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Why Choose a Green Building Expert Over a Checklist LEED Consultant




Choosing the right consultant for your project is a crucial step in the success of your LEED Project.


From our experience working on LEED projects, we identified two types of LEED consultants. The Green Building Expert who will have a holistic understanding of building physics, uses modeling as a decision making tool and actively will monitor and manage your LEED construction costs. And what we call the “Checklist leed Consultant” which as its name indicates, will guide you through LEED as a checklist exercise without forcefully providing tailored and quantifiable solutions to your project challenges.



I. A Holistic Approach for Better Buildings

The creation of high-performing and sustainable buildings relies on the methodology and approaches adopted during the design phase. Among them, two approaches stand out: opting for a holistic design approach, distinct from checklist-based approaches, and utilizing passive strategies instead of active ones.



Relying On Passive Strategies


Passive strategies utilize natural, unpowered systems to provide heating, cooling, lighting, and ventilation within a building, aiming to create a comfortable and energy-efficient indoor environment. Unlike active strategies that employ systems and equipment such as air conditioning or a boiler, passive strategies leverage the forces of nature, making use of climate, site conditions, and materials to achieve supply buildings. These strategies offer numerous advantages, including an energy consumption reduction, a decrease in energy costs, and an improvement in indoor comfort by providing better indoor air quality and daylight for occupants.


Check out GBCE’s blog post about passive strategies : Passive & Active Design in Green Homes (greendesignconsulting.com)


The Whole is Greater than the Sum of Parts


Our holistic approach seeks synergies between environmental responsibility, social well-being, and financial returns. To implement this approach, a multidisciplinary team collaborates from the project's inception, taking a comprehensive view of the building rather than a system-by-system approach. This early collaboration not only saves time and reduces costs but also enhances environmental performance, as subjects are considered within the whole building ecosystem. The outcomes of this integrative approach transcends architectural creativity and technical ingenuity, as it redefines design beyond mere ecological construction.




II. Using Building Modeling to Guide the Design


In order to design a building that combines energy efficiency and environmental sustainability, a Green building expert will use modeling to inform the design throughout their project phases . Modeling can be used to assess the building's energy performance based on various variables, anticipate energy needs, identify areas for potential improvements, and ensure that the building operates optimally throughout its lifespan.



Predicting Energy Performance With Energy Modeling


Energy modeling is an essential tool in sustainable design. It allows to predict quite precisely a building's energy consumption based on its design, location, architectural and system features. However, it's important to emphasize that energy modeling is complex. To provide accurate results, it requires the collection and input of accurate data input, being able to cross-check results with industry benchmarks and to model complex systems such as refrigeration or heat recovery. Energy modeling demands specific experience and expertise, as errors in energy modeling can also lead to incorrect estimates of energy consumption, potentially impacting the long-term need for renewable energy sources in the building and LEED results.


In a lot of cases the checklist leed consultant and the energy modeler will be two different people. A green building expert possesses the necessary expertise and experience to perform accurate energy modeling tailored to the specific project, ensuring better client understanding and energy model alignment. Furthermore, with their experience in energy modeling, a green building expert can use modeling to design with passive strategies and therefore maximize the project’s energy and comfort performance.

Learn more about how to improve energy efficiency here : Energy efficiency | GBCE (greendesignconsulting.com)



Daylight, a Missed Opportunity


The LEED credit related to daylight analysis is often overlooked because many professionals are unsure of how to justify it due to its complexity. However, pursuing this credit offers significant benefits from a user perspective such as, improving the well-being of building occupants, reducing the need for electric lighting, and controlling energy costs. When claimed this credit also has the potential to earn the project 3 points which is not negligible when reaching for high scores.


A checklist leed consultant may omit this analysis due to a lack of skills and experience in daylight analysis. However, a green building expert understands the importance of this credit and knows how to achieve it. By using techniques such as adjusting window sizes or making minor architectural adjustments, a green building expert can ensure that the project meets the LEED daylighting credit requirements.


