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Commissioning: LEED® EB Streamlines for 2008

I would like to bring closure to this fall’s series of columns on retrocommissioning with a discussion of the LEED for Existing Buildings’ prerequisite for existing building commissioning. The United States Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program extends beyond capital projects into building operations through their Existing Buildings (LEED EB) certification program. A building does not need to have been designed and constructed as a LEED certified project in order to qualify for the LEED EB process.

LEED EB 2.0, the rating system in use since 2004, includes a prerequisite for “Existing Building Commissioning” that involves the following basic steps:

  • Operations Plan

  • Test Systems against Operations Plan

  • Correct any Deficiencies

  • Retest

  • Document Compliance with Operations Plan

The Operations Plan is a document very similar to the Owner’s Project Requirements or Design Intent Document for new construction projects. It defines the owner’s performance criteria and hours of operation for at least the heating system, cooling system, humidity control system, lighting system, safety systems, and the building automation controls.

For most large facility owners this process of documentation, testing, correction, and retesting is a major undertaking that does not easily fit into their current building operation and maintenance schedule. As such, this prerequisite is one of the barriers that building owners have run up against when considering LEED EB certification. Because the USGBC wants to encourage building owners to do the right thing and re-think the way they operate their facilities, this perceived impractical-to-achieve goal needed to be removed.

The USGBC has revamped the LEED EB system and issued “Version 2008” for review and voting by the USGBC membership. Balloting is due to be complete on November 26, and there is no reason to expect that the new program will not be accepted. Along with a number of other credits, the existing building commissioning process has been reworked.

The prerequisite in Version 2008 is now defined as “Energy Efficiency Best Management Practices: Planning, Documentation, and Opportunity Assessment.” It includes:

  • Operations Plan

  • Systems Narrative

  • Sequences of Operation

  • Preventive Maintenance Plan Narrative

  • ASHRAE Level I – Walk-Through Energy Assessment

Although the prerequisite includes validating that the Operations Plan and Preventive Maintenance Plan are followed, the primary purpose of the prerequisite is to accurately document the building systems and their current operation. This documentation is intended to serve as the basis for continuous improvement over time.

Building owners will receive credits (points towards a total LEED EB rating) for having or implementing any of the following retrocommissioning steps:

  • Performance Measurement (Building Automation System)

  • System Level Metering

  • Investigation & Analysis

  • Implementation of Energy Conservation Opportunities

  • Ongoing Commissioning

This is a chronological listing of steps associated with a thorough retrocommissioning (existing building commissioning) process. A difference between LEED EB 2.0 and Version 2008 is a recognition that the process may take an extended period of time and a point system designed to reward building owners for each step along the way.

In order to become LEED EB certified at any level (Certified, Silver, Gold, Platinum), the only commissioning-related requirement is to develop accurate systems documentation. As progress is made towards “greening” a building’s operation, the owner can accumulate more points through the existing building commissioning process (and the other elements of the LEED program) and be able to recertify at a higher level.

In conclusion, for building owners who considered and dismissed the LEED EB 2.0 process, I encourage you to revisit the rating system as defined in Version 2008. For those owners who haven’t yet taken the plunge into the LEED EB process, hold out for the official Version 2008 roll-out. This program is one that will really make a difference in sustaining energy efficient and environmentally friendly building operations into the future.


Commissioning: Getting It Right

Engineered Systems, December, 2007

Rebecca Ellis, PE, LEED AP, CCP, CxA
Questions & Solutions Engineering
1079 Falls Curve
Chaska, MN  55318