into a rehabilitated sustainable building.

How green is adaptive reuse?

The National Trust for Historic Preservation published a report on the environmental benefits of adaptive reuse. The Greenest Building: Qualifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse, demonstrates through case studies that reusing buildings can save from between 4 to 46% over new construction.

These findings include:

  • Reuse Matters. Building reuse typically offers greater environmental savings than demolition and new construction. It can take between 10 to 80 years for a new energy efficient building to overcome, through efficient operations, the climate change impacts created by its construction.
  • Scale Matters. Collectively, building reuse and retrofits substantially reduce climate change impacts.
  • Design Matters. The environmental benefits of reuse are maximized by minimizing the input of new construction materials. Renovation projects that require many new materials can reduce or even negate the benefits of reuse.
  • The Bottom Line. Reusing existing buildings is good for the economy, the community and the environment. At a time when our country’s foreclosure and unemployment rates remain high, communities would be wise to reinvest in their existing building stock.

The U.S. Green Building Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) strongly encourages reuse of an existing site and building. By using LEED principles during design and construction points toward LEED accreditation can be achieved. The incorporation of sustainable solutions into our design and materials will create a healthier building, reduce negative impacts on the environment, and utilize the economy of reuse. Every material has an impact, the fewer building materials used in a rehab project, the less environmental impact there will be.

The decision to renovate rather than build new has many challenges. Key factors typically considered in this decision could have easily sent us in a different direction if sustainability was not important to our project. The budget to accomplish a major renovation for this project may not cost less than new construction but the sustainable benefits are significant. The condition of the current structure will require many changes and improvements. The building needs updated technologies, energy efficiencies, and time challenges to complete. By renovating we are diverting waste from being placed in landfills, we are disturbing less native vegetation and contributing less erosion and adverse effects on the land. The decision to renovate this older structure will provide a safer and healthier environment for its users while creating an enhanced appearance.

The existing footprint allows only so much floor space. To overcome this, we are going vertical and building a partial second floor. Building above is less expensive than building outward. A key consideration in many designs should be on how to best utilize the building while using smaller spaces.

The age old question of whether to build new or renovate has become even more complex as we seek to determine which has the least amount of impact on our environment. While the ease of new construction may be preferred, the greater potential for reducing your carbon impact during renovation compared to a new construction is apparent over a 75 year life span of a building. As The National Trust for Historic Perseveration recently stated that the greenest building may be the one you already own – and this is the reason we selected to renovate rather than build new.



LEED Project Update – Build Better Codes

JulieBy Julie Lundin, NCIDQ, LEED AP ID+C, ASID
Founder, Director of LEED Process Management for Emerald Skyline Corporation

Emerald Skyline Corporation, in conjunction with Golden Spiral Design, is designing, renovating and repurposing an unoccupied industrial building located in Boca Raton, FL. This distinctive commercial building will include many sustainable features with the intent to obtain LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification from the USGBC. LEED certification recognizes performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. It is a whole-building approach to sustainability which will enable us to save on utilities and maintenance while improving the well-being of our personnel and our clients.

LEED is a third party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. The LEED Green building rating system encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through the creation and implementation of universally understood and accepted tools and performance criteria.

We continue to modify the design of the building in preparation for submission to the City of Boca Raton Development Services Department. In preliminary meetings with the Planning Department and Traffic Engineers it was determined that the building occupancy will require a minimum of 8+ parking spaces per the existing (dated) Municipal Codes. The limited space for parking on the site will make it difficult to meet these requirements.

Based on our plans intended use of the building, our parking needs for the building are much less than the codes require. Both Emerald Skyline and Golden Spiral employ sustainable business practices which encourages personnel to spend the majority of their time working remotely.

Boca Raton’s current parking requirement is not congruent with sustainable thinking which encourages “hotelling” or “hot desking”, the use of public transportation and alternate commuting methods such as riding a bicycle. In meeting with representatives the City of Boca Raton, they have indicated that they might help us on this initiative as they have special exemptions for sustainable buildings. Our goal is to have the minimum number of spaces necessary to satisfy our needs.

