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Green Building Design as an Active Driver

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Jody A. Woodley, AIA

Plan the Work. Work the Plan.

When creating sustainable work and educational environments, designing “green spaces” is only part of the equation. We know design extends beyond the building, its finishes, and its functions to transform how people think, act, and interact throughout the day. HEALY | BENDER is committed to finding environmentally, socially, and financially equitable strategies for your next building project. We understand the importance of building environments for occupant well-being and performance while meeting the growing demand for low-emission solutions.

Our approach to LEED Certification is to ‘Plan the Work’ and ‘Work the Plan’. Planning identifies sustainability goals and objectives. Working tracks progress toward compliance and the eventual approval of LEED credits from the USGBC. With this approach, Green Building Design is the active driver for many of our design solutions.

Prior to Design Commencement

  • In concert with the Owner, design team, and other project representatives, we review and discuss prospective LEED credits based upon known site information and preliminary building assumptions.
  • We perform an Eco-Charrette with the Owner, design team, and other project representatives to review prospective LEED credits including their financial implications. We discuss everyone's commitment to pursue certain credits based on budget, sustainability goals, and project objectives. Results of the Eco-Charrette are placed into several categories; 'YES' – 'Maybe YES' – 'Maybe NO' – and 'NO'.
  • Get the project registered with USGBC based upon decisions made at the Eco-Charrette.
  • Explore grant opportunities to take full advantage of OPM (Other People’s Money).

Design Phases

  • Utilizing results of the Eco-Charrette, we organize the project design effort toward the goal of credit compliance. Building orientation studies with energy modelling are utilized for the basis of early design decisions.
  • Throughout the fluid progress of design, we conduct regular LEED meetings to review status of credit documentation and compliance. When and where necessary due to budget, project scope, or other factors, we look for adjustments needed to achieve compliance with as many credits as possible.
  • Upon final design and after a comprehensive audit of Design Credits, we submit the project to USGBC for review.

Construction Phase

  • It is critical in the construction phase to continue regular LEED meetings to review construction credit documentation and compliance.
  • Follow up with basic and enhanced commissioning ensures conformance with design requirements.
  • Upon completion of construction and a comprehensive audit of Construction Credits, it's time to submit to USGBC for review.

‘Plan the Work’ and ‘Work the Plan’. Good documentation, follow through during design and construction, and compliance will result in a great project - one everyone can be proud of.

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Pro-active Planning: The Physical Facility Assessment

Jacob Been, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

The Physical Facility Assessment is a planning tool to assist with budgeting short and long-term building and site improvements

A Physical Facility Assessment is meant to provide an insight into the existing conditions of a site, building envelope, interior finishes, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, fire protection, and low voltage systems. Such an assessment considers the age and condition of key site and building components of which aging or out-dated, inefficient conditions may not be visually evident.  For example, the existence of non-insulated, single-pane glazed windows may not necessarily be a code violation or in disrepair, but from a long term energy-efficiency and consumption standpoint, non-insulated glass in our climate should certainly be considered for replacement.

The assessment process typically begins with an initial walk-through by the architect and engineers.  HEALY | BENDER reviews any existing plans and information made available by our clients and meets on-site with your operating personnel to observe and note the building systems.  This thorough review with operating personnel ensures we understand ongoing-issues that may be plaguing the building and allows us to address and make appropriate repair and replacement recommendations.

As site observations are completed, a report with photos, charts and a 3 to 10 year budget is prepared.  Our reports are organized by building component types allowing for a quick overview of general conditions and deficiencies, life expectancies, and recommendations for repair or replacement.  The resulting report is a planning tool to assist with budgeting short and long-term building and site improvements.  Knowing where you're going and having a plan to get there is a great step to avoid unexpected expenses down the road!

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Sustainable Pavement: A 50 Year Solution

David Patton, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

The majority of pavement surfaces today are still constructed of hot asphalt. Asphalt has proven to be relatively inexpensive and serviceable for many building owners. However, asphalt pavements quickly degrade and as a result, they require regular ongoing maintenance. Considering long term maintenance costs, the total cost of ownership over the life of an asphalt pavement system can be quite expensive. Freeze/thaw cycles, which occur many times during a typical winter, accelerates asphalt degradation. In order to maintain asphalt pavement in tip-top shape, crack filling, sealcoating, and restriping is recommended once every two years. At about ten years of service, the asphalt may need to be milled and resurfaced. It is not uncommon that by twenty years of service, the asphalt may require full replacement, including remediation of the underlying subbase and subgrade soil.

The good news is that there is a longer term pavement solution available.  Permeable pavement systems, though they can be more expensive at the onset, can be less expensive over the life of the pavement system when compared to asphalt.  Permeable pavement systems are a proven alternative. In simplest terms, these systems are constructed of interlocking, high strength concrete pavers.  As the system is installed, small voids are maintained between individual pavers.  These voids allow rainwater to percolate to an underlying structural and open-graded stone base. Over time, water absorbed by asphalt systems result in the degradation of the pavement.  This is further exacerbated by our Midwest freeze-thaw cycles.  On the other hand, a permeable pavement system is designed to allow water infiltration.  Due to the porous nature of the open-graded and draining stone base, the freeze/thaw cycle has little to no effect on the system.  The design results in a long service life for permeable pavement systems which often exceed 50 years.

