How to Build an Effective Green Team

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A sustainability advisor group can help fulfill your company’s green objectives. Task your team with research, outreach, and refinement projects for best results.

How much time does your FM team have to spare for sustainability initiatives?

If the answer is less than you would like, a green team can be a valuable ally in your quest for better facilities management.

Often referred to as sustainability advisory groups, green teams are more than ad hoc committees filled with enthusiastic volunteers. To arm your green ambassadors with true staying power, make sure this group has formal oversight, tools for measurement and verification, and a clear mission.

SPELL OUT OBJECTIVES
Green teams can be tasked with a variety of goals – it all depends on what kind of sustainable goals you want them to fulfill for your business.

“The goal of any green team is to share ideas, knowledge, and best practices that focus on the triple bottom line of environmental sustainability,” says Roger McFadden, vice president and senior scientist for Staples.

Most advisory groups will focus on four key objectives:

  1. Outreach – serve as an educational body for occupants and customers to build awareness and buy-in.
  2. Resources – research tools and resources that will support sustainability objectives, such as certifications, assessments, metrics, and cost factors.
  3. Proposals – identify initiatives that will bolster green building operations.
  4. Refinement – promote continuous improvement and expansion of the program.

The sustainability advisory group should act as a clearing house by evaluating the feasibility of green practices and creating action plans for implementation.

SELECT KEY PLAYERS
The sustainability group is typically a mixture of volunteers who have a grassroots passion and key players from various departments, recommends Brian Snow, CEO of Pristine Environments, an FM service provider.

In additional to facilities management, the team’s leadership can be culled from numerous places, such as corporate social responsibility, marketing, human resources, or legal.

“You may also need to have your green team led by a third-party consultant, particularly if your organization isn’t large enough to have a dedicated director of sustainability,” adds Snow.

Other players to include are your service providers – think recycling, waste management, janitorial, landscaping, and pest control. Many green initiatives fall under these areas, so make sure contracted companies have a seat at the green table, Snow stresses.

No matter who serves on the advisory group, make sure the team has the backing of corporate leadership.

“If these teams don’t get endorsement from senior management, they can often be a superficial entity because they lack the necessary resources to be effective,” McFadden cautions.

 

TARGET MEANINGFUL PROJECTS
Your green team’s agenda is often dictated by corporate sustainability goals, tenant demands, and operational expenses.

“Many companies will start with initiatives that impact the bricks and mortar of a building – energy management, water conservation, landscaping practices, and waste diversion,” Snow explains. “These are functional areas that are attractive to improve.”

They also tend to be economically feasible, have quick paybacks, engage employees, provide high visibility, and are easy to roll out.

“Green cleaning, carbon footprint, and water conservation are popular areas to focus on,” notes McFadden. “Waste reduction also yields many opportunities with recycling, reuse, cradle-to-cradle procurement, and composting programs.”

The team might develop policies for telecommuting, car sharing, bike racks, and sustainable catering.

As an auxiliary to your FM department, the group may also be assigned to research the viability of specific projects, such as certifications, a vegetated roof, or occupancy controls. They could even oversee data population for programs such as ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager.

An often overlooked area of sustainability is occupant health, says Snow. Indoor air quality, daylighting, and green cleaning have all been shown to have a strong bearing on employee satisfaction, productivity, and absenteeism.

PLAN FOR LONG-TERM SUCCESS
As with any group, green teams can peter out if they aren’t structured to keep the wheels perpetually in motion.

Make sure your green team hasn’t been formed with an expiration date, says Snow. If members were tapped to usher a building through the LEED process, for example, what happens after the certification has been achieved? The group no longer has a purpose and often disbands.

The group also needs to establish benchmarks, collect data, and measure results for all projects in order to prove return on investment.

“Sometimes green teams have to overcome the myth that sustainability is incompatible with economic prosperity,” adds McFadden.

It’s also important to note the limitations of a green team. These groups provide an invaluable service, but they can only be tasked to do so much.

“Some companies mistakenly think that by forming a committee, they’re going to change their facility operations. A committee should be a recommending body, not an execution group,” Snow stresses. “They’re not designed to implement projects – that’s where the FM department steps in.”

 

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen buys $27M Atherton mansion

Paul Allen is the co-founder of Microsoft, but has gone on to invest in everything from real estate to energy to sports teams. Now he's setting down roots in Atherton.

Microsoft co-founder, Seattle Seahawks owner and billionaire philanthropist Paul Allen has paid $27 million for a luxurious, 22,000-square-foot mansion in tony Atherton.

Allen, whose net worth hovers at nearly $16 billion according to Forbes, closed on the property Nov. 12 through a family trust, according to public records that I reviewed this week at the San Mateo County Clerk Recorder’s Office.

Allen is most strongly associated with the Seattle area, where he has a residence on Mercer Island, a short distance from the Microsoft headquarters of Redmond. But he also owns property all over the world including Kona, Hawaii; Beverly Hills; Manhattan; Cap Ferrat, France; and London, according to news reports.

Allen, 60, co-founded Microsoft in 1975 with Bill Gates. He left the company after a cancer diagnosis, which he beat, in 1983. Allen is still a major Microsoft shareholder.

Since then, he has embarked on a series of high-profile projects and investments, including buying the Portland Trail Blazers NBA team in 1988, the Seahawks NFL team in 1997, and co-founding the Frank Gehry-designed Experience Music Project Museum in 2000 in Seattle.

