In my November 2004 column titled "Green Design Liability," is the question, "Should engineers obtain green liability insurance?" As I get more and more involved in LEED® projects (12 active so far), however, other worries are taking shape.

Keeping Projects On The Leed® Track

The most recent concern arising from LEED project efforts has been that jobs are getting rejected after the final paperwork is submitted to the USGBC. How bad is this? Well, think about how your client invested additional funds into the building program, the additional time that went into meeting to monitor the LEED scorecard progress, and the time it took to design and construct the LEED project, only to have the application turned down due to incomplete documentation. I can assure you that this outcome does not make a happy customer. So how do you avoid this dilemma? Start by assigning a LEED facilitator and instituting a process-tracking program that inventories what needs to be done, when, and by whom in both the design and construction phases, and, most importantly, what should be done should the project get audited.

To begin with, it is important to note that as commissioning agents, we have had the opportunity to participate in several LEED projects while design teams and construction firms are locked into job-by-job opportunities. As a result, we have been able to accelerate our LEED education faster than the design and construction teams. Based on this fast-track education process, we have developed the following four rules of thumb for these certification projects.

Don't assign a LEED facilitator and depend on each member to do the right thing until it is time to submit the application to the USGBC. Don't assign a LEED facilitator and then fail to keep this individual in the communication loop. Don't assign a LEED facilitator and think that his responsibilities can be written into the contract documents, believing the general contractor will pick up the responsibility and "run with it." And finally, keep the scorecard current; don't think someone else is maintaining the documentation.

Avoiding The Headache

Sound crazy? Not really, because the scorecard can be a false security blanket allowing all participants to think everything is going well, while no one realizes that the backup documentation is not being organized and filed by the LEED facilitator. What is the answer to this dilemma? I suggest the following.

  • Contract the services of a LEED accredited professional consultant to be responsible for starting the application early in the design phase, if not in the programming phase. This individual or firm will also be retained to continue the documentation process through construction and the first-year.
  • Have the LEED facilitator schedule LEED team meetings and maintain meeting minutes.
  • Have the LEED facilitator maintain documentation requirements along with responsibility and due date through the design phase and issue updates on an as-needed basis.
  • Have a tracking process incorporated into the project schedule identifying design-phase milestones based on the tentative LEED scorecard prerequisites and additional credits.
  • Extend the tracking process into the contractor's project schedule to ensure this firm is also now participating as a LEED team member, identifying construction-phase milestones based on the tentative LEED scorecard prerequisites.
  • Have the LEED facilitator continue to schedule LEED team meetings that include the new members (contractor) and maintain meeting minutes.
  • Have the LEED facilitator maintain documentation requirements, add the new LEED team member responsibilities and due date through the construction phase, and issue documentation updates.
  • Have the LEED facilitator provide a quarterly project update to the client and copy the LEED team members.
  • Assemble the documentation for application submission.

Because the project certification process is new to everyone, we are all learning as we go. There is no guarantee that the person who is the LEED accredited professional will know much more than anyone else on the job. In fact, if an accredited professional is not active with LEED certification projects, his accreditation status won't do much good. You have to be involved in these projects to become proficient. It seems to me a lot of people rushed to pass the LEED test but are not committed to being a project facilitator.

Only the person who will facilitate the LEED process, manage the paperwork, and submit the application on behalf of the owner needs to be LEED accredited. The other team members simply need to be knowledgeable about the process and be contributors. The designer needs to be on board near the beginning. The builder needs to join the team when construction starts. And the LEED facilitator needs to be there from beginning to end. ES