During 2008, Miami Marlins baseball team owner Jeffrey Loria challenged his organization to “Go for the Gold” when planning to build the new Marlins Park. In response, the baseball organization chose to pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold, rather than LEED Silver.
This goal was successfully accomplished by altering the initial criteria for design and construction of Marlins Park. When completed in 2012, the stadium made history as having the first retractable roof in the world to achieve LEED Gold, while also representing the greenest stadium in the U.S.
The U.S. Green Building Council is the governing body that oversees local chapters, member organizations, LEED Accredited Professionals, and the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), which is the independent project certifying body. LEED certification has become increasingly difficult to achieve as the USGBC attempts to lead the industry in energy efficient design and sustainability. Due to the internal evolution of the USGBC and the LEED certification process, many strategies have been employed to achieve certification. This moving target has created challenges along the way for those pursuing certification, but it has also led to new and innovative strategies to gain LEED credits.
The Marlins adopted LEED version 2.2 in an effort to build more sustainably, provide a more energy efficient structure, and to save the organization on total costs associated with the facility over its lifetime.
One such strategy that the Marlins employed was to commission the stadium within the LEED standards Energy and Atmosphere (EA) prerequisite 1 and EA credit 3 for Enhanced Commissioning.
Terracon Consultants, Inc. played a major role in this strategy by providing the Marlins with Building Enclosure Commissioning (BECx) as part of the whole building commissioning process. BECx, in addition to being a valuable service to clients for improving the efficiency and sustainability of a building’s enclosure, is extremely valuable in the pursuit of LEED certification.
BECx has a direct impact on several LEED credits as well as an indirect impact on many others. For example, BECx can directly achieve a LEED Innovation in Design (ID) Credit; however, this credit is difficult to achieve without an in-depth knowledge of LEED certification requirements and the process by which a building becomes certified.
BECx within LEED
There are now several guidelines that a building enclosure specialist may follow during the commissioning process. However, one of these guidelines was not required or even listed within LEED standards under version 2.2, as none existed. This created a challenge when using LEEDv2.2 and a comprehensive understanding of building enclosure systems had to be utilized to properly commission Marlins Park.
Under the current LEED version 4, standards such as the recent publication of the NIBS Guideline and ASTM Standard for BECx are referenced and available. BECx is now also an available option for achieving the credit for LEEDv4 EAc1 Enhanced Commissioning, where it was only available for an ID credit in previous versions.
Through work on the Marlins project and many others, Terracon has fine-tuned the process by which BECx can be accomplished and in a manner that is acceptable for LEED certification. By working with the GBCI and going through the appeals process on several projects, Terracon has narrowed down the requirements for achieving the ID credit under previous versions, to what is now very similar to the requirements for EAc1 Option 2 BECx for LEEDv4.
Delivering success for the Miami Marlins
Marlins owner Loria said of the goal to reach LEED Gold, “It was our desire from the onset to not only build America’s greatest new ballpark, but also its most environmentally friendly.”
Every credit was critical to the Marlins reaching the minimum of 60 points required to achieve LEED Gold. With this in mind, the organization began the process of engaging a commissioning team. Through a proposal process that included a submittal of several consulting companies’ experience and qualifications, followed by short-list team interviews, Terracon Consultants was selected as part of the commissioning team.
The entire commissioning process started by setting a strong foundation for the project prior to design and during the development of the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR). Like a building’s foundation, the OPR establishes a base and sets the tone for a project, giving it a basic structure by which all parties, from architect to subcontractors, must abide.
As the BECx agent, Terracon began by reviewing the OPRs set by the Marlins and their architect and refined basic selections of systems that included the cladding type and roof assembly. During the OPR process, the BECx agent defines the way a building enclosure will be commissioned for the owner with a commissioning plan that fits within the boundaries of the Basis of Design. Terracon’s commissioning services have proven resourceful by developing ways to achieve the challenging ID credit that greatly aides pursuit of LEED Gold. Terracon has been able to achieve this ID point without the structure of LEED requirements for this credit. This has been achieved by in-depth knowledge of industry standards and collaboration and project integration.
Knowledge of industry standards
Terracon turned to other industry standards in order to achieve this goal. With the knowledge of various guidelines for building enclosure consulting and a thorough understanding of ASHRAE Guideline 0: The Commissioning Process, Terracon has been able to develop project-specific BECx goals around the strict requirements for building energy systems commissioning. These requirements are outlined in the LEED Minimum Program Requirement Energy and Atmosphere Prerequisite 1 and Energy and Atmosphere Credit 3 for fundamental and enhanced commissioning, respectively. Adhering to these newly generated project boundaries, Terracon began the process of collaboration and project integration by engaging the project architect in review of building enclosure Design Development Phase document details, components, and materials.
An action item list was then created by Terracon based on the review of the design documents. These action items were discussed among the building owner, architect, and commissioning team to decide on the best path forward. Upon delivery of the Construction Document Phase documents, Terracon performed an additional thorough review to ensure the necessary design revisions were incorporated correctly. It is during the construction document review process that Terracon begins to develop functional performance test requirements for the building enclosure systems that will be executed after installation of each individual system.
Collaboration and project integration
BECx also starts with foundations, literally; a BECx kick-off meeting is often held in coordination with the installation of below-grade waterproofing of the foundation. All relevant subcontractors and trades attend to ensure full project integration and collaboration during the construction process.
Terracon also makes intermittent site visits throughout the course of the project to verify that construction of the facility is in general accordance with the construction documents. Upon completion of each enclosure system installation, a functional performance test is executed to demonstrate the ability of each system to withstand simulated climate-specific weather conditions.
Upon completion of the functional performance tests, Terracon provides the owner with an operations and maintenance schedule for each enclosure system that covers the estimated useful life of each component. Examples of enclosure systems maintenance for Marlins Park included cleaning the thermoplastic polyolefin roof membrane every six months to avoid microbial growth and completing an annual roof survey to extend the life of the membrane.
The steps outlined in the process were not intrinsically required by any specific portion of the standard for LEEDv2.2 certification of a project. It is only through a complete understanding of LEED certification, whole building commissioning, and industry standards that Terracon has been able to provide a deliverable to the GBCI that achieves the ID credit for enhanced BECx.
Like the Marlins organization meeting its owner’s charge of “going for the Gold” LEED standard during the construction of the new ballpark, other companies and agencies can also strive for the same goal by utilizing the BECx strategies outlined.
Kristophor C. Linster, EI, LEED AP BD+C, CDT, has commissioned more than 10 building enclosure projects for Terracon Consultants and is Facilities Department manager in the firm’s Raleigh, N.C., office. He can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org.