By Derek Singleton
One of the main difficulties in achieving LEED accreditation is accurately planning out which credits are attainable--and then tracking and managing all of the paperwork that comes with winning a LEED credit. It's a rigorous and time consuming process. However, new technologies available on the market can help make this process more manageable.
Today, an increasing number of construction firms are relying on building information modeling (BIM) to plan their LEED credits before the construction phase. Once it's time to build, firms are turning to LEED-specific project management software to keep documentation in order, improve team collaboration and share knowledge on project best practices. Here are five ways these technologies can help drive efficiencies in the LEED accreditation process.
1. BIM Helps Model Which Credits Are Attainable
BIM has been around the construction industry for some time, but it's becoming more relevant to LEED projects. BIM helps plan LEED credits by allowing architects to layer mulitple levels of information onto a 3-D building design. For instance, in addition to knowing the location and size of something like a door frame, an architect can add information about where the building materials were made, and what percent of the materials come from recycled content. Knowing this is useful for planning out something like MR Credit 4.1, which awards a credit for buildings that use 10 percent recycled content.
2. Multiple Projects Can be Managed from a Workbench
Once the plan is laid out in BIM, and it's time to execute on the design, project management software (defined here) can simplify tasks related to the construction phase. Project workbenches give users the ability to monitor the number and type of credits planned for a particular project. From this view, team members can prioritize which credits are easiest to obtain, and which are most difficult.
3. Assign Tasks to the Most Capable Individual
Once projects are planned and it's time to dole out responsibility, it's important to know what will be required to obtain the credit. Several project management systems provide charette functionality. This gives the team a snapshot view of the prerequisites for achieving a credit and the options for getting there. The charette functionality also allows tasks to be assigned to the most knowledgeable person on the team.
4. Earn Bonus Points from Regional Priorities
In many cases, there are region-specific LEED credits that are awarded for meeting a regional environmental priority. For instance, a particular region may incentivize an additional energy use reduction that goes beyond LEED requirements. Project management systems can make identifying these bonus credits easier by providing a regional database of credits. This can be a boon to LEED accreditation as bonus points can help boost your building to the next higher level of LEED accreditation. For instance, the difference between a LEED Certified building and a LEED Silver building is only 10 points.
5. Share Best Practices with the Team
A final way that technology is helping simplify the LEED process is by creating a database of best practices to help others working on similar projects or problems. Think of this as a proprietary wiki that helps team members complete a project goal by preventing them from going back to rework a problem that someone else has already solved. Aggregating best practices in a single, electronic database can help improve the speed at which projects are completed since all team members can easily look up solutions without going back to drawing board.
These technologies help take some of the guess work and paperwork out of the LEED accreditation process. However, they still have some room to mature. If you work on LEED project, what would you like to see added to these technologies? What would make your daily life easier on a LEED project? Leave your me your thoughts in the comments below.