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What Does LEED Platinum Look Like Outside?

What Does LEED Platinum Look Like Outside?

​Quality, Consequences and the Construction Industrial Complex (part 49) – All IMHO:

I could not complete the game that is “Sustainability Where’s Waldo” without considering the building exterior.  

In my view the little acknowledged, yet most powerful building design concept is “persistence of performance”. Does the building have predictable performance? The secret of green building design…. Urrrrgh…, the words “green” and “sustainability” are so done and over used, lets replace them with the correct terminology. The secret of “high performance” building design is simplicity i.e. passive or minimal moving parts & complexity combined with persistence of performance. For example;


  • A triple glazed window is simple proven technology, with no moving parts, needs minimum maintenance and provides very predictable performance over its life. Compare this to say a VAV system, which is a complex, multi third party component system that is absolutely not, plug and play, is a maintenance nightmare and provides very poor persistence of performance. 


  • A solar wall installation is simple, with no moving parts, needs minimum maintenance and provides predictable performance, when the sun shines, for a low capital cost (I have personally witnessed a 18 Deg C air temperature lift on a -20 Deg C, outside air day for the project in this photo). Compare this to say a complicated VAV system heat reclaim arrangement with single points of failure in complex damper actuator, valves sensor and fan controls. 

I use this photo, in before and after shots, in my high performance building presentations to prompt thinking about high performance design measures that “hide in plain sight”. How many high performance features can you see ?

I see ten and nine of them are very low maintenance with very predictable persistence of performance. 

  1. Solar thermal collectors (208 number)
  2. Solar wall (704 sq. m.)
  3. Exterior West facing sun screen to significantly reduce cooling load and improve occupant well being
  4. Triple glazing (hard to tell I know)
  5. Operable windows (hard to tell I know) 
  6. Horizontal exterior shading
  7. South facing glazing
  8. Daylight glazing 
  9. Low window to wall ratio
  10. Long Axis East-West to optimize solar and daylighting opportunities  

Everything above, except for the solar thermal collectors are passive and maintenance essentially consists of cleaning. The exterior west facing sun screen reduced the cooling load in the office part of the building by ~ 30. It did this without using electricity and has no moving parts. The solar thermal collectors are part of a radiant heating system and whilst relativity passive they are part of a wider more complex system. However the heat stored from these collectors is stored in 2 tanks and when charged they can run the radiant heating in the building in mid winter for 2 days. 

This is a bold, high performance building design. It disrupts the status quo and it delivers. The building is unique in many ways apart from its LEED Platinum status. For me, what makes this building unique is that it was designed on the following principals & objectives:

  • 30 year, low maintenance life span
  • Low complexity
  • Persistence of high performance, verfiable and embodied in

    • low energy foot print
    • rain water recycling
    • high levels of occupant comfort & wellbeing
    • low maintenance overhead
    • M&V with ongoing fine tuning 

Not every building can be like this but its design principals can always be used as a guide to high performance building design IMHO.  

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