Permeable pavement systems require less maintenance than asphalt systems. Since permeable pavement is constructed of individual concrete pavers, the modular system, by nature, has the ability to respond to minor movements in the subbase and soil below.  Pavers do not require regular crack filling and sealcoating like an asphalt system does. Still, permeable pavement systems do require some maintenance for optimal performance.  Recommended maintenance includes vacuuming voids with a heavy duty vacuum truck to remove contaminants and debris which can clog drainage voids.  Other periodic maintenance includes installing new void filler (aggregate) between the pavers and occasional restriping if contrasting color pavers are not used to denote parking stalls.  Although a few pavers may fail over time, the removal, reinstallation or replacement of individual pavers is relatively simple if localized problems do occur.  Unlike asphalt, repair areas blend in.

From a performance perspective, 95% of rainwater that falls on an asphalt surface becomes immediate runoff.  This requires stormwater management through collection, often via inlets, catch basins, underground piping, and eventual storage in a stormwater basin for release at a controlled rate. Unrestrained runoff from asphalt surfaces can contribute to downstream problems such as flooding, riverbank scour and poor water quality. When rainwater falls on an impervious asphalt surface, the runoff often picks up pollutants including volatile organic compounds, oil, grit and heavy metals.  Left untreated, these pollutants eventually find their way into creeks, streams and rivers. Additionally, runoff from asphalt pavement is often warmer than the water of a receiving waterway.  The warmer temperatures can promulgate algae growth thereby decreasing the amount of dissolved oxygen and thus reducing the amount of life a waterway can sustain.

In contrast, during a light to moderate rain event, permeable pavement systems limit rainwater runoff to about 10%.  The other 90% that hits the surface drains through the permeable paver voids to the open-graded stone base and subbase reservoirs.  Below the brick surface, the rainwater is absorbed by the stone (like a large sponge), stored for slow release, filtered and cooled. Permeable pavement systems have been shown to remove up to 80% of pollutants before being released into receiving waterways. The net effect is reduced pressure on municipal storm sewer systems due to reduced runoff, less downstream flooding and better overall water quality of local waterways.  Because of these positive attributes, permeable pavement systems contribute to LEED Green Building performance.  We’ve used permeable pavement systems on several recent projects including the new Isaac Singleton Elementary School in Joliet and Luther J. Schilling School in Homer Glen.  Others too, are seeing the sustainable advantages of permeable pavement parking, including a large scale installation at Morton Arboretum in Lisle.

When considering a complete pavement replacement project, permeable pavement systems can initially cost 30-40% more than comparable asphalt systems. However, after ten years of service, the total cost of ownership between the two systems is approximately the same due to the higher costs of maintaining asphalt pavement. After fifty years, the total cost of ownership of an asphalt system will be approximately two and a half to three times the total cost of ownership of a permeable pavement system. With new construction, the cost of a permeable pavement system can be comparable to an asphalt pavement system when considering a potential reduction in the number of storm sewer inlets and catch basins, the reduced underground storm piping and reduced or eliminated stormwater basins.  Grant opportunities are also available to help offset the initial installation cost of permeable pavement systems.

We can assist in the design of your next permeable pavement system.   No time is better than now to consider the benefits of these sustainable pavement systems and their reduced maintenance costs.

Permeable pavement systems are a proven alternative.

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Construction Costs: The Upward Trend

Jacob Been, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

The new year is here and although construction costs are still very competitive, we’re starting to see costs rising as the economy slowly improves, even if projects are sporadic here in Illinois. The price of gasoline has fallen 40% or more since late last year, but diesel fuel hasn’t followed the same trend, and diesel is a big factor in transportation costs for the construction industry. A few sources, including Rider Levett Bucknall, an international property and construction consulting firm, reports building costs rising at the fastest pace in more than six years (here). Despite this reality, real estate is still reasonably priced and interest rates remain near historical lows. Those with foresight are taking advantage of these market conditions before today’s costs are a vestige of the past.

Remember the good old days when a new elementary school could be built for less than $500,000? Well, neither do I; it’s a bit before my time, but Healy | Bender had plenty of them back in the 1950’s and well into the 1960’s. In fact, the cost of a new elementary school in the southwest suburbs averaged just $12/sf in 1960. More recent projects such as William E. Young School in Homer Glen (2008) and Parkside School in Peru (2009), at the time, averaged just under $160/sf. Today, in 2015, the average cost is closer to $192/sf with certain projects trending even higher. This month, we’re finalizing bid documents for two school projects in Lake Crystal, Minnesota. During design, Krause Anderson (KA), the Construction Manager, advised of costs that have risen significantly since the school district’s successful bond referendum in August 2014. Construction costs have increased nearly 10% in that region over the past six to eight months. Together with the Owner and Construction Manager, we’ve had to make several difficult plan decisions to provide a greater likelihood of favorable costs on bid day.

Everywhere you look, cost movement is upward. Even so, Dodge Data & Analytics released it’s 2015 Dodge Construction Outlook (here). Dodge’s outlook predicts that U.S. construction starts this year will rise 9% to $612 billion. The weather outside is still cold as ever, but competition for good contractors and efficient, modern buildings designed to meet tight budgets is heating up. Don’t get left behind! We specialize in analyzing your facility needs and we’ve prepared competitive bid documents to meet stringent budgets like those $12/sf budgets back in the 1960’s. The same goes today. The cost of construction will likely never be less. Why wait?  

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