LEED certification questioned for new jail

By Ian Ferguson

A decision on whether or not to require LEED silver certification for the new Whatcom County jail and sheriff’s headquarters was postponed until next year after the facility’s designers presented the costs of trying to achieve the stringent environmental standards.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification is a green building certification program administered by the U.S. Green Building Council. To gain LEED certification, building projects must satisfy a variety of requirements aimed at reducing the environmental impacts of the building. A 2005 county resolution committed jail designers to meeting LEED Silver certification in building Whatcom County’s new jail and sheriff’s facility. On January 20, the county executive’s office submitted a memo to Whatcom County Council requesting the removal of the LEED Silver requirement for the new jail.

“DLR Group, the architect and engineer for this project, has done extensive review of how the campus could be designed to meet LEED ‘Silver’ certification. Through this review, it does not look reasonably feasible to achieve LEED ‘Silver’ for the new jail facility without adding substantial costs,” the memo states.

The memo used the addition of a geothermal heating/cooling system as an example of the cost/benefit analysis that led the project’s designers to question whether LEED silver certification is feasible.

At a February 10 meeting of the council’s Finances and Administrative Services Committee, the executive’s office recommended the council postpone its decision on whether to require LEED certification until a more comprehensive life-cycle cost analysis, conducted by the DLR Group, comes out in early 2016.

“I think waiting a year until we have better information is very appropriate,” said county executive Jack Louws.

Councilmember Rud Browne asked what impact postponing the resolution would have on the planning process, and Tyler Schroeder from the executive’s office responded that there would be no impact.

“One of the desires for delaying this decisions is that the technology available for energy efficiency is changing so rapidly at the moment,” Browne said.

The committee voted 3–0 to postpone the resolution. The project is slated to achieve the City of Ferndale’s EAGLE standards for platinum certification. The estimated construction cost for the new facility is $82 million. Construction is anticipated to begin in February 2017.

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