LEED Office Reentry

USGBC offers up to four credits that layout strategies and best practices for our new normal in the office. I love leveraging the excellent work already done by other experts who have thought long and hard about whatever it is I’m researching. When I worked as a sustainability manager for a luxury hotel, I mined my LEED O+M reference guide for new ideas. The hotel was making great strides, but certification wasn’t realistic at the time. Nonetheless, I pulled lots of inspiration from that reference guide that evolved into projects and programs at the hotel.

Not much has changed. When I started digging into how we can address COVID-19 at the building level I thought, “I bet LEED has pilot credits for this.” They did not disappoint. Let’s look at what they address:

Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Space

This is an expansion of LEED’s Green Cleaning credit. The goal is to clean and disinfect while minimizing harm to the people that are exposed to the cleaning chemicals, (i.e anyone in the building). They require policies to address cleaning product selection, cleaning procedures, PPE and training for cleaning personnel, and, very importantly, occupant education. If you haven’t heard about a policy like this in your workplace there’s a good chance it doesn’t exist.

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Re-Enter Your Workspace

We aren’t going back into the same office we left so we need a plan that sets us up for success. This credit is about that plan and to help develop it they require using AIA’s handy Re-occupancy Assessment Tool 2.0. The plan must address who needs to be in the office, preparing the office and staff for reoccupation, and cleaning procedures. It incorporates journaling by management and occupants about how they feel in the space. As with the cleaning and disinfection policy, if you haven’t heard about a reentry plan for your office then there’s a good chance there isn’t one.

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Building Water System Recommissioning

If you’re like me, you get excited every time you see the word commissioning. No, that’s just me? Fair enough, but this is still important. Empty buildings lead to stagnant water and that can be dangerous. Stagnant water is a breeding ground for legionella which can be deadly and low water flow can result in degraded water quality. This credit requires a plan for water quality testing along with both EPA and ASHRAE guidelines as well as corrective actions if those tests don’t go well. It also requires ongoing water management plans to be put in place.

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Managing Indoor Air Quality during COVID-19

Reading through the requirements of credit set off alarms in the energy manager section of my brain. Turn of demand control ventilation? 100% outside air?? Run the ventilation systems during unoccupied hours??? Yes, this all flies in the face of efficiency, but it’s in the best interest of the health and safety of the occupants.

As you may have guessed, this credit is an expansion of existing LEED IEQ credits with some additional COVID specific strategies. Our understanding of how the virus is transmitted is constantly evolving and the requirements for this credit are based on the best information available from sources like ASHRAE.

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About James Tosh

James Tosh 300

James brings project management, facilities operations, commissioning, and sustainability expertise to the Elementa Engineering team. His strong connection to water and nature, fostered by his love of surfing, led him to explore a career in sustainability. After implementing an award-winning sustainability program at Forbes-rated five-star hotel focused on energy and water efficiency, waste reduction, recycling, and sustainability education projects, James has transitioned to a career as a sustainability consultant and commissioning agent.

James strives to support his clients by understanding their needs and developing strong relationships. He enjoys the challenge each project brings, from water and energy efficiency to healthy materials. He has worked on many “deep green” projects including the Living Building Challenge targeted Gulf State Park Interpretive Center and overseeing LEED-like design efforts for 30+ tenants at the LaGuardia Central Terminal B Redevelopment.

Reach out to James here.