His entree to Silicon Valley may have been foreshadowed in April, when Allen’s investment firm, Vulcan Capital, announced it would open an office in Palo Alto to “focus on expanding the firm’s investments in the Internet and technology sectors,” according to a news release at the time. Vulcan has been on a tear lately, with investments in Seattle’s South Lake Union district and energy paying off big-time.

A representative for Vulcan didn’t return multiple calls or emails.

The Atherton home, on Camino al Lago, sits on nearly two acres and offers eight bedrooms, 9.5 bathrooms, a spa, a theater and seven fireplaces in the main house, according to a property listing on Movoto.com that includes cool pictures. A guest house has two bedrooms and two baths, not to mention a full kitchen. A garage provides room for five vehicles.

“Dramatic grounds surround this magnificent estate,” the listing states.

According to a Realtor source, the property was listed Sept. 30 for $31.8 million, but was pulled off the market Nov. 11. The sale price of $27 million equates to about $1,227 per square foot.

The property was designed and built by Pacific Peninsula Group, a high-end Menlo Park architecture, development and custom-homebuilding firm, which was also the seller. Pacific Peninsula declined to comment.

Allen joins a rarefied club in Atherton that includes Google’s Eric Schmidt, HP’s Meg Whitman, financial icon Charles Schwab and Oracle’s Mark Hurd. It is also the home of real estate icons Carl Berg and John A. Sobrato.

Alex Comsa, a Realtor with Intero Prestigio who specializes in luxury homes on the Peninsula, said Atherton attracts a kind of resident who is interested in privacy, thanks to the bigger lots and houses that typify the town of roughly 7,200.

The purchase price, he said, is among the least of their concerns.

“For these buys, it’s just a matter of finding the right house,” he said. “It’s, ‘Is this a good fit or not, layout-wise, size wise, with the sun orientation?’ Whether you’re paying $1,000 or $1,500 a foot is kind of irrelevant.”

All hail the mothership: Norman Foster’s $5bn Apple HQ revealed

The doughnut has landed … The Apple Campus 2 'pushes the boundaries of technology in almost every aspect'.
The doughnut has landed … The Apple Campus 2 ‘pushes the boundaries of technology in almost every aspect’. Photograph: City of Cupertino

On the third floor of an innocuous office building in southwest London, flimsy sheets of tracing paper are taped to the windows, leaving only an inch gap to glimpse the real world outside. Rolls of drawings are hurriedly dispatched, unmarked boxes carried up in the secure, swipe-card lift. Tired architects drift in and out at unusual times of day and night, forbidden from uttering a word of what lies beyond the doors.

Across the other side of the world, in the city planning office of Cupertino, California, the latest images have been revealed of what is taking shape behind these mysterious obscured windows: designs for the gleaming silver doughnut of the new Apple headquarters by Norman Foster.

Outline plans of the hallowed O were first unveiled in 2011, showing a shimmering circle nestling in a sea of endless trees, as if a flying saucer had just landed in Yosemite National Park. Behind its sleek, curving walls, it was promised to house “a serene environment, reflecting Apple’s brand values of innovation, ease of use and beauty.”

“We have a shot,” proclaimed Steve Jobs, in front of the Cupertino planning committee, in what would turn out to be his last public appearance, “at building the best office building in the world. I really do think that architecture students will come here to see it.”

So how is the promised place of pilgrimage turning out?

‘The best office building in the world?’ … Inside the garden in the middle of the mothership. Photograph: City of Cupertino

The latest images reveal quite how much of an Apple product the $5bn complex will be. While the climbing walls and mini-golf courses ofGoogle’s offices might embody the company’s anything-goes karma, their buildings are not literally made of primary-coloured blobs or cartoonish toolbar icons. The Apple mothership, on the other hand, looks like it could be built out of the stuff of computers itself. It’s as if Jonathan Ive, in a moment of madness, had unscrewed all the polished parts of his iPhones, iMacs and Macbook Pros and refashioned them in a great big circle.

At the gaping triple-height entrance, through which the 13,000 employees will file, soaring columns will rise through the triumphal portal in the same brushed-aluminium finish as a Macbook. Others who arrive by bus will enter up a grand imperial staircase, whose whiter-than-white handrails are chamfered with the same radius as the curved corners of an iPad. The floors appear on the facade as sharply tapering fins, hovering around the building like the rings of Saturn, made of white back-painted glass – just like the back of the white iPhone.

“There was a very surreal moment during the development of those glass fins,” recalls a former Foster employee. “There was a $30m mock-up made of a whole section of the facade, with five versions of the fin in different shades of white. The Apple guys were looking at them for ages, saying one’s a bit too blue, the other’s a bit more cream – but they all looked identical to the naked eye.”

Just like your Macbook … Triple-height brushed metal columns rise through the entrance.
Just like your Macbook … triple-height brushed metal columns rise through the entrance. Photograph: City of Cupertino

With month-long agonies over the whiteness of white, the development of Apple Campus 2 has come under a level of scrutiny unknown to even the most finicky of Foster projects. Before he died, Jobs was adamant that the building’s materials be closer to the kind you would find on an Apple product than a standard building, insisting on gaps between panels no greater than 1/32 inch (0.8mm), compared to the standard 1/8 inch (3mm). It promises to be a strangely seamless spatial experience, interiors conceived like the airtight cabins of aeroplanes or cars, with few joints in sight.

