The passionate author of six books discusses green certification, the importance of implementing sustainable design, and the thrill of a double platinum.
With noteworthy projects around the country and numerous industry awards, this young LEED expert is leading the way for world class sustainability documentation. But helping clients find the balance between environmental, social and economic factors remains a daunting challenge. StoryTrack sat down with Michelle Cottrell to unravel this integrated process.
StoryTrack: Often LEED certification can feel like checking boxes, why does it make sense for an owner and developer?
Michelle Cottrell: Without trying to oversell LEED, the reason it’s so successful is because it’s a holistic rating system. Sure, it’s a tool in which to measure performance. But we don’t just measure the performance in isolation. We look at many different aspects in tandem—we look at the development site, how water is used, how the mechanical system coordinates with the lighting system. We examine the construction materials, the indoor environment in terms of air quality and the exterior environment. And that’s just a start!
ST: Tell us about the potential savings.
MC: One project is saving over $500,000 a year in comparison to a conventionally built structure in a similar corporate setting. Those are substantial dollars. That project was designed with a narrow footprint and we were able to incorporate a lot of natural light into the space, all the way to the core. Because of that we incorporated a daylight harvesting strategy. We’re using what’s naturally available and therefore save on energy.
ST: One of your recent success involved a LEED double platinum ratings, is that unusual?
MC: It was spectacular. We collaborated with The Rockefeller Group on the BASF North American headquarters at The Green at Florham Park. Our goal on the project was LEED Gold, but we surpassed that. The project concluded with a platinum certification, not only for the core and shell, but even more exciting, we were able to achieve a LEED Platinum for commercial interiors. So we coined the term “double platinum.” This is one of only five in the world.
ST: What else would you like others to know?
MC: It’s very important to know LEED is achievable. It doesn’t need to cost more, and if you start early in the process, put the proper team together, you can achieve more than you thought possible.