Sustainable Grounds / Landscapes

State universities continue to make strong efforts to bring sustainability to their campuses through capital and curriculum related projects. However, these efforts have not yet been paired with strategies for improving the sustainability of the landscape.

Framingham State University, an institution noted for its commitment to reducing its carbon footprint, has begun to move in this direction: in January 2012, FSU contracted Land People Habitat LLC to develop a Sustainable Grounds Development Plan for the campus landscape.

Sustainable Grounds / Landscapes

This document contains the work completed under this contract, and explores the existing conditions of the landscape and the needs and desires of the community in order to propose design and maintenance schemes that will close the loop of sustainability at the university.

$4B for Improved Building Energy Efficiency – Obama’s Better Buildings Initiative – Perfect for Job Order Contracting – JOC

Efficient construction project delivery is needed to meet building efficiency targets.  While there have been several attempts to address sustainability and the built environment, the lack of efficient project delivery has impacted progress.

Job Order Contracting / JOC – is an efficient integrated project delivery methods that focuses upon collaboration and longer term relationships between Owners and Contracting, resulting in higher productivity and greater transparency.   It’s time that JOC be implemented Agency-wide throughout the Federal Sector.

President Obama’s Better Buildings Initiative is part of a vision for winning the future by catalyzing a homegrown, clean energy economy in the United States. The Better Buildings Initiative set a national target of improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings by 20 percent by 2020.

Job Order Contracting Process - Deployed via Technology

Achieving the President’s goal will reduce energy bills for American businesses by approximately $40 billion per year. Improving energy efficiency in our nation’s buildings can create good paying jobs in the construction industry.  The Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst supported by the Real Estate Roundtable and U.S. Green Buildings Council estimated a potential of 114,000 jobs associated with implementing the Better Buildings Initiative.

It is a trifecta, which is why you’ve got labor and business behind it. It could save our businesses up to $40 billion a year on their energy bills – money better spent growing and hiring new workers. It would boost manufacturing of energy-efficient materials. And when millions of construction workers have found themselves out of work since the housing bubble burst, it will put them back to work doing the work that America needs done. So this is an idea whose time has come. – President Obama

President Obama directed all Federal agencies to make at least $2 billion worth of energy efficiency upgrades over the next two months. Additionally, 60 private companies, hospitals, cities, states, colleges, and universities, among others, have collectively committed another $2 billion in energy efficiency retrofits to 1.6 billion square feet of property.

Goal of improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings by 20 percent by 2020. The initiative will reduce energy bills for businesses by $40 billion per year, and one report found it could create up to 114,000 jobs.
The Better Buildings Challenge is the public-private partnership component of President Obama’s Better Buildings Initiative. The Challenge seeks to catalyze private sector investment and has attracted business and community leaders who are committed to supporting innovative ideas with action, sharing their successes, and creating solutions for others to follow.  TheClinton Global Initiative (CGI) America, former President Clinton, Secretary Chu and Laura Tyson from the President’s Jobs Council announced an initial set of commitments totaling 300+ million square feet and $500+ million in financing support. The President announced commitments totaling 1.6 billion square feet and nearly $2 billion in financing support for building energy upgrades. This includes: Commitments from [60] Major CEOs, Universities, Mayors, Labor Leaders and Others – corporations, hospitals, financial institutions, cities and states, colleges and universities.

Data from the Department of Energy reveals a tremendous potential for efficiency investment opportunities in Federal buildings with less than 10-year paybacks. The Presidential Memorandum also directs Federal agencies to complete evaluations to identify specific energy conservation measures, including estimated cost and return on investment to prioritize and implement those energy conservation measures with the best payback, and to provide transparency and accountability through public reporting of results.

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The Operational Side of Sustainability – Sustainable Landscapes

Any Owner with a significant portion of lawn, natural, and/or impervious surfaces – typically Educational, Healthcare, Government, Hotel/Lodging, Transportation, and Recreational organizations – needs to consider a  landscape management strategy.

Maintenance costs, energy/water usage, security, carbon footprint, and aesthetics are all directly linked to sustainable landscape strategies.

Initial implementation is, of course important, long term operational aspects and adaptation, however, are the keys to success.  Beyond initial design work (renderings, plant selection, overall strategies), a HANDBOOK OF BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES FOR THE LANDSCAPE (Ground Maintenance Handbook) is a requisite component.    The Ground Maintenance Handbook should include step-by-step strategies for installing and maintaining the landscape designs over time. It must be a living document that is updated as new discoveries and adaptations are made by the landscape crew. It is grounded in the concept of adaptive management, where the goal is to plan responses to multiple outcomes (e.g., deer eating the seedlings and invasion by bittersweet).

