Whatcom County Courthouse achieves LEED certification

Published on Thu, Apr 3, 2008 by Tara Nelson

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Whatcom County Courthouse achieves LEED certification

By Tara Nelson

The Whatcom County Courthouse in Bellingham has been awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, an award for high-performance, green operational strategies that is administered by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The Whatcom County Courthouse is only the second in the nation to be certified through LEED in the existing buildings category, and only the sixth existing building of any kind to be certified in Washington State.

Whatcom County Executive, Pete Kremen said county officials decided to pursue certification in late 2006.

“We wanted to reduce our energy consumption and demonstrate leadership in environmental practices and stewardship,” said Kremen.
One major highlight of the project is the energy efficiency of the courthouse. According to measurements through Energy Star, the building is more energy-efficient than 86 percent of comparable buildings in the United States. The reduction in energy consumption and conservation measures has resulted in a savings of more than $160,000 annually in the courthouse alone.

Another highlight is the county’s purchase of 100 percent green power for all buildings, in addition to the achievement of a 55 percent recycling rate at the courthouse. The building’s proximity to bus access plus its bicycle storage and showers for commuting employees helped to meet the strict criteria for certification.

Additionally, the county’s purchase of green cleaning supplies and low-toxicity paints and sealants were contributing factors.

Kremen attributed the success of certification for Whatcom County largely to County’s Conservation Resource Analyst, Christina Reeves, who compiled most of the data for the LEED requirements. As part of the documentation, Reeves passed the test to become a LEED Accredited Professional.

“This was my first experience going through the LEED process. The requirements were very rigorous and I learned a tremendous amount about what it takes to create and maintain a truly green building,” she said.

Kremen, however, said the project isn’t only about being green. “This is a real achievement because it was made possible through efforts that we already decided were good business practices. We had invested in things like energy efficiency and good indoor air quality to improve our operations. The fact that these ‘green’ practices helped us attain certification is an added bonus.”

The U.S. Green Building Council is a nonprofit membership organization whose vision is a sustainable built environment within a generation. Its membership includes corporations, builders, universities, government agencies, and other nonprofit organizations. Since UGSBC’s founding in 1993, the Council has grown to more than 13,000 member companies and organizations, a comprehensive family of LEED green building rating systems, an expansive educational offering, the industry’s popular Greenbuild International Conference and Expo (www.greenbuildexpo.org), and a network of 72 local chapters, affiliates, and organizing groups. For more information, visit www.usgbc.org.

The LEED system is a feature-oriented rating system that awards buildings points for satisfying specified green building criteria. The six major environmental categories of review include: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality and Innovation and Design. Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels of LEED green building certification are awarded based on the total number of points earned within each LEED category.

LEED can be applied to all building types including new construction, commercial interiors, core and shell developments, existing buildings, homes, neighborhood developments, schools and retail facilities. LEED for Healthcare is currently under development and is expected to be released in early 2008. Incentives for LEED are available at the state and local level and LEED has also been adopted nationwide by federal agencies, state and local governments, and interested private companies. For more information, visit www.usgbc.org/LEED.

For more information, contact Whatcom County’s Conservation Resource Analyst, Christina Reeves, at 360/676-6717, or by emailing her at creeves@co.whatcom.wa.us or County Executive Pete Kremen, at 360-676-6717 or pkremen@co.whatcom.wa.us.