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Why LEED Cert is a Must


Falls Church Village Preservation and Improvement Society, PO Box 6824, Falls Church, VA 22040
VPIS.President@Gmail.com - www.VPIS.org
Village Preservation and Improvement Society

June 27, 2015

Mayor Tarter and Members of City Council
Chair Castillo and Members of the School Board
City of Falls Church
300 Park Avenue
Falls Church, VA 22046

SUBJ: Importance of Third Party LEED Verification for City School Projects

The Board of the Village Preservation and Improvement Society urges City leadership to make a clear commitment to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver standards including third party verification of compliance for all new City funded development and substantially renovated buildings. Meeting this standard is especially important for school buildings. Third party certification is not just a plaque on the wall. It provides third party expertise throughout the process to ensure that LEED standards are actually implemented and system operate as planned and contracted. From past projects it is clear that the expertise in general is not inherent in the available staff to ensure that our taxpayer funded projects are built to expectations.
We are very disappointed by the recent announcement that the Mount Daniel School renovation will not include LEED third party environmental verification and certification. We are especially concerned that, although the City Council made a firm commitment to meeting the LEED standard for the Mt. Daniel project (vote by City Council on November 24, 2014) this important policy direction was simply not implemented by the schools. Falls Church can and must do better in this critical area.
An important opportunity to apply LEED standards will arise in the design of all new buildings on newly City controlled land at West Falls Church. Again, a commitment to LEED standards with third party certification is especially important for the new George Mason High School. When socializing the idea of a new high school building a tour was arranged of Dunbar High School in DC, a LEED Platinum building. We urge the School Board and City Council to reach an early agreement, prior to issuance of any RFPs, to ensure that the new George Mason High School will achieve at least LEED Silver certification and that LEED certification is a mandatory, not optional, requirement of any builder selected for construction of the new high school. It is essential that specific requirements for LEED Silver with third party certification be explicitly included in the RFP.

The strong support that the City Council has given the LEED program suggests that its
many benefits are now well understood by the Council. City school administrators have
also acknowledged the value of LEED standards. However, there seems to be less
understanding or recognition of the need for third party certification of compliance with
the standards. Some key reasons that the small additional investment in certification of
compliance is needed include:
A) Certification is an important way to verify delivery of key environmental
components such as properly functioning water conservation and lighting
systems. Given limited City staff resources, it is especially important that we utilize
the certification process with a qualified / certified professional to ensure that the we
get was is being paid for by the taxpayers of Falls Church.
B) A key component of third party certification is enhanced commissioning, which
involves extensive testing of key indoor air conditioning systems (heating, cooling,
humidity, etc.) to ensure that these systems are functioning as designed. Properly
functioning systems will save money through reduced operating expenditures over
time. Commissioning becomes mandatory in Virginia after July 1 of this year, which
demonstrates the importance of this process.
C) As a matter of public policy, the City of Falls Church routinely seeks LEED
certifications for commercial buildings going through the approval process and that
includes third party certification. How can we ask commercial developers to meet the
certification requirements when we do not do the same for ourselves? For reference,
the Flower Building housing the school administration offices is LEED Gold. The
Hilton Garden Inn is LEED Silver.
D) Leading communities in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and the State of
Virginia pursue third party verification and certification as part of their overall
sustainability policy  and as basic good management practice.

We have a very good understanding of the LEED process and are willing to have external
certified experts brief any City staff or City bodies to clarify understanding and the long
term economic benefits. We look forward to working with you on this important policy.

Sincerely,

Keith Thurston
President , on behalf of the
VPIS Board of Directors
Cc Wyatt Shields
Dr. Toni Jones
Planning Commission

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Contact Information

Village Preservation and Improvement Society
P.O. Box 6824, Falls Church, Virginia 22040