LEED v4: A key priority
As an interdisciplinary firm working at the forefront of sustainable design, Perkins and Will strongly supports the idea that designers should be accountable for the impacts their design choices have on the environment and occupant health and wellbeing. As a result, the firm advocates for LEED certification in all projects – with its studio being no different.
From the outset, LEED v4 ID+C certification was a key priority. LEED requirements informed the firm’s choice of location, the overall design strategy, and the selection of materials, furnishings, and equipment.
100 per cent of the materials used within the new space are low-emitting, and 36 per cent are comprised of local, recycled, bio-based or reusable content, or are sourced from manufacturers who provide a take-back program.
“Through experience, LEED has been the most consistent rating system that provides a structure for the integration of sustainability and wellness into the design process. Pursuing LEED has provided us with access to helpful tools, combined with the guidance of LEED coaches, that contribute to the success of achieving our sustainability goals,” says Zeina Elali, Senior Sustainability Advisor.
The timing of the project presented an opportunity for both the Perkins and Will team and its subcontractors to get familiarized with the requirements for LEED v4 and the LEED v4.1 Beta. The firm also leveraged the LEED v4 ID+C certification to streamline internal processes specific to its growing corporate interiors practice and to create a tailored approach to design and documentation that reflects the pace and needs of this market sector.
Beginning with clearly defined goals and leveraging LEED’s structured approach, the Perkins and Will team was able to anticipate and proactively address the learning curve that LEED v4 certification required. The process challenged and advanced the goals the project team set for the redesign, and drove greater collaboration among the consultants and contractors, demanding a truly integrative approach. Also, the process ensured all decisions were viewed under a sustainability lens to keep the project focused on achieving its goals.
For Perkins and Will, the third-party review provided as part of the LEED certification process added verification that the design met the intent of Perkins and Will’s goals, with the firm utilizing LEED Coaches as a resource to fully understand the new requirements of the LEED v4 rating system.
Making deliberate choices
From the project start, the LEED v4 scorecard provided a structured conversation to define the project’s sustainability goals under the certification categories. These goals guided the project’s strategic plan, which helped align the project leads, consultants, and the landlord. Weekly conversations with contractors ensured construction remained consistent with the goals, and that information was shared promptly. Team members had to understand their role and the significance of their contributions within the larger process, resulting in a more integrated process.
Given Perkins and Will’s focus on sustainable design, the project included initiatives that are table stakes for the firm, as every Perkins and Will project must:
- Maximize energy reductions;
- Meet a minimum for lighting power and water use reduction;
- Specify materials with recycled and regional content and are low-emitting;
- Use Forest Stewardship Council certified wood;
- Divert a minimum of 90 per cent of construction and demolition waste, and
- Maintain carbon-neutral operations through carbon offsets.
To prioritize transparency around healthy building materials and screen for toxic substances, Perkins and Will conducts a Precautionary List review on all projects. This process enables them to screen any products used against a list of over 50 chemicals known to have negative impacts on both people and planet, which they applied to screen their own office.
Perkins and Will made energy efficiency a priority. Of the equipment purchased for the project, 98 per cent was ENERGY STAR rated. Perkins and Will also installed meters to help measure and manage energy and water use and to understand the most significant sources of consumption. Further, the firm sought environmental product declarations (EPD) and health product declarations (HPD) for materials it used and evaluated most for sustainable and responsible extraction practices. As such, the project successfully achieved optimization of key Building Product Disclosure and Optimization (BPDO) credits including BPDO – Sourcing of Raw Materials, Option 2: Leadership Extraction Practices. This credit demonstrates responsible extraction of materials. This required manufacturers to provide product details, including for those not commonly requested by project teams. At the time of the project, it was a challenge to obtain information about materials to the level of detail and accuracy needed to achieve BPDO credits, with frequent back and forth with suppliers in order to obtain the necessary documentation.
To reduce new product purchases for the studio, the firm reused furnishings from its previous office, including task chairs, meeting room furniture, bike racks, and height-adjustable desks. As a result of requiring EPDs, HPDs and reuse strategies, 100 per cent of the materials used within the new space are low-emitting, and 36 per cent are comprised of local, recycled, bio-based or reusable content, or are sourced from manufacturers who provide a take-back program.
Perkins and Will’s sustainable approach to the project can also be seen in the way the design utilizes the base building. The firm made the strategic choice to relocate to an older building with a 35:65 window-to-wall ratio, representing a more responsibly glazed envelope in a marketplace that increasingly favours all-glass envelopes. As well, the design makes use of the building’s existing structure, by removing previous finishes and exposing and displaying the base building’s waffle slab ceiling and concrete floors. This usage of the base building materials for the ceiling and floor finishes enabled the project team to reduce the overall materials needed. Perkins and Will took advantage of washroom renovations the building landlord had planned during the redesign project to integrate ultra low-flow and low-flush fixtures, contributing to a 40 per cent reduction in water use.
The firm also purchased carbon offsets and green power for 100 per cent of the Toronto studio’s operations over the next five years and intends to extend this, ensuring that the office is carbon neutral. These initiatives together demonstrate Perkins and Will’s commitment to lower-impact, higher-performing design.