“We were printing out drawings at bigger-than-lifesize scale,” recalls one architect. “There was a debate over whether a particular gap should be 3mm or 5mm, a level of detail most clients would never even consider – or be able to see.”

But, with its x-ray vision for detail, Apple is clearly like no other client on earth.

“The building is pushing the boundaries of technology in almost every aspect,” says senior Foster architect Stefan Behling. “The glazing is a completely new system that’s never been done before,” he says, referring to the 12m-high concave sheets of glass for the main facade being manufactured in Germany, the biggest of their kind ever made. “Everything is handcrafted for this project.”

But in the desperate pursuit of innovation, is the building in danger of being nothing more than a machismo monument to technocratic supremacy?

“It’s a very macho exercise,” says the former Foster employee. “It’s all men, and it’s all about big egos. The biggest piece of glass, the biggest canteen in the world; everything has to be biggest and best.”

Inside the travertine-lined atrium.
Inside the travertine-lined atrium. Photograph: /City of Cupertino

The superlatives extend to the building’s green credentials, championed by Apple’s environmental director, Lisa Jackson, who formerly headed the Environmental Protection Agency for the Obama administration. “80% of the site will be green space,” she beams in the promotional video for the project. “75% of the year we won’t need air-conditioning or heating. We’ll have natural ventilation,” she adds, rolling off a dizzying barrage of statistics. “It will run on 100% renewable energy, with one of the largest solar arrays in the world for a corporate campus.”

And what a campus it will be. The 176-acre (71-hectare) plot looks set to put the Garden of Eden to shame, its copious fields planted with 7,000 trees – cherries, plums, apricots, persimmons, and of course, apples – all co-ordinated by none other than Apple’s “Senior Arborist”, David Muffly.

“The idea is to bring California back to Cupertino,” he says, describing how the planting will follow Jobs’ desire to see something resembling the verdant campus of Stanford brought to what is currently a tarmacscape of car parking and out-of-town sheds.

Arcadian bliss? … Apple apostles walk back from the circular conference temple.
Arcadian bliss? … Apple apostles walk back from the circular conference temple. Photograph: City of Cupertino

Golden-hued images show young Apple apostles striding through what look like fields of wheat on their way to a presentation at the auditorium, a mini-me circular glass pavilion that rises out of the ground in a corner of the campus, topped with its own sleek metallic disc. In this crystal UFO, excited press will gather, before descending into an underground chamber where seating for 1,000 awaits, to be dazzled by momentous multimedia product launches.

With their sun-saturated glow, these pastoral scenes conjure a surreal techno-bucolic bliss. The circular temples, with their barely-there walls, stand in the landscape like future-primitive huts, where a 21st-centuryWalden might take refuge. You expect to find disciples of the Apple cult nestled among the bluebells with their iPads, lost in an arcadian reverie.

So why the circle?

Future-primitive … the mini-me glass temple of the auditorium entrance.
Future-primitive … the mini-me glass temple of the auditorium entrance. Photograph: City of Cupertino

“It started off as a much more organic blob,” says an architect who worked on the project. “But it slowly got less blobby – it wasn’t smooth enough for Steve.” As a metallic doughnut, it has echoes of the GCHQ building on the outskirts of Cheltenham, and no doubt Apple will be trying to keep what goes on inside just as secret.

According to Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s chief financial officer, the circle form is all about workflow. “We found that rectangles or squares or long buildings or buildings with more than four stories would inhibit collaboration,” he told the San Jose Mercury. “We wanted this to be a walkable building, and that’s why we eventually settled on a circle.”

Or maybe it’s because Apple Campus 2 is actually a spaceship, set to launch on persimmon-powered rocket fuel, off to boldly go and sell iPads where no man has gone before.

LEED: Evolution and Expansion

The top 10 biggest changes to the leading green rating system

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More than 4.3 million people live or work in a LEED-certified building. Does that include your building occupants?

If you’ve been considering a green building designation, know that the path to LEED certification is about to change. This month, the USGBC premieres LEED v4; while it’s not quite a departure from previous versions, v4 is nonetheless a sizable step forward for the most widely recognized green building certification.

Start your journey by checking out these 10 landmarks on the new roadmap to LEED certification.

1) Major Reorganization
The LEED umbrella hasn’t just expanded – it’s been restructured. Users can now choose from four broad categories that include 21 building types (see graphic at right). Though the number of choices has increased, most actually target a narrower field of buildings.

“You get to eliminate all of the noise from the project types that don’t apply to you,” explains Brad Pease, director of signature buildings practice for Paladino and Company, which served as a technical editor for the upcoming LEED v4 Reference Guides. “In past rating systems, they tried to write requirements that encompassed all building types from warehouses to office buildings to freeway rest stops. When you do that, you run into a number of gray areas and it’s hard to tell whether some things apply to your building type. It appears more complex, but it’s actually simpler in that if you have a warehouse, you have a different set of requirements that are actually applicable to you vs. trying to interpret an office requirement for unoccupied space.”

Offerings for O&M have grown especially quickly. LEED 2009 included one option specifically for existing structures, LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance. Users can now choose from a broader selection under the general “LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance” menu, which is intended for existing buildings undergoing improvement work with little to no construction. Specialty O&M systems are available for retail, schools, hospitality, data centers, and warehouses or distribution centers, as well as a general Existing Buildings rating for other types of existing facilities.