While this may be a lot to ask from a traditional landscape firm,  and is the piece that is often missing from landscape plan, the Ground Maintenance Handbook is a requirement for success.

Sustainable Landscape - Adapative Maintenance Strategies

Sure, everything might look great when it’s installed at full maturity for completion photographs. But what happens afterwards?

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Sustainabile Landscapes for Public Institutions – DOD, Higher Education, Federal/State/Local Government

Sustainable Landscapes = Ongoing Cost Reductions, Environmental Responsibility, & Safety

Sustainable landscapes are central to ongoing site cost reductions, environmental responsibly, and meeting anti-terrorism standards.

To see current work in this area visit – .

Sustainable Landscape Design



Benefits of these newer approaches include:

– Reduction in Landscape Maintenance Costs
– Improved Safety/Security
– Use of Native Plants
– Reduction of Chemical and Mechanical Inputs
– Invasive Plant Species Mitigation
– Enhanced Landscape Appearance
– Improved Ecological Functioning of Landscape
– Compliance with Anti-Terrorism Standards

Sustainability and High Performance Buildings – Documented Results

Most organizations are making little progress toward acheiving sustainability, environmental and energy reduction goals.  Those that succeed however, specifically focus upon improving facility energy efficiency (91%), improving equipment servicing and maintenance (71%), and improve space utilization/ space optimization (75%).

Energy efficiency improvements within facilities can deliver 50 percent savings!

Tackling energy efficiency within facilities provides an opportunity for high–returns and fast payback. One study by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) examined an array of facility operations and capital improvements aimed at a 50 percent reduction in energy over ASHRAE 90.1–2004 design standard in a retail setting and concluded that results organizations can achieve reductions of more than 40% in less than 5 years, across all U.S. climate zones². See figure 1 and 2.

Sample Facility Improvements from DOE study

Figure 1: Sample Facility Improvements from DOE study

Energy Savings Pareto Curve by U.S. Climate Zone

Figure 2: Energy Savings Pareto Curve by U.S. Climate Zone

Proper maintenance of building systems provides energy savings at a high ROI. 

Robust acility maintenance processes, including scheduled and  preventive maintenance yield reductions in facility operating costs, and defer  large capital purchases. Moving from reactive maintenance yields savings of approximately 20%. 

Space Management: A critical component of successful sustainability programs

Space reduction provides the greatest opportunity for organizations to reduce their carbon footprint. Strategic facility capital planning and management is a core process providing the highest overall ROI.

NREL, “Technical Support Document: Development of the Advanced Energy Design Guide for Medium Box Retail—50% Energy Savings”, 2008

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Green / Sustainability Building Regulations & Laws


Effective January 1, 2011,  CALGREEN Code is the first state high performance building / green / sustainabilitys building code.

CALGREEN is mandatory and targets new residential, commercial, hospital and school buildings and a  3 million metric tons greenhouse gas reduction by the year 2020.

Designers, contractors, and owners can plan and build to a certifiable green standard without  for third-party certification and requires field inspections using a public service.

Key targets/requirements.

  • 20% indoor water use reduction (voluntary goal standards for 30%, 35% and 40%)
  • Separate water meters for indoor and outdoor water use for commercial buildings
  • Moisture-sensing irrigation systems
  • Reduced land-fill waste
  • Mandatory inspections commercial buildings over 10,000 square feet
  • Use of low VOC materials


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New LEED for Existing Buildings – LEED EB Draft 2010



This credit applies to:

Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance

EB:O&M Schools

EB:O&M Retail

EB:O&M Data Centers

EB:O&M Hospitality


Develop an early understanding of the relationships between technical systems, natural systems and occupants within a building project, its site, its context, and its intended use.  Engage all key project team members for the purpose of making cost- and environmentally-effective integrated decisions throughout the design and construction process.



Demonstrate that key systems interactions are explored and analyzed in a way that informs basic building renovation/reconfiguration, envelope modifications, site-related modifications, technical systems operations, and maintenance decisions while determining EBOM credits to pursue, by implementing the following:

Water Synergies: (x points) Develop an implementation plan (roadmap) that schedules tasks and activities to identify and analyze cost and performance synergies between systems relative to water use and water quality. This analysis must identify interactions between no less than 5 credits across no less than three credit categories (SS, WE, EA, MR, IEQ). Document projected cost and performance benefits for at least 8 years of future operations relative to the benchmarks established for each of the germane credits.  AND  Implement the above Water Synergies Plan over the performance period (no less than 2 years) and document resultant quantified cost and performance benefits by utilizing ongoing performance data and integrated cost bundling to analyze the effectiveness of the plan.

