MARQUETTE - A lot of work goes into the process of designing and constructing a new building, and with a bit of extra planning, buildings can be certified to be more efficient in areas like water, energy and materials.
Having a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification from the U.S. Green Building Council might take some extra work before the construction process begins, but the work is worth it in terms of a return on investment and protecting the environment, said Phil Niemi, structural engineer with Integrated Designs Inc., an architectural firm in Marquette.
"It does add a bit of expense, but the return on investment in the long term is worth it," Niemi said. "I think it comes down to trying to reduce energy consumption and showing they're making a conscious effort to make that a priority in their design process."
Meyland Hall at Northern Michigan University is one of the buildings on campus that has been LEED certified. (Journal file photo)
IDI has worked on several LEED certified buildings in the area, including three dormitories at Northern Michigan University.
The LEED certification is based on a points system, with 110 possible points spread across five areas: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality. A building must have at least 40 points to be LEED certified, but can score higher ratings with more points.
Points are given in the categories for site selection, brownfield redevelopment, considerations for alternative transportation, water efficient landscaping, water use reduction, energy efficiency and others.
An emphasis is put on use of recycled materials or materials produced in the surrounding region.
Improvements like motion sensors to reduce the amount of energy used and orienting the building to take advantage of the sun can also be components.
Other LEED buildings IDI has worked on, including an early childcare center for the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in Baraga, harvest rainwater to use in toilets and urinals, reducing clean water usage.
A key in creating a LEED-certified building, however, is starting the planning process early with the idea of certification in mind, Niemi said.
"What you want to do is sit down with the owner and make the decision right at the beginning," he said. "A lot of work needs to happen with the design of the building."
During the entire building process, photos and documentation are reviewed by the USGBC.
"It's ensuring you're focused on reducing energy consumption," Niemi said.
Although the amount of energy savings varies depending on the design of the building and how high of a certification the building gets, Niemi said the certification is becoming a more popular option for building owners, whether they are starting a new structure or refurbishing an older building.
For more information on LEED and the USGBC, visit www.usgbc.org.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is email@example.com.