PCL Construction’s new district offices in Oakville has garnered a lot of attention for its commitment to sustainability, with a focus on wellness as seen in AWARD: PCL Toronto – New District Offices. One of the means to achieve their desired outcome was to target LEED® v4 for commercial interiors. That alone is proof of PCL’s commitment since this fairly new set of standards pushes all known boundaries and is very difficult to achieve.
We were thrilled that PCL Construction, who we’ve worked with several times, trusted us to be Sustainability Consultants as they lead the industry through early adoption of LEED v4, targeting LEED Silver ID+C in their new Toronto head office. It was an opportunity to explore LEED v4 together and see how what we learned could be applied on future projects.
We helped them go the extra mile required and found out what it really takes to manage the process of moving towards this new and challenging rating.
Why LEED v4 is Very Challenging
Since the USGBC decided to recognize international projects by incorporating regional variations within the LEED v4 rating system, the CaGBC no longer felt the need to create its own version for Canada. However, that meant a huge jump for Canadians, who were using V1 and what we call 2009, versus what might have been incremental changes over years.
Impact on the Market
What we are finding is it’s a shock to an industry that was settling into LEED being table stakes. Suddenly Platinum buildings are only Gold, or even Silver buildings. There are new credit categories, while some have been eliminated. Thresholds have been re-thought, such as the specification of ‘local source’ shrinking from 800 km to 160 km.
While all rating systems are impacted, including LEED NC (new construction, including some major renovations) and LEED EB:O+M (existing building operation and maintenance), LEED ID+C (interior design and construction) is particularly challenging with the leap from LEED v1 in Canada straight to LEED v4. Spaces that could have been Gold in the old system may struggle to even certify. For example, until this update we could simply submit calculations for low emitting materials. Now emissions testing has to be done on every relevant product.
A major change specific to ID+C is that v4 drives the project to energy modelling rather than a series of prescriptive measures.
There are also much higher expectations on indoor air quality. PCL Construction truly went above and beyond finding compliant low-emitting materials, testing and retesting when a couple of IAQ contaminants were found slightly above the LEED thresholds, to ensure these standards would be met by the time their people moved in.
Onward and Upward with LEED V4
With the new rating system, the USGBC has reset the system to refocus on top-performing buildings. To earn LEED Platinum, you have to truly be with the top 10% across the board.
It used to be builders and tenants could count on achieving LEED certification with some relatively minor investment. While challenging, project teams should not be discouraged. With commitment and integration of goals from the early stages of the project it is still possible to reach the design and performance levels that are now required to earn a LEED certification.
It’s also important to remember benefits from trying that hard are immeasurable. Aim for the stars and capture the moon.
*The CaGBC will still administer certification.
** The USGBC system includes localized interpretation for international differences, allowing other countries to implement this system, versus having to create their own.