The Commonwealth of Virginia announced last week that a student services center at Tidewater Community College’s Virginia Beach campus was recommissioned using the Virginia Energy Conservation and Environmental Standards (VEES) that became law in 2012. It’s the biggest project to date using VEES.
The press release from the state said that the project involved transforming a 43,000-square-foot building built in the 1970s that had housed the campus library. It now is home to student services, computer and math labs and other facilities. The project, which was designed and carried out by RRMM Architects of Chesapeake, features LED lighting, use of existing structural elements wherever possible, reuse of materials and local and recycled materials.
The release was vague on expectations or targets for the recommissioned structure. What makes this project worthy of special note is the use of VEES. The idea is to provide choices for builders and decision-makers in the Commonwealth, according to the press release:
The department’s Division of Engineering and Buildings/Bureau of Capital Outlay Management developed the Virginia Energy Conservation and Environmental Standards (VEES) as an alternative to other international green building certification programs such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Green Globes.
Dena Potter, the Director of Communications for the Virginia’s Department of General Services, told Energy Manager Today that the key is to tailor the system to the locality. “The other standards were not lacking,” she wrote. “VEES is an option to utilize regionally specific conditions to achieve the most beneficial green project to the Commonwealth. For example, sound insulation requirements for a project located near a regional airport can be considered differently than a project located near a major international air hub.”
The linchpin for VEES seems to be flexibility. The press release says that VEES uses the International Green Construction Code “but takes into consideration the unique and regional aspects for green building design in Virginia.”
VEES is not mandatory. The release says that all new buildings in Virginia must use it, LEED or Green Globes standards in public buildings of more than 5,000 square feet or renovations where costs exceed more than half of the building’s value.
Another sign that VEES focuses on flexibility is the elimination of highly granular identification and descriptions of the work to be undertaken. It was superseded by more informal rules. This is how the switch was explained at the Commonwealth’s Department of General Service’s Building of Capital Outlay Management’s (BCOM) newsletter:
One of the most significant changes to VEES is the deletion of the VEES matrix. This was removed to simplify VEES. That is not to say that there is no longer a path for exemptions when necessary. Should an agency find, that due to special circumstances, compliance with a particular section of the standard makes construction or renovation impracticable; the agency will need to request a special exemption from BCOM in writing.
The building was not the first that used VEES standards, Potter wrote. The others were small “internal” state buildings, Potter said.