Information technology isn’t just aiding the green building sector in terms of energy management tools — it also can play a role in designing certified green structures. Brattleboro, Vt.-based BuildingGreen, a green building publisher and products cataloger, on Wednesday launched an online software package meant to help designers certify green structures more quickly and efficiently. Dubbed LEEDuser, it’s meant to be a guide and discussion forum for architects and other designers working on certifying buildings under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED system. BuildingGreen President Nadav Malin tells us that the company’s main goal was to develop a tool to guide designers through the notoriously tricky parts of the LEED process and help them achieve certification with less work and greater confidence of success.
The program, which launched as a free beta version today, but which will be charged on a subscription basis in October, has guidance for the five recently launched LEED 2009 rating divisions: new construction, core & shell, schools, commercial interiors, and existing buildings. LEED, widely considered the most prominent green building rating system in the country, is made up of a series of credits for things like the use of daylight, on-site renewable energy generation, and construction waste management. A building is certified based on the number of credits it achieves.
While the U.S. Green Building Council has published reference manuals and has an online system for registering buildings, Malin said the LEEDuser program is the first that acts as a “super helper” and has a structured online forum. Malin said the emphasis is on real-world problems for designers, and BuildingGreen worked with consultants at YRG Sustainability and other experts to develop the content. At this point, though, it’s unclear how valuable the software program will be for designers who’ve worked with LEED for years.
Based on a quick test drive, the program seems simple to use and easy to navigate. For each credit discussed, there’s a listing of potential pitfalls and points to consider before pursuing the credit further. There are online calculators attached to many of the credits, a listing of further resources, and examples to draw from. The program is limited in the number of credits it discusses — for new buildings, it includes guidance on just 15 credits, while there are about four dozen possible. But Malin said BuildingGreen plans to add more credits in the future. He said the company first focused on the credits that LEED experts often cite as the most difficult to work through.
Perhaps BuildingGreen’s biggest success with LEEDuser has come before its official launch. Malin said the U.S. Green Building Council plans to provide links on its Web site to the program as a support tool for designers. That should give the program a strong validation, a great marketing channel, and a formative head start on any other company looking to provide similar tools.