Further, as a LEED certified project, our design goals are to minimize paved surfaces as solid surfaces contribute negatively to our environment. Our vision is to utilize permeable pavers for the parking spaces we will have on-site. Here is why:

Permeable pavers help the environment by:

  • Improving the quality of storm water runoff as it is returned to a ground water source;
  • Providing a solution to soil erosion by allowing grass to grow within the spaces of the block and blend in with the surroundings.
  • Reducing or eliminating storm water runoff, decreasing flooding and relieving sewer system demands while still providing a sturdy surface for vehicle and pedestrian traffic; and
  • Reducing heat that is transmitted into the atmosphere from hot pavement by providing a vegetative and reflective surface.

Rating systems like LEED are critical proving grounds for building strategies that address an inclusive set of risks that require our attention beyond fire safety, disability access and other crucial areas.

Building codes have presented barriers to the application of more forward-looking technologies, materials and methods. Building green requires a multi-disciplinary approach to break down the walls between planning, design and construction. The existing codes have been a factor in the business-as-usual construction process. As the viability, cost-effectiveness, and many benefits of green building continue to prove their worth, code safety needs to evolve to incorporate a broader scope of responsibility that are now expected. We are hopeful that building codes, including those of Boca Raton, will begin to encompass sustainable building needs.


USGBC – Build Better Codes


Welcome to Sustainable Benefits – Let’s begin with the benefits of doing a commercial building sustainable retrofit….


PJ Picture
By Paul L. Jones
, Founder,
Director, Financial Advisory Services for Emerald Skyline Corporation


“Who is more foolish: The child afraid of the dark or the man afraid of the light?” (Maurice Freehill, British WW I flying ace).

Figure 1 Empire State Building - LEED Gold

Figure 1 Empire State Building – LEED Gold

Throughout my 36-year career in commercial real estate, commercial buildings have generally been classified from A to C based on location, construction quality and tenancy. Class A buildings represent the cream of the crop. They secure credit-quality tenants, command the highest rents, enjoy premium occupancies, are professionally managed and have a risk profile that supports lower cap rates and higher values. Class B buildings are similar to Class A but are dated yet not functionally obsolete. Class C buildings are generally over 20 years old, are architecturally unattractive, in secondary or tertiary locations and have some functional obsolescence with out-dated building systems and technology. NOTE: No formal international standard exists for classifying a building, but one of the most important things to consider about building classifications is that buildings should be viewed in context and relative to other buildings within the sub-market; a Class A building in one market may not be a Class A building in another.

Based on years analyzing investments in income properties, it appears to me that in the recovery from the Great Recession the commercial real estate market has evolved to include energy efficiency and environmental design as a requirement for improving the marketability of a building – not to mention optimizing its operating income and value.


On December 1, 2014, Buildings.com, in an article entitled “GSA Verifies Impact of Green Facilities,” reported that a study conducted by GSA and the Pacific Northwest Laboratory conducted a post-occupancy study of Federal office buildings, which varied in age and size and had been retrofit to reduce energy and water consumption. The following results were based on a review of one year of operating data and surveys of the occupants which was compared to the national average of commercial buildings: High performance, green buildings:

  • cost 19% less to maintain
  • Use 25% less energy and water
  • Emit 36% fewer carbon dioxide emissions
  • Have a 27% higher rate of occupant satisfaction.

One of the most famous sustainable retrofit projects undertaken was the updating of the 2.85 msf Empire State Building whose ownership directed that sustainability be at the core of the building operations and upgrades implemented as part of the $550 million Empire State ReBuilding program. According to Craig Bloomfield, of Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), “After the energy efficiency retrofit was underway, JLL led a separate study of the feasibility study of LEED certification” which “showed that LEED Gold certification was within reach at an incremental cost of about $0.25 psf.

