OTJ Architects’ Building Receives LEED EBOM Silver Certification

In the spring of 2009, as relatively new building owners, OTJ Architects began the process of looking at our building through the lens of the USGBC’s LEED® Existing Building: Operations & Maintenance (LEED EBOM) rating system.  This rating system provides a measured, third party process through which a vigorous evaluation of building processes and systems can be evaluated and targeted for improvement.  The process was led by our Director of Sustainability, Lida Lewis, and our Director of Human Resources and Operations, Stacy Fruscella.

We went through an initial scorecard evaluation and EnergyStar evaluation, and through this, identified a number of areas for improvement, and got to work developing a better understanding of how to improve our facility and the policies and procedures by which we run our building.

Our first focus was on the old adage, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”.  To this end, we used a building dashboard to provide real-time energy monitoring of our headquarters located in Zei Alley in Washington, DC. Our Lucid building dashboard network provided real time tracking data to help us see daily, weekly, and monthly trends in energy use.  We coupled this with charted data from several previous years of occupancy to visualize our energy use for water, gas, and electricity:

Energy Dashboard

Using this energy monitoring dashboard, we were able to track our progress and determine methods for incorporating energy-saving measures into our operating procedures, as well as our daily routines. Several examples included:

When we’d exhausted our efforts to maximize these “low hanging fruit” items, we brought in consultants from Healthy Buildings International to apply their engineering know-how through a building retrocommissioning process—more specifically, an ASHRAE Level I & II Energy Audit.  Through the addition of their expert lens, we were able to identify a number of additional items to address, and tied each item to a specific ROI period to identify both the energy impact, and the expected payback period for each item identified:

ROI Chart

The low cost items were an easy target, but would not alone satisfy our aggressive goals, and so we decided to take things even further and also target some of the bigger investments with aggressive ROI potential.  This included, most notably, modeling and then re-configuring our building’s HVAC distribution system to establish building zoning with a more effective distribution and a better aim at enhanced occupant comfort.  Through basic graphic modeling, we were able to understand the distribution of the current system, as well as target specific and limited areas to re-route our ducted HVAC systems for maximum comfort with minimal capital output:

duct work


Ultimately, we were able to raise our Energy Star score by an impressive 31 points, and do so in a way that we were confident was the most cost effective way to reach our goal.

Once our building Energy Star score was squared away, we were ready to tackle the rest of the scorecard with a broader team.  Stacy and Lida organized a small committee of staff and organized them into 7 “supergroups”, each of which championed a different category of the LEED EBOM rating system.  These champions spanned all 5 studios of OTJ, and also included representatives from our Facilities and Operations, and our Business and Development groups. Each group was tasked with assessing the credits in their respective category and bringing back their suggestions for items to follow to our Directors, who then weighted all of these suggestions against their knowledge of the building, the project budget, and the items which would have the greatest benefit to staff.

Through this effort, we identified multiple target areas for facilities and behind the scenes work, but also a number of staff wide education or campaign initiatives.  Several of our most alternative transportation savvy enthusiasts led education seminars on biking; we surveyed staff regarding their acoustic, thermal, and ergonomic comfort; and we overhauled our catering efforts to target a much higher proportion of organic and fair trade offerings at all catered luncheons, as well as through our typical provision of coffee and tea.

Through all of our efforts, the building surpassed our initial Certification level target and received LEED EBOM Silver certification in October 2015.  Thanks to our staff-wide effort, we accomplished our goal of transforming our old building into one with much lower operating costs, and better support of occupant health and comfort.  Although we have now sold our building and are moving to 555 11th Street, we know the new tenants of Zei Alley will have a healthy workplace.

At OTJ, we target an integrative process that brings in the right subject matter experts, consultants and construction professionals to reduce the environmental impacts of the workplace, while maximizing the return on your investment.  Our Directors of Sustainability and Architecture keep an open and connected relationship with the local U.S. Green Building Council® Chapter, the WELL Building Institute and local code offices to keep abreast of code modifications and requirements as they change and develop.  Additionally, each studio at OTJ has LEED Accredited Professionals and Green Associates who can guide clients through LEED design and certification.

If you have any questions about LEED or Sustainable Design, please contact OTJ Architects today by calling 202-621-1000 or visit www.OTJ.com today!  You can also follow OTJ on FacebookTwitterLinkedInPinterest, and Google+.

Categories: Sustainable Design

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