LEED By Example

April 13, 2010

About the author: Caitlin Cunningham is managing editor of Storm Water Solutions. Cunningham can be reached at 847.391.1025 or by e-mail at [email protected]. Photos courtesy of Durrant.

Related search terms from www.waterinfolink.com: LEED, SS 6.1, SS 6.2

Governing bodies and related groups across the U.S. are moving and shaking the world of development as many adopt U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards for their public building projects. At the time of print, 202 localities, 34 state governments, 14 federal agencies and departments, 17 public school jurisdictions and 41 higher-education institutions nationwide had adopted LEED initiatives, including legislation, policies and incentives.

These “green-build” pioneers are laying a highly visible foundation for a more sustainable future in the form of city halls, college campuses and military bases, for example, and odds are that in addition to reaping their own benefits, these groups will inspire the general public to take notice if not action.

“Public buildings can easily adapt storm water alternatives, alleviating use of municipal water supply and setting an example for private projects which can do the same,” said USGBC Communications Associate Marie Coleman.

The following LEED-certified site, an elementary school, illustrates the power public projects can possess in terms of educating citizens about storm water and gaining their crucial support.

School Sets the Standard
Approximately 130,000 schools operate in the U.S. today, presenting a strong opportunity for environmental transformation and leadership. A green school, according to the USGBC, is a school building or facility that creates a healthy environment conducive to learning while saving energy, resources and money.

Davey Jackson Elementary School, capable of serving up to about 500 students in the town of Jackson, Wyo., and carrying the state’s second LEED rating for a school (Gold), has set out to do just that. Having determined that the town’s existing elementary school no longer met community needs, in 2005 the Teton County School District, Wyoming State School Facilities Commission and county taxpayers—who passed a supporting sales tax—began planning a new kindergarten-to-second grade facility with a shared gymnasium as well as parking and outdoor areas.

Designed to earn LEED certification from the outset, the $23.6-million project launched construction in 2007 and was completed in 2009. In terms of storm water management, workers graded the site such that runoff and surface flows are diverted away from structures and outdoor play areas. Curbs and gutters collect storm water from impervious surfaces, conveying it to Jackson’s collection system or an irrigation ditch, and onsite detention systems handle any unaddressed runoff.

Also supportive of the school’s water-related LEED goals is the fact that the 231,390-sq-ft property includes 100,230 sq ft of vegetated open space. Design called for much of the site’s landscape to be replaced with native grasses that require less irrigation, and where turf was installed, a primarily fescue species mix was used for the same reason, helping reduce outdoor water usage at the school by 65%.

Other project components contributing to the school’s LEED certification included:

  • Daylighting and electric lighting strategies for energy savings;
  • An emphasis on using locally produced, recycled-content materials; and
  • Indoor environmental quality measures, such as a building flush-out for improved air quality and providing school inhabitants with access to views to promote productivity.

In its information center, Davey Jackson Elementary runs a slide show highlighting its green aspects. Inspired by a first-grade student’s question, the school also hosted a teacher-generated presentation titled “Why Our Green School is Red.”

Response to the school’s construction and certification has been positive and strong, according to Kevin Thibeault, director of facilities for Teton County School District No. 1. “Open house and community tours have been much bigger than we anticipated,” he said. “By showing the community that a LEED educational facility can be obtained in Jackson, we have had many calls from organizations in the planning stage of construction requesting information about the project.”

Opportunity Knocks
As of December 2009, government bodies owned 28% of projects registered with the USGBC (7,295 of 25,906) and 20% of its some 4,000 certified projects, according to Coleman. The trend of designing public projects to LEED standards no doubt has established deep roots—in terms of storm water and beyond—but there remains significant room for growth.

In addition to the public awareness and support generated through green-build initiatives, the USGBC has emphasized the financial benefits government-affiliated project owners are likely to discover: most notably, tax credits, waived fees and permit costs and reduced utility and operating costs.

“It’s very possible,” Coleman said, “to build to LEED for less than conventionally constructed buildings.”


In April 2009, the USGBC updated its LEED rating system with the launch of LEED v3. Storm water management, treatment and reuse efforts can contribute to various LEED v3 credits, most notably Sustainable Sites (SS) 6.1 and 6.2:

  • SS 6.1: Stormwater Design—Quantity Control. This one-point credit aims to curb natural hydrology disruption by minimizing impervious surface coverage, encouraging onsite infiltration and treating runoff. Possible contributing solutions include porous pavers, green roofs and nonpotable-purpose reuse. Requirements are specific to a site’s imperviousness (greater than 50% or 50% or less).
  • SS 6.2: Stormwater Design—Quality Control. Managing storm water runoff to preserve natural water flows can earn applicants one point under this credit. It encourages developers to use acceptable best management practices to treat runoff from 90% of a project area’s average annual rainfall. “Green” design techniques and materials (e.g., rainwater recycling and vegetated filters) may be used to support SS 6.2 efforts.

Visit www.usgbc.org to learn more about these and other LEED certification opportunities, including whether a project’s location makes it eligible for new regional priority credits.

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About the Author

Caitlin Cunningham