Energy Synergies: (x points) Develop an implementation plan (roadmap) that schedules tasks and activities to identify and analyze cost and performance synergies between systems relative to energy use. This analysis must identify interactions between no less than 5 credits across no less than three credit categories (SS, WE, EA, MR, IEQ). Document projected cost and performance benefits for at least 8 years of future operations relative to the benchmarks established for each of the germane credits.   AND  Implement the above Energy Synergies Plan over the performance period (no less than 2 years) and document resultant quantified cost and performance benefits by utilizing ongoing performance data and integrated cost bundling to analyze the effectiveness of the plan.

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Sustainability , Existing Buildings , and High Performance Performance Building Management

By now, it should be apparent that construction costs for a high performance building are not significantly high than “traditional” construction.   True, documentation associated with LEED can increase costs, however, LEED is not required, or even recommended for everyone.  

That said, what about existing buildings?  What project provide the highest return on investment? 

Typcially the highest ROI for sustainability initiatives can be achieved through;

1. better utilization of space (occupancy, space type, time …)

2. modification of user behaviors

3. automation (lighting and water controls, HVAC, energy management system(s), occupancy sensors)

4. HVAC (automation, retro-fit)

5. exterior shell improvements (window films, windows, weather sealing)

6. Lighting (high/higher efficiency lighting)

7. Power filtering and power distrbution systems 


Why DBB – Design Bid Build is Dead – Or Should Be!

Facilities ” Sustainability ”  must be viewed from two perspectives simultaneously – environmental and economic.
In higher education, just as an example, colleges and universities need to change there ” facilities business model” just to survive.   Colleges and universities must  reduce their carbon footprint to deal with global climate change, however, they also need to address total cost of ownership to survive financially.
Second to personnel/labor costs, facilities represent the second largest operating expenditure for this sector… and many, if not most, others.

To deal with facility renovation, repair, and sustainability an alternative to design-bid-build (DBB)  is required.

DBB is inefficient,  too costly and too slow and is not performance-based, nor does it encourage collaboration or quality.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the building, not just construction costs including renovation, repair costs,  and associated modifications have to be factored over the next 10-20 years at a minimum, as well as life-time operations costs.

While IPD and BIM offer the promise of collaboration among owners, constractors and AE’s to a plan construct, or modify a building that meets long-term needs; otherwise not possible with design-bid-build; JOC / Job Order Contracting is a proven method deployable today for facility repair, renovation, and sustainability construction project that meets all criteria for collaborative, quality, time shortening, an a performance-based approach.

With a supporting software technology, the JOC process can be consistently deployed and critical domain information relative to project costing and management retained for future use.

Furthermore, from a “green” sustainability perspective, there isn’t a single larger (multi-building) portfolio owner that can meet future energy reduction requirement via new “LEED” or similar building alone.

Existing building retrofit will be the key, and JOC is well suited to the task of associated shell, HVAC, lighting, and other energy related projects.

BIM will certainly play a role, especially as 4D, 5D BIM becomes are reality.  That said, however, an efficient CONSTRUCTION DELIVERY METHOD MUST be integrated with any BIM strategy.  Again… JOC meets the performance requirements.

With 66% of facility owners primarly using  DBB / use design-bid-build yet only 23% believing it offers the best value, the accelerating adoption of JOC isn’t surprising.

It’s time for ALL facility owners to be rid of the status quo…. and bury DBB.
By Estimators For Estimators

JOC – BIM – Facility Management – Capital Planning

4d-5d BIM will support facility management and associated construction projects, however, more efficient construction project delivery methods MUST be linked to your BIM strategy.

Integrated with 4D,5d BIM or stand alone, Job Order Contracting – JOC / SABER – sets the performance “bar” for facility renovation, repair, and sustainability construction project control and transparency.

Whether your in higher education, k-12, state/local government, DOD, or healthcare, the need to increase construction project efficiency has never been greater.    JOC reduces costs and increases quality by fostering collaboration, rewarding performance, and cutting through the archaic, ad-hoc processes associated with traditional DBB (design build build) and provides additional benefits vs. design build.

From concept, through close-out, proven software (see if interested) is available to embed and assure the JOC process and it is populated with an exclusive 400,000 line item extension of the RSMeans cost database.

Features and benefits included in the JOC software technology deliver robust performance and “real-time” visibility for managing construction projects, programs, and contracts including JOC, SABER, IDIQ, SATOC, MATOC, MACC, POCA, and BOA.  Also…. collaboration, cost control, automated technical evaluation, document management and full reporting capabilities.

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