Link to GBCE Blogpost about LEED : LEED PRACTICAL GUIDE (greendesignconsulting.com)




III. Capitalizing on Relevant Experience


LEED certification projects can sometimes pose complex challenges from a design and documentation perspective. Having prior experience on similar projects is advantageous, to provide specific expertise to support the integration of LEED requirements, commission the project as well as to ensure that this is documented correctly.


Experience on Similar Projects


Experience is a valuable asset for every project but when it comes to designing and managing LEED projects, the interdisciplinary nature of these makes that experience even more relevant. Project challenges can vary significantly based on their typology, and each project category has its own specificities and unique requirements for sustainable design.


Understanding the nuances of each project is essential. For example, a warehouse may have very different requirements compared to a manufacturing facility, in terms of space requirements, equipment, lighting, and environmental control. This is why it's important to ensure that the chosen consultant has experience with similar projects.



Experience as a Commissioning Agent


LEED Commissioning is a mandatory component for every LEED project and takes place at the end of construction. Every commissioning agent must have prior experience as a LEED Commissioning Agent to be qualified to oversee a LEED commissioning project. This ensures specific expertise within the LEED context. Furthermore, a proficient commissioning agent can identify discrepancies between design and implementation long before construction is completed. These discrepancies can highlight design or installation issues, allowing for early resolution and the avoidance of future complications during operation. Additionally, thanks to their experience, LEED commissioning agents are capable of accurately documenting the entire process and developing an appropriate commissioning plan even before the systems are installed.


Learn more about leed Commissioning here : LEED Commissioning (greendesignconsulting.com)




IV. Managing LEED Added Project Costs


When it comes to designing and constructing a LEED project, cost management is one of the most crucial concerns for designers and developers. In this context, hiring a green building expert offers significant advantages over hiring a checklist consultant. One of these key assets lies in how these two types of consultants approach cost impact, return on investment analysis and cost optimization.



Return on Investment Analysis of Green Features


One of the main distinctions lies in return on investment analysis. A checklist consultant may overlook this critical step, focusing solely on implementing the design without evaluating long-term profitability. In contrast, a green building expert systematically integrates ROI analysis into their design process and takes a more holistic approach by carefully assessing cost impact at every stage of the project. They conduct a comparison and analysis of cost impact, viewing issues from a budgetary perspective.



Reaching the Highest Score at Lowest Cost


A green building expert takes a flexible approach by considering how to address budgetary concerns and environmental challenges simultaneously by relying on building performance modeling such as daylighting and energy modeling. In doing so, they assess multiple strategies to ensure the achievability of a high LEED score while still maintaining reduced costs, thereby contributing to mitigating the project costs influenced by LEED.


Consider passive design strategies for instance. As we have discussed earlier, passive strategies do not require energy to function. And actually a lot of them do not require additional costs either. It is the case for good orientation of adapted massing for instance. Others like insulation need to be considered on a case by case basis and must be assessed in regards to several parameters. For example, on energy savings, ROI as well as stacked effect benefits such as moisture control which in turn can lead to less maintenance. A green building expert will conduct a thorough cost benefit analysis and consider various options to, for example, maximize the building's energy efficiency at lowest implementation and operational costs. This proactive approach identifies significant savings opportunities and optimizes the project budget and reduces costs directly induced by LEED requirements.




Conclusion

In conclusion, selecting the right consultant for your sustainable construction project is a fundamental step in laying the groundwork for your project's success. Understanding these differences when hiring a consultant for a project can make the difference.


A green building expert differs significantly from the checklist leed consultant in terms of methodology, skills, cost management approach, and experience.


The green building expert is an expert in holistic design, passive strategies and master the technical skills of energy modeling and daylight analysis, ensuring sustainable and cost-effective solutions. In contrast, the checklist leed consultant may not prioritize these critical aspects, potentially resulting in missed opportunities and higher costs.

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