“For schools, for example, there were a number of new credits in LEED 2009’s Building Design & Construction for Schools that weren’t viable for existing schools, which had to use the general O&M rating system written withcommercial offices primarily in mind,” explains Chrissy Macken, assistant program manager for LEED v4. “The same was true for existing retail – in the BD&C retail adaptation, we included specific calculations for how to address transient occupants like customers and how to address certain supply chain issues. We wanted to move those over into the existing building adaptations.”

2) New Category
The basic structure of each rating system remains the same – you’ll fulfill the prerequisites and then add optional credits as you’re able, with each certification level requiring the same number of points as in previous versions.

However, when you look at a sample scorecard, you’ll see a new category – Location & Transportation. This essentially splits the Sustainable Sites category into two pieces, explains Macken.

“Any credits related to the context of where a project is located, such as amenities and infrastructure available because of the attributes of a particular location, are now in the Location & Transportation category,” says Macken. “That includes density, quality of transit, bike networks, and high priority sites that incorporate brownfields. Sustainable Sites is now limited to how you can maximize your design in terms of the ecosystem and habitat that exists there.”

This development marks the biggest organizational change in LEED v4, Macken notes.

“In general, we tried to combine and streamline credits,” Macken explains. “For example, reducing the heat island effect used to be two separate credits – now it’s one credit assessing both roof and non-roof. The same is true with the two stormwater credits from 2009 for quantity and quality control – we’ve combined them into one rainwater management credit that looks more holistically at the design for utilizing rainwater as a resource on-site. That has allowed us to streamline the calculations and documentation.”

3) New Credits
One new Energy & Atmosphere credit offers a point for making your building demand response-capable, even if your utility doesn’t currently offer demand response; two points are possible if the project is enrolled in such a program.

“The purpose of the credit is to use market demand to change the supply side of energy,” Macken notes. “It encourages utilities to offer these programs to the market and, in turn, forego using energy from less desirable sources during peak demand hours.”

You’ll also notice several changes to the Materials & Resources and Water Efficiency categories. Water Efficiency now addresses all water end uses and encourages the use of the EPA’s WaterSense program, which is essentially an ENERGY STAR label for water-efficient fixtures – learn more about it on page 28. Materials & Resources also encourages smart use of more labels and certifications than the previous version of LEED, Macken notes.

“There are a number of new concepts like encouraging project teams to use products that have Environmental Product Declarations and address source issues beyond wood by looking at other harvested, extracted, mined, and quarried materials,” Macken explains. “There is now a credit that encourages project teams to use products with material ingredients reported. The intention is to accelerate transparency through the adoption of these types of labels and increase the amount of information available to consumers.”

4) Site-Specific Accommodations
In many cases, the new system compensates for site-to-site variations that can affect the feasibility of certain credits. For example, LEED 2009’s Alternative Commuting Transportation credit has evolved into Quality Transit, allowing USGBC to factor in commuters’ likelihood of using public transportation instead of only focusing on whether or not such alternatives are available somewhere nearby.

“Now we’re looking not only at whether transportation is available, but also the frequency of trips, because the No. 1 indicator for whether people will use public transit is the frequency of service,” explains Macken. “We want to start pushing requirements more toward indicators that will help us predict whether more people will use public transportation options, and therefore have improved performance in terms of carbon reduction from transportation.”

Future versions of LEED will build on the performance aspect, Macken adds. For example, Quality Transit may include requirements for the quality of the walk from a soon-to-be-certified building to the nearest public transport.

“We’re looking at walking distance to transportation as opposed to radius from the building. If there’s a six-lane highway between a building and public transport and there’s no walkable route, that’s not an effective way to get occupants to use public transport,” says Macken.

5) Higher Energy Standards
Mulling a major renovation? The requirements for the Minimum Energy Performance prerequisite and the Optimize Energy Performance credit for v4’s Building Design & Construction systems are now tied to the more stringent ASHRAE 90.1-2010 instead of the 2007 version.

To fulfill the prerequisite for major renovations or new construction, you’ll have to demonstrate an improvement of 3% over the baseline set by 90.1-2010, as opposed to 5% for new construction or 2% for core and shell, and comply with all mandatory provisions set out in the standard. For Operating & Management projects, ASHRAE 90.1-2010 is used to determine climate zones for projects outside the U.S.

“According to a variety of studies, the 2010 version is about 20% more stringent than the previous one,” Macken notes. “There are also a number of new mandatory measures ASHRAE has put in the standard, so there will definitely be a bit of a learning curve for project teams to get acclimated.”

The mandatory provisions in the wide-ranging 90.1-2010 impact HVAC, lighting, power, equipment, and more, so make sure you’re familiar with ASHRAE’s updates before embarking on the process.

6) Submetering
Categories for both energy and water now require at least whole-building metering, with optional submetering credits available.

“It’s great to measure consumption at a whole-building level, but it’s even more beneficial to submeter so you can see what part of the building may not be performing as designed,” Macken explains. “Are several of the systems using too much water or energy, or are there one or two areas that are far away from the performance targets the project intended? Having that information available helps teams achieve better performance outcomes.”

7) Reportable Data
The new submetering option joins a host of credits that encourage benchmarking of not only energy and water, but other trackable indicators of facility health. Two of the new data requirements:

Water analysis. The structure of the Cooling Tower Water Use credit now recognizes differences in water quality between locations, so you won’t be penalized if your cooling tower can only reuse water for a few cycles before it exceeds filtration levels or operation is otherwise impacted.

