Saturday, August 24, 2013

ODOT's LEED: Platinum or Potemkin - When will they LEAD with Sustainable Transportation?

At this point LEED's shortcomings with regard to transportation is old news. It is all too possible to plop a super "green" building out in a suburban or exurban wasteland that is not served by transit and can only be reached by drive-alone trips.

LEED is pretty good on
what is there, but not as good on how we use it and especially on how things and people get there.

Still, it was interesting that yesterday when the Oregon Department of Transportation announced that the T-Building renovation was certified "Platinum," there was very little talk of, you know, transportation.  Mostly, it's about water.  

And while managing run-off from impervious surfaces is an important part of road design and engineering, that should be a technical detail in support of the greater mission - moving people and goods.  The citation here shows how - like with Levels of Service - systematically we let technical details swamp the bigger picture, how the machine rules man.  (The "gadget green" is enough to make you a little luddite!)  The ODOT renovation was an opportunity to reconfigure ODOT for the 21st century, but the building fundamentally still looks to the 20th.  

Since the agency still thinks giant bridges and highways are good mobility solutions for the 21st century, this shouldn't be surprising.  

All this is not to say the building isn't an improvement, but geez, ODOT, you can do so much better! 

Sustainable transport and smoking at ODOT HQ
SALEM – The Oregon Department of Transportation’s headquarters building in Salem has received the LEED “Platinum” rating – the highest level – for being an environmentally-responsible and sustainable facility. The building, located on the Capitol Mall, was built in 1951; few updates were made over the years, and in 2010, the building closed for a nearly two-year rehabilitation. The refurbished, historic facility re-opened in August 2012 – offering a healthier atmosphere for employees and visitors and a friendlier impact on the environment.

A plaque was recently placed at the building’s east courtyard entrance indicating the LEED Platinum rating. LEED, or leadership in energy and environmental design, is the industry framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. Here are some of the key elements contributing to the building’s designation:
  • Sustainable Sites (9 of 14 possible credits)
    • Storm water planters in the east courtyard filter water runoff from the roof.
    • The facility provides shower facilities and inside/outside bike parking.
Swales for run-off dwarf the three new bike racks
  • Energy and Atmosphere (13 of 17 possible credits).
  • The building has:
    • An efficient radiant panel heating and cooling system.
    • Rooftop photovoltaic panels.
    • An efficient, sensor operated lighting system.
    • Newly insulated walls and roof.
  • Water Efficiency (4 of 5 possible credits
    • Overall water use is targeted to be reduced by 56 percent compared to a typical office building.
    • Low-flow plumbing fixtures are located throughout the building.
    • Several rainwater collection tanks collect and recycle 100,000 gallons each year for toilet flushing.
  • Indoor Environmental Quality (13 of 15 possible credits)
    • The HVAC system delivers constant stream of 100 percent filtered, outdoor air. No air is recirculated in the building.
    • Low emitting (no volatile organic compound (VOC) paints, carpets and other finishes were used throughout the building.
    • The building provides access to views to 90 percent of regularly occupied spaces – giving people a connection to the outdoors.
  • Materials and Resources (10 of 13 possible credits)
    • Contractors used locally sourced materials, such as wood products: casework materials including plywood and fiberboard. Oregon white oak wall panels, door frames and doors
    • Other locally sourced products used include precast window sills and tables/benches in the east courtyard.
    • The building contains a large selection of materials with high quantities of recycled material – acoustic insulation in walls and above radiant panel ceilings, carpets, etc.
    • Contractors refurbished and re-installed existing historic bronze window casings.
  • Innovative Design (5 of 5 possible credits)
    • The building shows "exemplary water use reduction" - extra credit was awarded for exceeding 40 percent water use reduction (the T-Building is tracking to save 56 percent each year).
SERA Architects of Portland headed up the design of the remodeled Transportation Building. Hoffman Construction served as the general contractor. The budget for the remodel project, including leases and related expenses, was $69.4 million.

Much of the reduction in expenses was due to the timing of the project: construction began just as the economy was slowing, making materials less expensive and creating competition for subcontracts that came in with lower bids than expected. It was also a favorable time to secure leases on both short-term and long-term facilities for employees.

Meanwhile, many construction workers were able to stay on the job because of the state investment in the Transportation Building. The project supported an estimated 525 family-wage jobs and kept several small, minority-owned and women-owned businesses busy during an otherwise slow time.

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