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LEED forward

by John Bambridge on Jan 13, 2013

Thomas bohlen
Thomas bohlen

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Thomas Bohlen tells John Bambridge how LEED is moving beyond design into operations and maintenance

Everyone knows that the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) programme promotes the construction of buildings that are green, energy-saving and generally wholesome to be in, but to the detriment of true sustainability, efforts towards accreditation are presently skewed towards the design and construction phases of a building’s life, to the neglect of operations and maintenance.

As chief technical officer at the Middle Eastern Centre for Sustainability and Development (MECSD) in Dubai, it is Thomas Bohlen’s job to correct this imbalance.

In less than five years the centre has undertaken 31 projects in the Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority alone and has a further 75 active projects underway. Key to Bohlen’s role is reminding clients about the oft forgotten follow-up elements of the LEED programme that ensure “you are operating to green standards as well as building to green standards.”

“You start LEED early in the design process and you finish long after the construction is done and you are into the operations phase, so really one of the longest proportions of project development is the certification process. You’re with these projects for a long time,” says Bohlen.

The best known LEED component that extends into the operations and maintenance phase is ‘measurement and verification’, a voluntary follow-up after no less than one year of post-construction occupancy that MECSD has now implemented on six projects.

“The measurement and verification shows how well they’re doing on energy consumption primarily, and also on water consumption. The whole thing about building green buildings is that if you do not measure and verify, you will not know where you stand.”

A thorough approach is also available in the ‘enhanced commissioning’, which involves a review ­— within 10 months after substantial completion — of the entire running of the building with the operations and maintenance staff as well as the occupants.

Even more so, Bohlen wants to draw the region’s attention to the Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance (EBOM) certification.

According to him, this is what clients should go through once they have been certified, within two or three years of operations. “I have no idea what LEED considered when they decided to leave it not mandatory.”

Change is nonetheless in the air. “From 2010 up until today we’ve been under what they call LEED version three. Three requires owners of certified buildings to report on how the building is doing for the next five years, which leads them into the EBOM process, because they have to keep track of the efficiencies year by year.

They are heading in that direction, but while it is mandatory to report in those years, it’s not compulsory to do the EBOM,” explains Bohlen, who is nonetheless optimistic for the future.

“You have to realise that just a few of years ago nobody knew anything about LEED in this country. There’s been a great knowledge shift in what it’s all about and where we’re going with that, and so the country’s slowly responding,” says Bohlen, pointing out that a Pearl 1 rating is now mandatory for private buildings in Abu Dhabi under the parallel Estidama program, while public buildings must achieve a stringent two pearls. Dubai is similarly planning to draft legislation that will require all of its public buildings to achieve LEED Silver from 2014.

Reassuringly Bohlen sees more than compulsion when it comes to the decision making: “I run across clients that are genuinely concerned. There was a lot of wastage, but now we’re starting to see a bit of common sense being used in how people operate their buildings.

Facility management teams have to be looking at that kind of stuff constantly and if they are managing a building properly then they have programs to actually verify and check everything.”