By Donny Goris-Kolb, Environmental Planner, VHB
For many it has become almost cliché – the adage, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” However, it’s extremely relevant for effective and sustainable management of buildings, campuses, and entire communities. At VHB, we’ve been exploring the best ways to support our clients’ efforts to manage their buildings and operations, and to communicate performance, not only to the public, but also to operators and decision-makers. After all, sustainable management really comes down to effective decision-making, which is only possible when armed with the best available data. The Arc platform, introduced in 2016 and maintained by Arc Skoru Inc. (an organization created by the Green Business Certification, Inc. [GBCI]), is a novel approach to the implementation of LEED for existing buildings with plans to expand to other green building rating systems, protocols, and guidelines such as
GRESB, WELL, PEER, SITES, and Parksmart. It represents a concerted effort by United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and GBCI to broaden the reach of LEED and related principles and practices, as the platform’s target audience includes not only projects looking to achieve LEED certification or recertification, but also non-certified projects whose owners/operators would like to make and measure incremental sustainability improvements, as well as cities and communities looking to provide enhanced quality of life. The digital platform streamlines LEED Operations + Maintenance (O+M) recertification for existing LEED-certified projects by focusing on performance data across five key subcategories: Energy, Water, Waste, Transportation, and Human Experience. For non-LEED certified projects wishing to pursue initial certification under LEED v4 O+M, the platform simplifies the process through the “Performance Score to LEED certification pilot credit.” This alternative pathway reduces the requirements for certification by requesting the same performance data as required for recertification, along with satisfying a limited number of prerequisites and optional credits.
Arc represents a recognition by USGBC and GBCI that data management and analysis are integral components of a project’s sustainability, and that transparency is an essential part of such efforts. The platform provides projects with the ability to measure its sustainability improvements through continuous data uploads, real-time analysis, and web-based reporting. Leveraging its growing database of performance data, Arc provides projects with the ability to compare their performance to that of its peers locally and globally, and to share that data with its stakeholders through the Arc interface. Cities and communities can now also take advantage of Arc with the LEED for Cities and LEED for Communities pilot certification programs built directly into the platform. For the first time, cities, communities, neighborhoods, districts, townships, and counties can be LEED-certified. Within Arc, these entities can set goals, implement system-recommended strategies to meet those goals, and track their progress through key metrics and shared performance data, including greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy consumption.
VHB has worked with cities, airports, transportation agencies, and building owners on sustainability management for years. And we understand there is no single platform or solution that will meet everyone’s needs in the same way. What we consistently find to be most important in sustainability management is the ability to maintain a clear view of the program’s primary goals, which are to manage resources effectively, improve efficiencies, make people’s jobs easier, and manage data effectively to inform smart decision-making. We aim to connect our clients to the best available tools and resources to achieve these goals, and also have developed some custom tools to support such efforts where appropriate. At the end of the day, what is most exciting about Arc and similar programs is to see how big data and web-based management capabilities are expanding to help our clients to provide better services to their customers or citizens and improve their sustainability performance.