Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Fact Sheet Released: Energy Performance in the LEED Rating System

Lane Burt
Technical Policy Director
U.S. Green Building Council

Every building professional knows that green building is a process, not an event. As a tool for encouraging green building, LEED reflects that reality, providing recognition of leadership in each part of that process, from design and construction to operations and maintenance.

This is often overlooked when someone refers to a “LEED Certified” building: Where a building stands in the LEED process is an important distinction. A new fact sheet titled “Energy Performance in the LEED Rating System” explains how the LEED rating systems and requirements are supported by initiatives like the Building Performance Partnership to ensure that high performance green buildings live up to their energy potential.

And it is crucially important to understand the difference between potential and actual performance, because in many situations the concepts are conflated. Most folks think of LEED buildings as the shiny new building downtown. They say “It’s green!” or “It’s LEED!”, and it’s true that the building’s design and construction process has been subject to a rigorous evaluation over all categories of sustainability, and a certification level (Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum) has been determined. But that’s not the end of the story, as my colleague Lauren Riggs points out in her post. A building should live up to its potential, and it takes another type of building professional to drive the building into the next stage of the green building process.

The fact sheet details a crucially important tool in helping to realize a building’s performance in every aspect of sustainability: LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance. LEED buildings certified through EB:O&M are certified based upon their energy consumption in addition to the measures undertaken in the other credit categories covering water, indoor environmental quality, materials, and location. The amount of certified space under EB:O&M has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years, surpassing the rate of certification for New Construction (see the graph in the fact sheet for exactly how much and how fast). We expect this growth to continue as the building industry (and even the President) focuses on improving existing buildings.

We hope that this focus on existing buildings’ performance will encourage folks to ask a follow up question about the new green building in the neighborhood: “Is it LEED EB:O&M?” A response of “Yes” to this question will mean that the building is a top performer not only in energy efficiency, but also in water efficiency, location and transportation efficiency, indoor environmental quality, etc.

Take a look at the fact sheet and feel free to post comments below. We hope it illuminates how all these initiatives are coordinated to help us reach our goal of transforming the built environment.

1 comment:

  1. Forcing active data on energy to be shared with the USGBC is the scariest thing I think I have ever seen the USGBC suggest requiring. At best it is a way for the USGBC to steal research information by raping it from their clients. At worst it's a severe national security threat may be used to inform our enemies of how we are actively using our buildings and assist them in determining how/where to attack us. Now I understand that is quite a bit to say about something that looks so benign and positive. One could debate that this was/was not the "intention" all day. Personally I don't care. This requirement needs to be revised or reversed.

    Let me do some basic explanation of where I derived this conclusion. If I am wrong let me know I would be feel great being wrong on any of these concerns just I ask that you are able to show me confirmable source that I am. My best understanding is that the project information provided to the USGBC is not protected. That is, it can be shared at will with anyone for any reason at anytime without any legal ramifications. Sharing information like this without client approval is illegal for a professional to do (such as an engineer) but not for this group. So even though it’s doubtful that the USGBC will just decide to post the entire repertoire of submitted buildings to WikiLeaks, I don’t believe there is any assurance they won't. I don’t believe anyone one goes to prison or is liable if they do. Just the assembly of this type of information at a common location may present a danger. Maybe an irritated worker or site hacker does decide to share it. Maybe someone learns that this information has value and that China/Russia/Taliban etc. might want to purchase this information. Anyone see the value for knowing how your enemy is using energy at various “LEED certified” buildings at US bases? It has been my experience that the government (including military) is implementing this system to the greatest extent possible and to buildings well outside the scope your typical office building. This includes structures like troop readiness buildings, tank repair shops, command control buildings, etc. Also, consider the corporate espionage potential this information provides. For example, you think Target would like to know the energy usage of the local Wal-Mart they plan on moving next too?

    Another potential problem I won't speak much about is outsourcing. If the USGBC ever decides to outsource the review of projects to other countries it could be used to exploit the US.

    I would consider this worse than some of the other issues already lost in revenants to the green gods by implementing this rating system. I know the system is voluntary. Unfortunately, that has much less meaning after contracts are signed setting lead goals by people far less aware of the nuances and power this group has been given. The good news is that unlike the other issues, there is still a fighting chance to revise or rework this one.