How the UCSF Wayne and Gladys Valley Center for Vision Team Achieved LEED Gold Certification

Learn how the team achieved LEED Gold certification, surpassing the project's original sustainability goals.

February 26, 2021


A funny thing happened on UCSF Wayne and Gladys Valley Center for Vision's way to LEED Silver certification -- it achieved LEED Gold.

To be fair, the project team knew from the start that LEED Gold was a distinct possibility. "From the get-go, everyone partnered up and aligned themselves to get Gold even though we were just contracted for Silver," says Mario Saenz, the senior project engineer responsible for the LEED effort. "All the MEPs were on board. The architect, SmithGroup, was also pushing to get us there."

While UCSF had contracted for Silver, "The design team and our own Sustainability team were confident in the design and felt the opportunity was there to achieve Gold," says Project Director Ted Williams. "They worked toward that even though they didn't have to. They identified the path to get us there."

The additional points required for Gold certification were obtained through several strategies ranging from the straightforward with the purchase of green energy credits all the way to significant points obtained through energy performance.

"We ended up getting almost all our points for the energy performance credits," says Natalie Wheating, Webcor's assistant sustainability manager. "We coordinated well with the commissioning agent to make sure the building operated the way it was designed. A lot of points came from the design and Webcor's coordination with the design team."

Functioning as members of the team, Natalie and Jenelle Shapiro helped coordinate the operations of the site, monitoring waste management, reviewing materials as they were being procured, and coordinating the effort between Webcor and the design team to ensure the proper materials were being obtained for buyout.

"The design team was always very optimistic," Mario recalls. "We were shooting for Gold -- 64 points -- and little by little, things started falling in place. When it seemed like we might not get there, we identified other means, and working together, we were able to push it through."

UCSF was delighted with the higher rating. "They have a prominent sustainability program," Natalie says, adding that UCSF focused on Wayne and Gladys Valley Center for Vision as a poster child for best sustainability practices. Achieving LEED Gold not only supported the marketability of that effort, but will also save them money because the building is more efficient.

"When you put in the effort upfront, you wind up with a well-designed building, and the client saves a lot of money as the building continues to operate," she explains.

Making the extra effort had no impact on the schedule, although Mario notes that the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a five-week pause in construction, extra time that allowed the team to conduct a complete flush-out. (A flush-out forces air through a building before it is occupied to remove some of the pollutants produced by newly installed components, fresh paint, materials, finishes, and furnishings.)

"By being strategic with the remaining points we needed to achieve Gold, we were able to accomplish it within schedule," Ted explains. "And we were able to give future tenants better air quality by doing a flush-out thanks to what was really the unfortunate reality of dealing with COVID-19."

Natalie adds that the project's success reaffirms that an early start and coordination between parties -- including getting MEPS on board -- pays off.

Ted is taking that experience with him to future projects. "When you have the right team between Webcor and the designers, getting Gold is definitely achievable if we're smart about how we approach the project," he says. "Having that conversation early with the client and setting those expectations makes all the difference."