Archive for November 2011
The first sub-category in the “Sustainable Sites” category of the LEED certification process is called “Site Stewardship”.
The intent of this sub-category is to minimize long term environmental damage to the site during the construction process. It’s actually kind of a “duh” aspect of the process because it’s so obvious to builders in California. The extensive Storm water laws in California mandate that we protect the site during the construction process. I built in Texas for many years and there were no laws whatsoever aimed at limiting environmental damage to the site during construction. In California you can face some serious fines if you ignore the law.
From the LEED perspective, Site Stewardship, has only two components to it; Erosion controls during construction and minimize disturbance to the site.
Erosion control during construction is kind of self explanatory but this is the one that can get you in big trouble in California. There has to be a plan in place so that NOTHING from the site erodes off the site. In other words if it rains for 3 days straight, or 30 days straight, not one grain of dirt from the site can end up in the storm drain system. Protections must be in place to safeguard anything on the site from ever leaving the site. Sounds pretty onerous, I agree, but in reality if every construction site had no protections in place, then the storm drain system would be overrun with sediment during any kind of rain event. The only way to fix that is every so often someone has to pay to go clean out tons and tons of sediment from the storm drain system, which is exactly what the State of California was doing for years and years. Billions of dollars were spent dredging all this dirt from storm drain channels until someone finally figured out that if we make laws forcing all construction sites to make sure nothing erodes from the site we wouldn’t have to clean out the storm drain channels so often. LEED awards points for doing just that, but in California you don’t have a choice.
The second component has more to do with design than construction but LEED awards points if those decisions “steward” the site towards minimizing disturbance of the site. If the site was NOT previously developed, and you leave 40% of the buildable area completely undisturbed, you can get points. If the site was NOT or WAS previously developed and you develop a tree or plant preservation plan for the site, you can get points. The best part of this component is if you design with a density of greater than 7 per acre you can receive all the points in this component without doing any of the other things. Being an infill builder, we rarely ever build anything at less than 7 units per acre so that part is easy to achieve.
To sum up this component, we’re an infill builder in California. Those two aspects alone make getting these LEED points almost impossible NOT to get. By law we have to implement erosion controls during construction, and we wouldn’t even consider an infill project that yields less than 7 units per acre.
Next time let’s talk about the “Landscaping” sub-category of “Sustainable Sites”
Sorry for the 6 week gap. City Ventures is growing at an amazing pace and our third quarter was very busy at the end. We now have 18 homeowners living in two of our LEED Gold projects in Santa Barbara and Signal Hill.
But back to our discussion about LEED and how they determine “Greenability”. That’s my new word.
So the last few blogs we talked about Water Efficiency, one of eight LEED categories that garner points towards Certification as a Green Project. Now we’re going to spend a little time on another category. LEED calls it “Sustainable Sites”. Although the focus of green building is on the built structures located on a site, the design of the site and its natural elements can have a significant environmental impact. The Locations & Linkages category, which we’ll discuss next, rewards projects for choosing a preferable site location. The Sustainable Sites category rewards projects for designing that “preferable” site to minimize adverse impacts.
Early decisions about how to incorporate the homes “into” the site can have significant long term effects. The way in which a home is, or is not, integrated into the site can have various effects and the more those effects are minimized, the more LEED points, and thus more green, the project becomes. Site design should take into consideration not only the aesthetic and functional preferences of the occupants but also long term management needs, preservation principles, and potential impacts on local and regional ecosystems.
The category has six sub-categories. First is “Site Stewardship”, which is a fancy way of saying we minimize the damage to the lot during construction. Second is “Landscaping” which is kind of obvious but a pretty broad topic we’ll discuss later. Plus you’ll remember landscaping was a big component of the Water Efficiency” category. Third is “Local Heat Island Effects” which gets into how much of the site radiates heat. It actually has a pretty big impact. Fourth is “Surface Water Management” which is kind of self evident. As is the fifth which is “Non-toxic pest control”. Finally there is “Compact Development” which I’ll explain later.
In fact I’ll start dealing with each of the six sub-categories next time as I didn’t realize I’d be this wordy in the introduction.