“The analysis helps the credit be more responsive to the specific circumstances of each individual project,” says Macken. “If we were to set a specific baseline for all projects, many would have a difficult time meeting the threshold and others would have a very easy time depending on where they are, which would fail to make the credit performance-based. This way, projects achieve the cooling tower energy and water efficiency that makes the most sense depending on the quality of water in their area or on their site.”

Carbon and emissions. The Renewable Energy and Carbon Offsets credit (worth up to five points in O&M or two in BD&C) offers incentives to either utilize renewable energy or purchase green power, carbon offsets, or renewable energy certificates. Carbon offsets require you to calculate how many metric tons of carbon you can offset with your purchase, resulting in a concrete way to track emissions.

“If you go through the LEED rating system, you’ll be able to report your carbon footprint in a way that hasn’t always been there in the past,” explains Pease. “Now you’ve got a rating system that speaks the same language as your stakeholders, and there’s almost a direct chain between how your building is operating and what you can report to investors, community groups, or customers. It’s a foundational shift.”

8) Documentation
Like its predecessors, LEED v4 still requires considerable paperwork. However, the evolving paperwork stipulations are moving in a direction users should find more favorable, Pease says.

“Documentation has always been a challenge with LEED because it costs money to prepare,” explains Pease. “If you are submitting paperwork that doesn’t help you achieve the design direction, it’s just more things to document, which becomes a strain on the process and the rating system. This time, what USGBC has tried to do is make sure that whatever calculation you’re performing or document you’re producing to help design systems, that’s what you submit. They’ve tried to reduce the amount of busywork in the rating system and turn it into more constructive work.”

9) Transition Period
Typically, the USGBC sunsets registration for a retiring LEED version after the latest one has been available for about six months. This time, users will have roughly a year and a half between LEED v4’s debut at Greenbuild this month and LEED 2009’s registration closure on June 1, 2015.

“This is the longest amount of time we’ve ever offered two different versions of a rating system for registration at the same time,” says Macken. “LEED v4 is a big step for the market, and we wanted to give project teams the option of easing into the new system; for example, this gives the design community more time to start integrating LEED v4 into their offerings over the next couple of years. We expect a benefit from giving the market the time it needs to absorb a new program.”

In the coming months, the USGBC is set to release a new reference guide for v4, Macken says. The certification experience itself has changed, from different documentation requirements to improved reference content, Pease adds, which necessitates a different approach from users.

“If you set a goal for LEED Gold or Platinum, that’s great in that it forces you to look at certain credits you may not understand. However, that tends to be a scarcity approach because you’re spending the majority of your time on the credits that are most difficult to achieve, possibly the ones with the least amount of performance impact to you,” explains Pease. “If you take the abundance approach and say ‘What do I want to get out of the LEED experience?’ and ‘What are the metrics I want to improve on?’ and select credits that help you answer them, then you know you’re using a meaningful rating system because the credits now align to your values.”

10) What’s Next
The development of the new system was spurred partially by the growing percentage of projects earning Gold or Platinum certification under previous versions, which indicated that it was time to raise the bar, Macken says. The revision is part of a continuous improvement cycle meant to encourage further growth as the market delivers increasingly higher performance.

“I think 5 to 10 years from now, LEED v4 is going to seem pretty tame. That’s simply because the rate of market adoption is going up so quickly,” says Pease. “In just a few short years, we’ve gone from people having known about LEED to tenants and customers demanding it. I walk into my local home improvement store and see a LEED plaque on the wall – that to me is a dramatic change. It’s no longer about trying to win more market share – I think it’s about making a positive impact.”

PG+E Electrifies Recycling Rates

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Pacific Gas and Electric Company may be well known for powering millions of customers in California, but the utility provider is also committed to environmental leadership. With approximately 20,000 employees, waste management is a key undertaking.

To integrate efficient handling of non-hazardous waste into the company culture, PG&E has implemented a number of initiatives to prioritize recycling, says Karen Cochran, sustainability manager. The results are impressive:

  • 67 sites finished with a 78% diversion rate in 2012, which exceeded their goal of 73%.
  • Another 48 properties are being added in 2013 for a total of 115 recycling sites.
  • $620,000 has been saved since 2010 from recycling, which doesn’t include avoided costs due to waste management rate increases or added revenue.
  • Improved service yard practices have reduced monthly costs by 43%, or $46,000 a month.
  • 20 sites collect food scraps for composting.

PG&E has a third-party professional track its non-hazardous municipal waste streams on a monthly basis, reporting a diversion rate for each quarter. Materials are broken down by those recycled, composted, and sent to landfill. Waste volume is recorded in tons per individual sites and then the company as a whole.

Not only is progress tracked monthly and quarterly, but annual diversion rates are also compared against others for context.

“We look at diversion rates from cities, corporate sustainability reports from companies within our industry, and other businesses who are leaders in this area,” Cochran notes.

A key driver of PG&E’s recycling success is its emphasis on employee engagement. “You can have the best waste management program, but if people don’t participate or use the bins correctly, you’re not going to make progress,” stresses Cochran.

To support this, the company has developed a Green Ambassador program at many sites. The volunteers coordinate sustainability projects, one of which is proper waste handling and employee education about waste diversion.

