When Hamilton native #b#Scott Chrisner#/b# was a teenager he had already started to notice that the process of designing buildings was flawed. After spending one summer framing houses for his older brother at age 15 he spent the following summer working on the same houses with a heating and air conditioning contractor and found himself using a chainsaw on the walls he had put up the previous year. Chrisner remembers thinking, “This is bad design. There must be a better way.”
The years that followed brought experiences on the ground, in school, with mentors, in building associations, and in a series of businesses. His current business is the Chrisner Group, a building design and consulting firm based at 2431 Nottingham Way in Hamilton that promotes high-performance green buildings through measured environmental performance.
Chrisner will present a session on sustainable practices for existing buildings on Wednesday, October 27, at 3 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency New Brunswick. The CoreNet NJ event will be followed by a networking social will follow, beginning at 5 p.m. Joining Chrisner will be #b#Daniel Sheridan#/b# of the Sheridan Law Firm and #b#Michael Burke#/b# of Colgate Palmolive. Cost: $125. Call 973-992-6773 or go to corenetnj.org.
To successfully get LEED (leadership in energy and environmental design) certification, a company must follow a careful process, based on two principles — integrated design and triple bottom line.
Integrated design is a holistic approach in which all systems are viewed as interdependent and all stakeholders contribute to the design process. One important tool is an Excel spreadsheet that includes a line item with a dollar amount for every system in the building. A increase in one item will require a corresponding decrease in another. If, for example, the gas-fired boiler is only 60 percent efficient and you want to upgrade to 95 percent, you must go to another line item to gain some savings. The reduction must come from another line item, says Chrisner, rather than balancing the increased cost against future cost savings because a chief financial officer will be looking for a budget with capital expenses in balance. A company might, for example, reduce the number of lights, also a capital expense, and still achieve the same lumens.
Triple bottom line is a new way to calculate return on investment, which incorporates not only the economic perspective, but also the effects on the environment and on people. BASF corporation, the largest global chemical company, has adopted this approach to its balance sheets, as has Colgate Palmolive, says Chrisner. At the Colgate Palmolive campus in Piscataway, the company invested money in the building to improve the environment in which its employees worked. It also saved 70 to 80 percent in water usage, he continues, by transforming a big field that needed watering into a meadow that did not.
Commitment to a triple bottom line may not even be more expensive. After PNC Bank decided that all of its branches would be LEED certified, it was worried that costs would be much higher. And indeed building costs were higher for the first branch built. But by the fourth new building, the design team better understood the new approach and managed to create a LEED-certified building for $100,000 less than its normal budget. At the same time PNC increased employee productivity by 10 percent and decreased its carbon footprint and energy consumption by 40 percent.
The process of getting LEED certification for existing buildings, operations, and maintenance (EBOM), is a complex one. But Chrisner suggests that by following a careful process companies can negotiate the challenges of receiving a LEED rating for their existing structures at a cost that is affordable.
#b#Think first#/b#. To manage the process of securing LEED EBOM certification, those managing the process must proceed carefully and deliberately, including prequalifying the design team.
The managers need to be present from the start, before the budget for the project is created; they will prequalify the entire design team — including builders, architects, engineers, real estate brokers, lawyers, and contractors — to ensure that they have the appropriate expertise.
“We don’t want them to charge the project for their learning curve, because then the project price goes up,” says Chrisner. This feeds the perception that LEED costs more.
#b#Assessment#/b#. The process of LEED-EBOM certification begins with an assessment of current energy use to create a benchmark. This requires investigating not only current energy use in areas like lighting, heating, and air conditioning, but also water use, waste streams, air leaks in the building envelope, ceilings, walls, floors, and even procurement policies.
The process of “retrocommissioning” also looks at the different types of systems in the building — electric, mechanical, and sprinklers — to ensure they are working together efficiently. The benchmark will give a business an idea of its current Energy Star rating, which gives a ballpark of how the building performs compared to similar buildings nationally.
#b#Modeling the design#/b#. A good tool for design and benchmarking is energy modeling, which allows companies to balance different concerns. It will ask, for example, whether the owner of an existing building needs special procurement policy language.
But it also deals in the details — for example, what kind of carpeting should a company buy for its 17 offices?
In making the carpet decision, the company must balance budgetary concerns against environmental ones, including whether the carpet can be purchased locally (within 500 miles); whether the carpeting emits formaldehyde or volatile organic compounds; and whether it uses recycled backing.
The decision of what carpeting to buy must balance all these different concerns as well as internal air quality. The process requires constant cross-referencing, and when done right, the costs can be dramatically less than expected.
Wyndham Worldwide thought that LEED certification for its corporate headquarters would cost 14 percent more than its regular budget, but careful process management allowed the company to get a LEED silver certification for a cost of five percent less than estimated.
Companies who are leasing space may need to negotiate a green lease.
If the tenant increases efficiency of the lighting, heating and air conditioning, or windows, the lease may need to specify that the tenant will get the benefit of any savings.
Chrisner attended a vocational school for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, and then went to the Texas State Technical Institute to study solar energy. But after President Reagan’s cuts decimated the program, he had to leave the program, although he was only three credits short of graduation.
Chrisner stuck to the path he had set out for himself, and while running his own companies, he continually sought to expand his knowledge. He worked with Ken Gadsby at Princeton University, who invented the blower door, a big fan that measures the pressure differences between the inside and outside of a building to determine how leaky it is. With Gadsby’s Princeton Energy Partners, Chrisner says he “went around to different low income and affordable housing projects and sealed up buildings to save energy.”
But that was the early 1980s, early in the learning curve about energy conservation, and they found they had sealed the houses too tightly and created “sick building syndrome,” buildings with moisture problems and poor air quality. Chrisner also joined a Minnesota trade association, the Energy and Environmental Building Alliance, and learned a lot about how buildings work as a system.
Then Chrisner opened businesses in energy, moisture, and mold consulting, but eventually closed them to focus his energy on helping to create the Green Building Council of New Jersey. He served on its board from 1999 to 2007, and the organization now has 1,000 members and three branches.
Chrisner’s mother was a spiritual guide, a Methodist minister, and for two years a missionary in Africa. “She was all about increasing opportunities for internal expansion,” says Chrisner. His father worked for PSE&G as a boiler operator at its coal-fired Duck Island generating plant, leading Chrisner to joke that he is the family rebel. He says, “My father generated black energy, and now I’m the green energy guy.”