Graphics on financial benefits of high-performance buildings

Source: Institute for Market Transformation: Studies consistently show that ENERGY STAR and LEED-certified commercial buildings achieve higher rental rates, sales prices and occupancy rates.

Source: Institute for Market Transformation: Studies consistently show that ENERGY STAR and LEED-certified commercial buildings achieve higher rental rates, sales prices and occupancy rates.

According to the report “Green Building and Property Value” published by the Institute for Market Transformation and the Appraisal Institute, a trend is emerging where green buildings are both capturing higher quality tenants and commanding rent premiums. As indicated by the above graph summarizing four national studies for commercial office buildings back up this trend on rents and occupancy, as “certified green buildings outperform their conventional peers by a wide margin.”

  • According to the EnergyStar.gov website, “Transwestern Commercial Services, a national full-service real estate firm, has generated impressive returns through sound energy management. In 2006, Transwestern invested over $12 million in efficiency upgrades, for an average 25% energy savings. The Company estimates that dedication to energy management has increased the portfolio’s value by at least $344 million.”
  • According to John Bonnell and Jackie Hines of JLL – Phoenix, “In Phoenix, owners of LEED-certified buildings can capture a premium of 29 percent over buildings without this distinction.” The premium for Green buildings had disappeared during the Great Recession and reemergence in the first quarter of 2014 as a result of improving Phoenix market dynamics which is being realized in other major markets as well.


For retail buildings, the tenants are driving the shift to sustainability with green building as consumers become increasingly aware of the environment and the need to reduce, reuse and recycle. According to the “LEED in Motion: Retail” report published by the USGBC in October 2014, “LEED-certified retail locations prioritize human health: among their many health benefits, they have better indoor environmental quality, meaning customers and staff breathe easier and are more comfortable. In a business where customer experience is everything, this is particularly valuable.’ Green retail buildings also out-perform conventional buildings and generate financial savings:

  • On average, Starbucks, which just opened their 500th LEED-certified store, has realized an average savings of 30% in energy usage and 60% less water consumption.
  • McGraw-Hill Construction, which surveyed retail owners, found that green retail buildings realized an average 8% annual savings in operating expenses and a 7% increase in asset value.

It is noteworthy that, according to the third annual Solar Means Business report published by the Solar Energy Industries Association, the top corporate solar user in the United States is Walmart. In fact, almost half of the top-25 solar users are retailers (the others are Kohl’s, Costco, IKEA (9 out of 10 stores are solar powered), Macy’s, Target, Staples, Bed Bath & Beyond, Walgreens, Safeway, Toys ‘R’ Us, and White Rose Foods). Other Top-25 solar users with a significant retail footprint include Apple, L’Oreal, Verizon and AT&T.

In the competitive retail market, the study also noted that being distinguished for pro-active and responsible corporate social responsibility attracts customers and investors.


In a study of 236 apartment complexes conducted by Bright Power and The Stewards of Affordable Housing released last July, 236 properties in two programs, HUD’s nationwide Green Retrofit Program and the Energy Savers program available from Illinois’ Elevate Energy and the Community Investment Corp. One year of pre- and post-retrofit utility bills were analyzed. The researchers found the following:

  • Properties in the Green Retrofit Program had realized a 26% reduction in water consumption – or $95/unit annually.
  • The energy consumption in the Green Retrofit Program was reduced by 18% representing an annual savings of $213/unit.
  • Surveyed buildings in the Energy Savers program had reduced gas consumption by 26% and had reduced excess waste by an average of 47%.
  • The water saving measures in the Green Retrofit program reflected a simple payback period of one year while the energy savings measures had a simple payback period of 15 years.

In an article be Chrissa Pagitsas, Director – Multi-family Green Initiative for Fannie Mae, reports that 17 multifamily properties have achieved Energy Star® certification with two of them, Jeffrey Parkway Apartments in Chicago and ECO Modern Flats in Fayetteville, Arkansas, receiving financing from Fannie Mae.

