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Green Plants for Green Buildings forms LEED Advocacy Committee

By: Joe Zazzera, LEED AP, GRP |  May 1, 2009 | topics: LEED Advocacy, Supporter from GPGB

In May of 2009 the LEED Advocacy Committee of Green Plants For Green Buildings was formed. The single mission of this committee is to get live indoor plants into the LEED rating system either through an addition in the Indoor Environmental (IEQ) category, Innovation in Design (ID) category or both. Since live indoor plants are in other rating systems, we believe the lack of indoor plants in LEED was simply an oversight.

On our committee are 9 people, all from the interior plantscape industry including 3 GPGB board members. 5 of our committee members are LEED Accredited Professionals.

One of the first orders of business of our Committee was to research and review the possibility of an Interior Plantscape Certification program. The USGBC does not create their own certification programs; they only adopt existing certifications such as Green Seal, Green Label etc, into the LEED rating system. The Committee, after review, made the decision not to have GPGB create a certification program. The Board and the Committee believe it is important that any program be a 3rd party program and not created by us. Instead, it was determined that the best course of action was to support but not formally endorse the Green Earth, Green Plants certification program. By doing this, we could never come under scrutiny or threaten our non-profit status.

In July, the USGBC released a “Call for Ideas” to members and the public at large. The purpose of a call for ideas is for the USGBC to hear what is important and relevant from the public and from industry. The USGBC uses such information to steer changes and improvements to the rating system. GPGB immediately put out a call for action industry wide. Requests showed up not only to GPGB members but also in and around the entire plant world including PLANET, PIA and FNGLA. There is no way that we know of to get a reporting as to the number of submittals were entered but we believe based on those we have talked to that it was substantial. We know we are being heard. The USGBC is consensus based and loves grass roots measures. The Technical Advisory Groups (TAG’s) are responsible for the review of the scientific and supporting data for submissions. Since we know we have lots of supporting scientific information, we believe we will be heard.

Earlier this year, the USGBC announced its desire to work on some standards with the UK’s BREAM system and Australia’s Green Star system (equivalent LEED rating systems). What this says, we believe, is that there is respect by the USGBC for those rating systems. Since the Green Star system already has adopted live indoor plants into their system, our hope is that LEED will follow suit. Additionally, a few months back, New Zealand began a pilot program using live indoor plants in their rating system.

Our new website will have a link for known LEED certified buildings that are using live indoor plants in their buildings. Even the USGBC’s offices in Washington, DC, uses live plants.

We are putting out a call for projects to the industry. What we would like to see is a building owner who has not yet submitted their LEED paperwork, to make a commitment to submit under the ID, Innovation In Design, category. Innovation in Design is just that, a specialty credit for creative ways of effecting change using technology, education or some other form. Since this can only be utilized on a building that has not done their submittals, we are asking our membership to talk to their architects and owners about upcoming projects. The LEED AP’s on our committee have offered their services or consultations to help that process. In the absence of an actual credit category for indoor plants, the ID category might be the next best path and possibly a quicker one.

We are working on some LEED for home discussions but nothing has come out of pursuing that yet. We have been told that unlike commercial projects, which have to be completed prior to full LEED submittal, with LEED for homes a concept can be submitted for approval prior to the project. We are trying to verify this now as there are many changes with LEED for homes at the moment.

Green Plants for Green Buildings will have a booth at Greenbuild this year in Phoenix. Our booth will be on the second level of the pavilion near the food area. Several members of our committee are coming into Phoenix at their own expense to attend and man the GPGB booth. Please let us know if any of you are attending, we could always use the help at the booth.

Finally, we know what we need is a “white paper” for submission to the USGBC. We have asked our members to become members of their local USGBC chapters and to spread the indoor plant message but we also need to submit our request to the USGBC to be heard on an official basis. Our plan is to develop this white paper and to have it vetted out by some of our industry leaders as well as other industry leaders. By doing this we will be submitting the best possible document and request.

I will continue to make updates when needed.

Thank you for supporting GPGB and our mission.

Indoor Environmental Quality and LEED

indoor plants and indoor environmental quality (IEQ)

By: Joe Zazzera, LEED AP, GRP |  March 31, 2010 | topics: US Green Building Council’s LEED Rating System

Under the US Green Building Council’s LEED rating system there is a credit category for Indoor Environmental Quality or IEQ. Within the system a building owner can submit to receive credit points for using materials that are low VOC,  (volatile organic compound) emitting adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings, carpet systems, composite woods, laminate adhesives and furniture. In addition to several prerequisites, there are credits available for air monitoring and delivery, having construction management plans to deal with and filter air during construction and prior to occupancy, as well as chemical source controls.  The general idea is to avoid sick building problems before they arise by using products that are low or no VOC emitting and have monitoring and control devices in place during and after construction.

This category deals specifically with increased occupant comfort, well-being and productivity. Let me repeat that…well-being, comfort and productivity! Nearly every credit within this category references those three words in its intent, yet despite the research, findings and science proving the benefits of indoor plants on the human experience, the increase in productivity and removal of toxins and VOC’s, there is no credit category for plants indoors.

The Green Building Council of Australia has an equivalent building rating system known as “Green Star”.  In their system they aim to encourage and recognize the installation of indoor plants that improve environmental quality. Points are awarded when plants are included in the office build out or tenant improvement.

The criteria for compliance must have the following:

  • Plant species selected on suitability to indoors
  • Two-year horticultural maintenance plan
  • Minimum density of one 300mm (12”) plant or two 200mm (8”) plants per two work settings
  • Additional points can be added for increased plant density (double density=double points)

Beyond the criteria there are also compliance requirement submittals and documentation, which I encourage you to review (Green Star- Office interiors v1.1 IEQ-15 Indoor Plants)

This past month there was some good news published by press release from the USGBC.  Australia’s Green Star, the UK’s BREEAM rating system and USGBC’s LEED system have agreed to work together to develop metrics and alignment tools to create consistency in measuring and reporting. Although this in and of itself may not seem like a very big deal, in my opinion it is huge because it indicates mutual respect between these three entities and gets them working together toward a common goal. I believe this cohesive approach will eventually give live plants their correct place within the LEED rating system, but only if we push for the change.

I encourage Interiorscapers everywhere to learn as much as you can about the Green Star requirements and talk about it with your current and potential clients. Additionally, join your local USGBC chapter and talk to anyone there who will listen about the system and why indoor plants should be in the LEED rating system. It is these kinds of grass roots effort that will get us recognized and get green plants in green buildings.