“For example, we hold competitions in our headquarters that pit floor against floor in waste diversion contests. We count the bags every day for a month and then compare rates, rewarding winners with the highest and most improved rates,” Cochran explains. “This is a great way to educate employees and keep them focused.”

Beyond traditional recyclables, PG&E also targets materials in its service yards, such as conduit, metals, and construction materials derived from the company’s utility work.

“We’re working with several of our recycling and recovery companies to divert materials such as ceramics and cabling from the landfill,” says Cochran.

Moving forward, PG&E will also start looking at construction projects. Demolition and construction waste is already being diverted but without a central data collection process in place for tracking.

Currently at a 78% diversion rate, the company is on track to exceed its 80% goal for 2014.

3 Ways to Improve Your Waste Diversion

Use a waste stream audit to reduce hauling fees and generate recycling revenue

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How high is your diversion rate? Many businesses can divert a significant volume of recyclables from the landfill, such as plastics, metals, glass, paper, cardboard, and food waste. Use a waste stream audit to set a benchmark for your recycling program and uncover revenue opportunities.

What do plastic bottles, soup cans, printer paper, cardboard boxes, light bulbs, glass containers, batteries, and food scraps have in common? They all have the potential to be recycled, but only if your business is prioritizing waste diversion.

Whether you have an established recycling program or you’re trying to motivate employees to use those blue bins, a waste stream audit is one of the best ways to verify your progress and expand recycling opportunities.

“It’s more than added recycling containers or signage,” says Miriam Zimms, director of program planning and development with Kessler Consulting, which specializes in waste solutions. “An audit evaluates and benchmarks waste stream volume, collection contracts, education and outreach, environmentally preferable purchasing, and measurement and verification.”

Use a waste stream audit to establish a benchmark for a new program or refine goals for an existing one. Chances are less trash in your garbage bins will also mean more money in your pocket.

1) GO DUMPSTER DIVING
It may be a smelly proposition, but sorting through mounds of trash is the only way you can gain a sense of your waste volume.

The most common method is a waste composition sort, which includes a visual assessment of collected materials. Its goal is to document each waste stream your facility generates by weight and volume, says Patrick Leonard, manager of the Portfolio Services practice with Paladino & Company, a green consulting firm.

This informal audit, which can be done in-house or by a third-party professional, should be scheduled during times of typical waste production, such as a non-holiday week.

Plan ahead for the following steps:

  • Divert waste to a central location (such as a loading dock) for one to two days.
  • Count all trash bags or containers.
  • Separate each waste type: trash, mixed paper, glass, metal, wet waste, compostable materials, and plastic.
  • Record the weight of each waste type.
  • Publicize the results to your occupants.

“Measuring current performance with a waste audit gives you a baseline for improvement,” Leonard emphasizes. “You can track actual month-to-month performance against this based on your vendor billing or reporting cycles.”

Use the data to help you increase diversion rates, right-size waste handling infrastructure, adjust removal contracts, and highlight occupant or janitorial education opportunities.

2) CLEAN UP YOUR CONTRACTS
Not every visual audit has a trash-to-treasure outcome – your removal and recycling revenue contracts are major opportunities to uncover savings. But it’s rare for facility managers to be as focused on these fees as they are on their utility bills.

“I often find that building management doesn’t have a measurement system for their solid waste and recycling costs or recycling rates. They are often surprised by how much they’re paying when they calculate annual totals,” says Zimms. “When you consolidate this information into a spreadsheet or dashboard, you can begin to pinpoint improvement areas.”

For example, Zimms once had a client who was receiving recycling revenue share for cardboard, which was collected in a compactor.

The company was supposed to receive $60 per ton, but due to some minor plastic contamination, the cardboard fibers couldn’t be reclaimed – they were going straight to the landfill for almost a year.

Because no one had scrutinized the contracts and the contamination notification was buried in the bill, this change was overlooked. Not only did this complication result in lost revenue, but it negatively impacted the company’s diversion goals.

As important as correct invoices are, however, remember that they don’t tell the full story, stresses Karen Cochran, sustainability manager for Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

“They only reflect your current setup – how big your bins are, what type of waste they collect, and how often they’re picked up,” she explains. “Keep in mind that the hauler may assume those bins are 100% full. But an audit will often find that the materials are different from what they’re supposed to be or the bins are only partially filled.”

If your waste volume is lower than what you’re currently paying for, you can reduce dumpster pulls or the size of your bins, suggests Leonard.

You can also right-size your operations by increasing the number and location of recycling receptacles.

Another tactic could be to increase the density of your bales, which requires changing your baler technology, Leonard notes, but the payback can be less than three years.

You should also review how much waste is being brought into your facility in the first place. Strong purchasing policies can help to reduce the volume of cardboard and plastics that come as packaging, for example, Zimms recommends.

3) GET YOUR OCCUPANTS INVOLVED
At the heart of any waste management program are your occupants. It takes the hands of many to generate trash and equally as many to be steadfast about disposal. Whether it’s school children recycling project papers or employees diverting their plastic bottles at lunchtime, human habits can make or break your recycling rates.

Ensure that bin placement and signage are clear, accessible, and easy to understand. A common mistake is locating recycling bins too far away from garbage containers, stresses Zimms, which makes it more difficult to keep the streams separate.