  • The Eco Modern Flats complex is over 40 years old. With the goal of reducing operating expenses, the project was retrofit in 2010 with energy and water efficiency improvements including low-flow showerheads and faucets, dual flush toilets, ENERGY STAR® certified appliances, efficient lighting, closed-cell insulation, white roofing, solar hot water and low-e windows. As a result of the retrofit, the property achieved a 45% reduction in water consumption, a 23% drop in annual electricity use including a 50% savings in summer electricity consumption while increasing the in-unit amenities, obtaining LEED Platinum certification and increasing occupancy by 30% resulting in a significant increase to Net Operating Income.

Multi-family properties made sustainable gain a competitive advantage in marketing to young professionals and other target audiences who prefer to live in an environment that is healthy and energy-efficient which saves money on utilities.


In a 2014 study conducted by Cornel University, researchers compared the earnings of 93 LEED-certified hotels in the US to 514 non-certified competitors. The study included a mix of franchised, chain and independent facilities in urban and suburban markets with three-quarters of the properties having between 75 and 299 rooms.

The results show that green or sustainable hotels had increased both their Average Daily Rate (ADR) and revenue per available room (RevPAR) with LEED properties reporting an ADR that was $20.00 higher than the non-certified properties (prior to certification, they reported an ADR premium of $169 vs. $160).

The researchers noted that these premiums were realized in price-competitive markets and that the amount of the premium was unexpected. From the results, they concluded that Eco-minded travelers were willing to pay a modest premium to stay at a verified green facility.

Further, the savings realized in electricity and water usage as well as reductions in waste disposal fees and costs as well as reduced maintenance costs go straight to the bottom line resulting in increased Net Operating Income. Here are some examples:

  • The Hampton Inn & Suites, a 94-room facility in Bakersfield, had REC Solar install carport-mounted solar panels which is offsetting 44% of the electricity costs, or up to $8,800/month – adding over $100,000 to the property’s bottom-line.
  • The 80-room Chatwall Hotel in New York completed an LED lighting retrofit project mid-year 2014 which will result in a first year savings of almost $125,000. The cost: just about $1.00 per LED light after rebates.

According to Flex Your Power and ENERGY STAR® statistics, the hospitality industry spends approximately $4 billion on energy annually with electricity, including the HVAC system, accounting for 60% to 70% of utility costs. In fact, excluding labor, energy is typically the largest expense that hoteliers encounter and the fastest growing operating expense in the industry (www.cpr-energy.com). The EPA has concluded that even a 10% improvement in energy efficiency is comparable to realizing a $0.62 and $1.35 increase in ADR for limited service and full service hotels, respectively.

Many studies show that hotels do not realize the full benefit of many energy efficiency measures as guests feel no obligation to employ sustainable practices and wastes the opportunity for savings afforded by the hotel’s energy efficiency measures; however, almost half realize savings in excess of 20% reflecting that many operators have found ways to enlist guest cooperation in saving electricity and water.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) 2012 Commercial Buildings Survey, the United States had approx. 87.4 billion square feet of floorspace in 5.6 million buildings that were larger than 1,000 sf which also excluded heavy industrial manufacturing facilities. Ninety percent of the buildings that will exist in2035 have already been built – and buildings consume 80% of energy used in cities worldwide and represents almost 20% of all energy consumption in the United States.

Source: US Department of Energy 2013 Renewable Energy Data Book, 1/22/2015

Source: US Department of Energy 2013 Renewable Energy Data Book, 1/22/2015


The evidence is clear – building and operating sustainably pays dividends – in improved NOI from cost savings and increased revenues. Attracting higher quality tenants, improving market perception and reducing risk indicates that going Green is becoming a key for maintaining the Class of a building – keys to improving long-term values through lower cap rates.

So, why aren’t more building owners and managers going green? We will seek to discern this matter in our next Sustainable Benefits.