AEC Tech News #155

16 Nov, 2005

Cadalyst AEC Tech News USGBC, Adobe Automate LEED

Also, LEED supporter City of San Jose foregoes certification for its new city hall

The U.S. Green Building Council and Adobe Systems announced last week they have teamed to speed up and simplify the LEED application and certification process. The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. Research has shown that a majority of the market feels that an easier-to-use certification process is key to more widespread adoption of LEED standards.

USGBC and Adobe have designed a process -- based on Adobe's LiveCycle forms-processing server software, Adobe Acrobat desktop software and Adobe PDF-based forms -- that puts what has been a paper-intensive, tedious process entirely online. This system will allow users to complete and submit the certification documentation electronically using browser software and obtain feedback earlier in the design process. Building design teams can better identify certification objectives and track changes to the project throughout the design process to ensure that objectives are met. The system will also reduce the cost of LEED certification and further encourage the adoption of green building techniques by building owners and their design consultants.

Adobe Knows LEED First-Hand
It's probably not coincidental that Adobe was recently involved with the LEED certification process for its newly designed corporate headquarters in San Jose, California, working with USGBC and becoming well-acquainted with LEED requirements and the certification process. With its release early this year of the expanded Adobe Acrobat 7.0, the company felt it had good solutions to some of the troublesome LEED issues and was willing and able to work with USGBC to develop a PDF-based submission and certification system using its own software.

This new LEED process will allow even users of the free Adobe Reader software, as well as Acrobat users, to complete and submit LEED documentation. Users who need to upgrade Reader to take advantage of these latest advancements in PDF-based forms can do so at the Adobe web site.

Other LEED News
Closely related to this Adobe-related news is a recent announcement by the City of San Jose that it will not seek LEED certification for its city hall now under construction. This, in spite of the fact that city officials have said the building would easily qualify for LEED Silver certification if they chose to submit the design for certification, and in spite of the fact that the city recently enacted an ordinance that mandates that all municipal buildings larger than 10,000ft2 be LEED certified.

Environmental factors and energy-efficient design were integral to the Richard Meier & Partners-designed city hall from the beginning. The unique design utilizes extensive daylighting features, operable ventilators in individual rooms to take advantage of natural ventilation in San Jose's mild climate, adjustable louvers to control solar heat gain, and mechanical systems with high-efficiency motors and other energy-efficient features. It was designed with LEED Silver certification in mind, and it was closely monitored to see that objective was met throughout the design process.

Timelines and cost drove San Jose's decision not to carry through with LEED certification. The project was subject to delays and subsequent cost overruns as it worked its way through design and approval and into construction. The city determined it couldn't afford further delays, and the city council ultimately exempted the building from the LEED requirement. It was felt that the project was well along in the design pipeline at the time the citywide LEED policy was adopted, and the extensive documentation required for compliance could subject the project to further delays. Also, LEED-mandated contractor requirements, which were not included in the construction contract and would need to be added, would further increase project costs.

Ironic Course of Action
This turn of events is especially ironic in light of the City of San Jose's long history of environmental concerns and leadership, and that the region is recognized as the high-tech capital of the United States. The San Jose region has also been at the forefront of efforts to streamline the building permit process to meet the high-tech industry's unique requirements. Time-to-market is especially critical for high-tech companies, and they must often get new and remodeled buildings approved and occupied as quickly as possible.

The City of San Jose has not ruled out the possibility that it will seek LEED certification at some point in the future, but for now it wants to wait and commission a third-party evaluation of the building to see exactly where it stands with regard to LEED requirements before proceeding. The city feels that regardless of LEED certification, it is constructing an especially environmentally sound and sustainable new city hall.

The solutions provided by Adobe for USGBC should go a long way toward streamlining the LEED certification process. Perhaps if this system had been available during the design of its new city hall, San Jose would now be constructing an environmentally friendly and sustainable building that was officially LEED Silver-certified.

Michael L. Dakan, AIA, is an architect, author and independent AEC technology consultant. E-mail him at

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