Communication is also a key factor in your program’s success. Employees need to know recycling guidelines, what the benefits are, and whether their efforts are making a difference. When you report the results of an audit, for example, describe recycling volumes in relatable measures, recommends Leonard. Think pounds or tons diverted, miles of bottles collected, cubic yards or football field lengths, or reams of paper saved.

You can also incentivize employees by holding contests (see PG&E example at right) or finding unique ways to engage them with your program.

“We had a client trying to improve its recycling rate and found through an audit that there were a significant number of polyfoam cups going into the trash. So they bought every employee a ceramic coffee mug that could be reused,” Leonard explains. “People got to feel good about the initiative and the ROI was only a couple of years.”

Of course, the company also had to prove that the water used to wash the cups still had a smaller environmental impact than the foam cups, notes Leonard, but it was viewed as a chance to further educate employees about sustainability.

You may even be able to divert some of your collected waste to employees’ homes. “A simple solution is to offer used coffee grinds and landscape clippings to occupants for reuse in their gardens,” adds Leonard.

Don’t overlook your janitorial personnel – “there can be high turnover or even language barriers with cleaning staff, which can erode consistent recycling practices over time. Create a pictorial education program for them,” Zimms notes.

WASTE AS A COMMODITY
As you phase in initiatives from your waste audit, make sure to assess the overall goals of your recycling program. Some companies will target diversion rates as set forth by their local government or state goals, whereas others are driven by the gains made by a competitor.

“If you’re just starting a recycling program, set a diversion goal of 15-25%,” recommends Zimms. “Then increase your benchmark after two years to 40% and over 50% after five years with a mature program.”

You can complete follow-up audits at any time to track progress, but it is advisable to schedule them on a routine basis (such as once or twice a year) or when a major change like a new tenant impacts your operations, Leonard notes.

At the end of the day, however, one of the best things you can do for your recycling program is to change your attitude about trash. Waste management is better framed as resource management.

Every organization generates excess materials that can be salvaged – wood pallets, fryer oil, toner cartridges, food scraps, electronics, and light bulbs.

The key is to use an audit to better manage those waste streams and find a partner company who can reroute them from the landfill.

Frequently Asked LEED Questions (FALQ) by General Contractors

BY HAWKINS THOMAS –

thomas-hawkins

As a LEED® Construction Project Manager, I find myself answering a similar set of questions from General Contractors (GCs) each time I kick off the LEED construction process for a new project.

Whereas this may seem annoying to some, I actually find it encouraging because it’s a sign the GC is actively engaged in understanding the details of the LEED construction credit requirements. Much of LEED is in the detail, which is why GCs often see the credit requirements as just one more nuisance they have to contend with.

That being said, it is important for them not only to understand what is required, but also to understand what is not required. The LEED construction process that I use on my projects is intended to make things as streamlined as possible for GCs, as I am well aware that LEED is just one small portion of their project responsibilities. Below is a list of “Frequently Asked LEED Questions” (FALQ’s) by GCs, followed by my corresponding answers.

FALQ #1: LEED MR Credit 2 – Construction Waste Management

GC: I understand that the demo/construction waste data must be sent from the associated hauling subcontractors on a monthly basis, but what about data from excavation and land clearing activities? Does dirt and associated debris get included in the waste diversion calculation?

Hawkins: Dirt, shrubbery, trees, grasses and all other types of land clearing debris are not to be included in the waste diversion calculation. It is possible that your hauling subcontractors will provide this information in their monthly waste material breakdown reports, but just ignore it. The only demo/construction waste data you need to be concerned about is the tonnage of material diverted and/or sent to the landfill.

FALQ #2: LEED IEQ Credit 4.1 – Adhesives/Sealants & LEED IEQ Credit 4.2 – Paints/Coatings

GC: I get the concept of using low VOC products, which is standard on LEED projects these days, but what types of VOC products must be tracked and LEED compliant?

Hawkins: All fluid based VOC products that are field applied (on-site) within the building’s waterproofing system must be reviewed for LEED VOC compliance. If the product is shop applied or applied to the exterior of the building then it is not applicable to LEED requirements, nor does it need to be included in the VOC product tracking for this credit.

FALQ #3: LEED EA Prerequisite 1 – Fundamental Cx & LEED EA Credit 3 – Enhanced Cx

GC: When is it a good time to meet with the project’s Commissioning (Cx) Agent to begin discussing the LEED Cx requirements and schedule?

Hawkins: It is very important to know who the Cx agent is on your project before construction starts, as they may be reviewing MEP submittals as they come in from subcontractors. However, the Cx team will not perform an official site visit for some time into the project. This depends on schedule (as with anything), but a formal LEED Cx kick-off meeting will need to occur right around the time ductwork is beginning to be hung on-site. Your Cx agent should be able to explain the scope for the project, discuss scheduling for site visits to witness equipment start-ups, etc.

FALQ #4: LEED IEQ Credit 3.1 – Construction IAQ Mgt. Plan – During Construction

GC: The implementation of indoor air quality (IAQ) measures and provisions is a best management practice on every project, LEED or not. Since I have to take pictures of those measures throughout construction based on the LEED credit requirements, how do I know when to start photo documentation and why do I have to time stamp the photos?

