Set Clear LEED Boundaries


LEED projects must adhere to the LEED Minimum Program Requirements (MRPs) in order to achieve LEED certification. There are 8 LEED certification MRP requirements –- and without meeting all of these requirements, you cannot get your building project LEED certified.

One MRP that can be a little bit tricky is “reasonable site boundary.” According to the LEED MRP, your project must have a “reasonable” site boundary. The LEED project boundary is to include all contiguous land that is associated with and supports normal building operations for the LEED project. The LEED project boundary must normally only include land that is owned by the party that owns the LEED project.

In theory, this doesn’t sound tough, but it can get a little confusing when you start considering that your LEED project may have a LEED project boundary AND a site boundary (aka property area) – and sometimes these two boundaries are not the same.

Okay. If you’re not an engineer or architect, this might be a little confusing. Don’t fear. As a LEED project manager it is not your job to identify the project or site boundaries – but your team does need to identify these boundaries (and they all have to agree to them and use these boundaries consistently throughout your LEED project.)

This MRP quickly became an obstacle with one of my LEED projects. As we went through the project, no one gave this boundary issue any thought. Our property had two buildings – one was a training center and the other a garage. Other than being on the same property, one building really had no relationship to the other. Both buildings were on the drawings, but we never decided how we were going to treat these two buildings as they pertained to our LEED credit templates.

First, we didn’t specifically highlight and identify the LEED project boundary and the LEED site boundary on the drawings that we submitted for our initial LEED review. It just wasn’t something we thought we had to specifically call out.

Another roadblock was that our team inconsistently named the garage on the drawings and in the narratives. The landscape architecture called and labeled the building a “garage,” the engineer called it an “outbuilding,” and the electrical engineer called it something else. Our LEED project team was not in sync with the naming conventions of this building. (Consistency really counts when it comes to getting LEED credits.)

The other issue we had was a biggie: as a LEED project team, we never sat down and discussed if we even WANTED to include the garage in our LEED project boundary. The garage really had no ties to the training center — other than they were on the same property. This was a big miss on our part.

Because we hadn’t decided our boundary strategy as a team, everyone did their own thing. Our mechanical engineer used the garage’s performance measures when he filled out his LEED credit templates. Guess what? None of the other LEED project team members included the garage in their calculations.

When we submitted our LEED credit templates for initial review and received the reviewers’ feedback we finally realized our mistake. The reviewers weren’t sure if the garage was supposed to be included in the LEED project – or not. This made it difficult for the reviewers to verify if our other templates were accurately filled out. Is the garage in? Or is it out? (Believe me, including or excluding this seemingly unimportant building really did have a HUGE impact on the various LEED template calculations.)

Once we realized our error, we sat down as a team and discussed the pros and cons of including (or not including) the garage in the LEED project boundary. After weighing the issues and talking with the owner, we decided that the garage would not be part of the LEED project boundary (even though it was part of the site boundary.)

How do you make sure this confusion doesn’t happen to your LEED project?

First, early in the project determine and agree upon the site boundary and the LEED project boundary. Make sure everyone understands how these boundaries can positively (or negatively) affect your LEED project credit templates.

Second, your entire LEED project team needs to name the items on the drawings the same thing – if it’s labeled an electrical building on one drawing, it should be called an electrical building on ALL of the drawings and in the narratives.

Next, specifically call out and show the LEED project boundary AND the property/site boundary on ALL the drawings. Now that may sound like overkill, but it’s better to be crystal clear than slightly foggy. TIP: Use an electronic markup program that will allow you to add callouts and put boundary lines on the drawings.

With early planning and good communication with your LEED project team, your LEED project can avoid this pitfall.

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