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Introducing LEED 09

Next month, with the economy almost certainly still gripped by recession and AV professionals doing their best to differentiate and promote their services, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) will release the newest version of its benchmark Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system.

Next month, with the economy almost certainly still gripped by recession and AV professionals doing their best to differentiate and promote their services, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) will release the newest version of its benchmark Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system.

While the much-anticipated LEED 2009 still does not explicitly reflect the role of AV technologies in potentially reducing a building's carbon footprint, it includes enough changes that AV pros considering a green strategy or encouraging employees to pursue LEED Accredited Professional (LEED-AP) status should be aware of them. As more AV designers and integrators team with architects and builders, green AV proponents believe it's important to at least "speak" LEED.

Not all LEED rating systems are getting an upgrade. LEED 2009's focus is on the commercial building industry. Among the updated ratings that are of interest to AV pros: LEED for New Construction, LEED for Commercial Interiors, LEED for Existing Buildings, and LEED for Schools. Among the most important changes to the LEED lexicon is the point system. With LEED 2009, USGBC has made it so rating systems are uniform, which is to say a credit in New Construction is the same as it is in Commercial Interiors, according to Ashley Katz, spokesperson for USGBC. "We assigned a weighting priority to each of 13 areas and put reducing CO2 emissions and improving energy efficiency as the No. 1 goal."

Now buildings are rated on a 100-point scale, whether in New Construction or Commercial Interiors. Projects that reach 40 points will be certified green. Those with 50 points get silver certification, 60 points merit gold, and those with 80 points or more receive platinum status.

Still, the maximum potential points is 110, which includes "bonus" credits for Innovation in Design and a new category, Regional Priority Credits.

AV pros who've been working on LEED projects are well aware that the Innovation in Design section is their best place to make a case for systems like videoconferencing. Many say builders and architects often already have in mind what they consider Innovation in Design, making it hard to get attention for a particularly energy-efficient AV design. But in LEED 2009, there is one extra Innovation in Design credit available. (The number of credits went from four to five, not including the existing credit for using LEED-APs on the job.)

More significantly, LEED 2009 includes new Regional Priority Credits that buildings can attain by paying particular attention to sustainability requirements in their part of the country. USGBC uses the examples of heating oil conservation in the Northeast and water conservation in the Southwest, but what exactly qualifies for a Regional Priority Credit won't necessarily be determined by the same people who maintain the LEED rating system. USGBC Regional Councils and Chapters will identify a set of possible credit for their regions; projects will be eligible to earn up to four of them.

Like Innovation in Design credits, Regional Credits could be an opportunity for grassroots AV organizations to work with local chapters to identify possibilities for AV solutions, such as remote areas of the country where distance conferencing could play a role in reducing a facility's carbon footprint.

Technology progresses

Despite the significant revamp, buildings already LEED-certified won't be required to re-certify.

"I wouldn't say that projects certified under the LEED 2009 rating system would be better than those certified in 2000," says Katz. "But certainly the building community has made advances that would lead one building to be higher-performing than another based on when products were made available."

USGBC, however, encourages buildings that earned New Construction certification to re-certify as Existing Buildings, for example, two years or more after receiving their initial rating. In fact, a look at the revisions to the rating systems indicates that AV pros have more to contribute to LEED status in the Commercial Interiors and Existing Buildings systems, where control systems come into play more. The former now offers more points for lighting controls, including occupancy sensors for 75 percent of the connected lighting load.

Not surprisingly, control is also key in schools. LEED 2009 for Schools appears to grant more leeway in controlling regular illumination and AV situations. It also now makes more explicit prerequisites for acoustical performance, including the use and placement of acoustical panels.

Interested AV pros can download documents pertaining to LEED 2009, including information on LEED-AP status, at www.usgbc.org/leed2009.



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