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Building business with LEED

November 1st, 2013 / By: / Awnings & Shades, Fabric Structures, Feature

Awnings and solar shades can boost energy performance and contribute to LEED certification points.

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a family of rating systems that recognizes building or renovation projects for improvements in energy efficiency, water conservation, habitat protection, indoor environmental quality and resource efficiency. LEED is owned and managed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Buildings become LEED certified (in one of four levels) by completing the registration and documentation requirements and receiving official certification from the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI).

The current certification levels (Certified, Silver, Gold, Platinum) are based on LEED 2009, which is the dominant version of LEED in 2013 and will likely remain that way during the next few years. The more points a project receives, the higher its LEED certification level.

The newer LEED version 4 will be released late in 2013 and adopted gradually over time. This newer release contains substantive changes to many credits, especially in the Materials & Resources category, and will provide new opportunities for awnings and solar shades.

Many projects today use one of the LEED rating systems to certify their environmental features and performance. To that end, awnings and solar shades are a great way to contribute to the number of LEED points a project earns in pursuit of certification. These shading products help maximize energy performance, reducing cooling-energy use, while improving the appearance of the buildings and the comfort of building occupants.

Here’s a look at the standard products that are typically specified in the awnings and solar shades category. Note that shades must be automatically controlled (not just motorized) to contribute to LEED credits.

Stationary awnings. Window awnings are used to shelter windows from sun and heat, control light and glare, for privacy and for aesthetics. Stationary awnings are fixed in place and provide shade over windows or other openings.

Drop-arm (adjustable) window awnings. Drop-arm window awnings are supported by articulating supports that allow the fabric shade to extend, retract and change angle. The shade can provide total privacy and sun protection, similar to an exterior blind, or it can extend horizontally to provide partial or full shade, while still allowing daylight and outside views.

Exterior solar shades. Exterior shades are mounted above a window or storefront and extend or retract in a plane parallel to the window to protect both the window and the interior.

Stationary commercial canopies. Stationary canopies are fabric structures that provide shelter and shade. They can be attached to the building at one end and supported by posts at the other, or they can be constructed separately from the building itself.

Business benefits

LEED buildings and projects offer tremendous opportunities for awning and solar shading businesses of all sizes. When building or project owners commit to environmentally friendly building processes and products, they are building a lifetime of returns. LEED-certified buildings cost less to operate, reducing energy and water costs. Investing in LEED opens up a cascading effect of opportunities and incentives.

Existing buildings. Energy points for projects involving existing buildings are based on how much energy the building actually uses, as determined by its Energy Start score. If an awning helps a building use less energy, it contributes to the points.

Major renovations. These projects offer the chance for awnings to contribute to LEED points. Historic buildings are an especially good opportunity because older windows don’t have the shading factor that’s available in new glass. Providing shade on these older windows is a huge energy-saving opportunity.

Energy simulations require predictability. Energy points are awarded based on predicted energy-cost savings compared with a defined base case. The rules around these predictions are pretty strict—awnings that are either fixed or automatically controlled can be counted, but anything that requires a person to deploy the shading (either manually or with a motor) doesn’t count.

LEED for homes. This is a completely different scenario. The home-building industry is different from that of commercial buildings, and the rating systems are different, too. An awning or canopy can contribute energy points in LEED for Homes if you can document the shading that is provided in a way that works for the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index software.

Recycled content. On the materials front, LEED has points for the use of products with recycled content. All steel and nearly all aluminum used for structural applications have at least some recycled content. If you can find out exactly how much post-consumer and pre-consumer recycled content is in your structural materials, you’ll have valuable information to provide the LEED design and construction team. Your product won’t have enough recycled material by itself to earn a point for the project, but it can contribute to the overall credit count. Also, LEED doesn’t apply points for things that might be recyclable in the future.

A product cannot be LEED certified; only buildings (and neighborhoods) get certified. What you should be able to say is that your product “can contribute to the achievement of” certain LEED credits.

There is a whole family of LEED rating systems and they have evolved during the past 15 years. You will need to refer to a specific rating system and version in order to promise specific contributions.

Information in this article was provided by the Professional Awning Manufacturers Association (PAMA), a division of IFAI. Visit PAMA’s website for more information about LEED and shade products.

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