Hawkins: First, you need to make sure you read in full detail and understand the finalized LEED IAQ Management Plan requirements. This plan should be project specific and identify all the measures that will be implemented on-site. Two specific provisions found in every LEED IAQ Mgt. Plan are “Proper Storage of Absorptive Materials” and “Proper Storage of Mechanical Systems/Equipment.” This is a good place to start with photo documentation because drywall/gypsum board systems, insulation and ductwork are materials that directly correlate with the measures mentioned above and are typically some of the first items to arrive on-site when building interior work begins.

Therefore, check your construction schedule to see when these items will be delivered. Specific to these measures, you will want to take photos of these products covered/wrapped and elevated off the ground to prevent dust infiltration and mold growth. Regarding time-stamping the photos, it is very important that the photos serve as documentation exhibiting that all measures were monitored and maintained throughout construction and not just a certain time period.

FALQ #5: – LEED IEQ Credit 4.3 – Carpet/Flooring Systems

GC: I have worked on multiple LEED projects that have pursued this credit and sometimes all the hard-surface flooring (with the exception of natural or mineral based products) must be FloorScore® certified and other times it does not. Why is that? Obviously, it is important for my flooring subcontractor to understand what is required.

Hawkins: It sounds like you have worked on projects with different LEED rating system versions. LEED v2.2 and older do not have FloorScore certification requirements and only require that carpet and carpet cushions/pads are Green Label Plus and Green Label certified, respectively. LEED v2009 has the additional FloorScore certification requirement as one of two options to achieve this credit (learn more about Option 2 here). This relatively small detail can have a huge impact on the flooring and flooring subcontractor selected for the project, which is why it is critical to understand which LEED rating system version your project is registered under.

FALQ #6: LEED MRc4 Recycled Content & MRc5 Regional Materials

GC: Many of my subcontractors are hesitant to provide dollar values for the associated products they are using in the building. This is due to disclosure of profit margin or in some cases, like concrete or steel, they won’t know the exact dollar values until after concrete operations are complete or after steel mill certifications are available. First, why do my subcontractors have to provide you with this information? Second, how do we get around this but still provide information to be included in the contribution calculation for these two credits?

Hawkins: Recycled and regional credit achievement is based on percentages (by cost) of the total estimated construction value of the project. Therefore, you must receive dollar values for the materials that contain recycled and regional contribution in order to determine the total percentage as products come through via the submittal process.

Unfortunately, there is no way getting around this. However, what you can do is identify trades/materials that will have the highest contributions to these credits and go hard after those. That way once you hit your project’s percentage goals for those two credits, you can stop requesting this (obviously troublesome) information from the subcontractors.

You have a valid point regarding exact dollar values for particular types of materials like concrete and steel. What I would suggest is getting an estimated dollar value for these types of materials so that you can at least include something in your percentage tracking to get an idea of where the project stands.

After steel fabrication, concrete pouring, etc. is complete you can do what I call a “LEED close-out submittal” and replace the estimate values with actual costs. LEED does not require you to validate your material cost values for these two credits. Obviously you want to make sure that the dollar value you provide is as close to accurate as possible, but it doesn’t have to be down to the exact cent.

FALQ #7: LEED Construction Submittal Review Process

GC: On my last LEED project, the subcontractors were terrible about providing LEED information/product submittals in a timely manner. We ended up having to circle back multiple times to get the information, which slowed down the whole submittal review process. We almost ended up losing a credit because the product data was approved before the LEED information was reviewed, which discovered a non-compliant product. How do we hold our subcontractors accountable and what can we do to mitigate having to circle back on missing LEED information?

Hawkins: Bottom-line here is that you have to use the project’s specification book. That spec book is the project’s contract documents and is the law of the land. The LEED submittal and product requirement language found within each spec section is ultimately your contractual leverage to get this information from the subcontractors. They bid the project based on the spec book, meaning it is their contractual obligation to understand the requirements found within. All LEED projects should have undergone a LEED design review process, which is when the LEED requirements should have made their way into the spec book.

Regarding having to circle back on LEED information, the best way to ensure that non-compliant products are not getting approved in product data submittals is to enforce that product data and LEED information must come together in one package or (at a minimum) be sent at the same time which allows for a simultaneous/concurrent review by all involved team members.

FALQ #8: LEED WEp1 – Water Use Reduction

GC: Why do you need to review the plumbing fixture product data submittal for LEED?

Hawkins: It is imperative that the plumbing fixture product data is reviewed for LEED compliance because you must validate that the selected flush/flow fixture rates match the project’s water use reduction strategy. Water isn’t cheap, especially for large scale residential/commercial building developments. We have the ability to create added value to owners by reducing water usage, resulting in lower utility bills and more money to invest in other areas. Often I find that the fixture rates identified in the plumbing schedule and spec book are not the same as those issued in the submittal review process. That being said, it’s best practice to make sure that this gets cross checked.

Evolution of an Industry

As you can see from a few of the FALQ examples above (believe me, there are more), there are many intricacies involved in the LEED construction process. The ins and outs can keep your head spinning if you aren’t careful, which is why I see how it can be difficult for GCs to stay ahead considering all the other balls they are juggling every day.

However, based on my close interaction with GCs on my LEED projects, their engagement and willingness to conform or adapt is increasing. That’s because LEED/sustainable construction science isn’t going away anytime soon and this increased acceptance is evolving the entire construction industry to the benefit of the owners, the environment and building occupants.

Hawkins Thomas is a Green Building Consultant, LEED® AP BD+C in Paladino’s DC Office. This post has been edited to clarify that there are two options to achieve LEED IEQ Credit 4.3.