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Facility Asset Management

Sustainability and Higher Education

by James Sebesta

Jim Sebesta is president and CEO of Sebesta Blomberg & Associates, Roseville, Minnesota and a Business Partner of APPA. He can be reached at sebesta.jj@sebesta.com. This is his first article for Facilities Manager.

Momentum continues to build as more notice is paid to the benefits for higher education when attention is paid to issues such as sustainability, life cycle costs, environmental stewardship, and asset preservation. Balancing these issues with a continued volatility in energy supply, reliability and costs, and the growing demand for a diminishing pool of financial resources (which will not change any time soon) add to the complexity of institutional management. Within these forces and influences, it is important that long-term strategies, direction, and focus be the guiding factor for a facility management decision-making structure within the higher education community.

LEED® Green Building Rating (LEED®-NC) system is becoming both a nationally and internationally recognized standard measure of sustainability for new capital projects.

Sustainability, for the sake of this article, can be defined as a process that reduces the long-term impact on natural resources and the environment in a cost-effective and socially acceptable manner. However, for most colleges and universities, there is already a significant facility and building base which also needs to be considered to truly move toward a sustainable and cost-effective campus. In order to accomplish this, the institution’s administration should look toward a new LEED® rating tool which has been released for existing buildings (LEED®-EB) and focuses on the sustainability of the operations and maintenance of an existing facility. This tool, the LEED®-EB rating tool, evaluates the same five areas as LEED®-NC, that is 1) site, 2) water efficiency, 3) energy and atmosphere, 4) materials and resources, and 5) indoor environmental quality. Facilities departments can use this rating tool to report to the sustainable committees on their progress and identify areas that need additional funding to correct deficiencies.

The LEED®-EB rating system has 14 prerequisites and 85 possible points to achieve various levels of certification. The Energy and Atmosphere (EA) section dominates in LEED®-EB with 28 percent of the possible points and three prerequisites. The first prerequisite of the EA section is existing building commissioning, more commonly

referred to as retro-commissioning, which is a systematic process of verifying and documenting that the fundamental building systems are performing as intended to meet current needs and sustainability requirements. This process will identify deficiencies in system operations, provide a documented building operation plan, and identify operational savings potential.

The next prerequisite demonstrates that the building has achieved a minimum level of energy efficiency (Energy Star Rating of 60). These two prerequisites usually identify savings potential which will help a facilities department obtain the necessary funding to upgrade the building systems to meet the sustainable goals of the university. After meeting the prerequisites, additional effort is needed to obtain the points that lead to certification. Improving the Energy Star rating can result in up to an additional 10 points (one point for each four-point rating improvement). Enhanced monitoring efforts can result in another three points. Enhanced monitoring consists of basic measuring, assessing, improving, and measuring activities to maintain an efficient system. Studies have shown that implementing a retro-commissioning, enhanced monitoring and facility optimization work-order system can result in energy savings of up to 40 percent annually over non-monitored buildings.

The sustainable sites section targets issues that impact the community such as stormwater management, light pollution, and alternative transportation. This section is about being a good steward and creating minimal impact on the community infrastructure. The water efficiency section focuses on methods and opportunities to reduce water use through native landscaping, minimal irrigation, and use of water efficient plumbing fixtures. The materials and resources section requires working with various campus departments to establish an environmentally preferred purchasing policy for paper, janitorial supplies, furniture, and other items. This section also establishes recycling targets that can be monitored and improved over time.

The fifth section mentioned above is the Indoor Environmental Quality Section which is the other major section of LEED®-EB with 22 points available. Indoor pollution sources are first minimized as best possible and then managed to have the least impact on occupants. Thermal comfort and daylighting are encouraged and monitored for points. Incorporating green housekeeping techniques also contribute significant points to the overall rating.

While energy is a cornerstone of a sustainable operations program, the entire program needs to be approached in a holistic and realistic manner throughout a campus.

The LEED®-EB rating system and the ideals and programs outlined above provide an integrated approach to performance measurement and can guide decisions that lead to economically sound sustainable solutions. Sebesta Blomberg has elected to participate in the LEED® -EB pilot program for certification of its corporate headquarters, and is already seeing the benefits from the audit and program development which will pay dividends in terms of future impact on the environment and the community as well as reducing our cost of business.

Higher educational facilities are poised to be a leader in their communities through the development and implementation of comprehensive sustainable operations and maintenance programs. Whether certification is sought, or the ideals and processes of LEED® is only used as guidance, is a decision that must be made by each institution. However, the degree to which each institution endorses a belief in sustainability will have a dramatic impact on the regional and national environment in the long term.


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