There has been a lot of talk recently about measuring a green building’s performance after construction has been completed. Last week, I highlighted what the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) had to say about the issue. On Monday, Mireya Navarro of the New York Times wrote a lengthy article about green buildings not living up to their performance expectations.
Almost immediately, green voices across the internet have shared their critiques and criticisms of Navarro’s article. For example, Preston Koener at Jetson Green comments: "Navarro’s not breaking any new ground here, especially for those ensconced in the green building world; however, like the ingredients of a hot dog, the general population needs to understand what LEED is made of." Koener continues his assessment by describing the LEED process and the distinctions between design, construction and operation. An excellent read!
On the more critical side, Lloyd Alter at Tree Hugger cuts to the chase … suggesting that the New York Times is "behind the times" and "distorts" the LEED energy performance issues. According to Alter, the NYT article "stretches the point" by highlighting an older building designed and constructed under outdated LEED standards.
What do I think? I think we need to look at another player in this scenario … the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) … which is the entity responsible for project certification and professional credentials. On its website, GBCI summarizes the LEED 2009 Minimum Program Requirements (MPRs). I previously reviewed the "revocation" language in the MPRs and the commentary from many of the industry players. But you should look at the actual language of MPR #6, which states that the building owner must commit to sharing whole-building energy and water usage data:
All certified projects must commit to sharing with USGBC and/or GBCI all available actual whole-project energy and water usage data for a period of at least 5 years.
This period starts on the date that the LEED project begins typical physical occupancy if certifying under New Construction, Core & Shell, Schools, or Commercial Interiors, or the date that the building is awarded certification if certifying under Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance. Sharing this data includes supplying information on a regular basis in a free, accessible, and secure online tool or, if necessary, taking any action to authorize the collection of information directly from service or utility providers. This commitment must carry forward if the building or space changes ownership or lessee.
GBCI still reports that the LEED 2009 Supplemental Guide is expected to published in summer 2009, which by my calendar has already passed. Has anyone seen a copy of this guide yet?
Now you may understand why there are so many divergent green voices out there: from Navarro to Koener to Alter. First, there was a desire to design and construct a green building that achieved certain energy efficiency standards. Then, there was trophy (i.e., certification) awarded to the building owner for excellence in the design and construction of such a sustainable project. Now, there is a warning from the trophy giver that the "certification may be revoked" for "non-compliance" with any applicable standard. However, that applicable standard (as it reads now) is merely a "commitment" from the owner to provide certain energy performance information. That standard is not an actual achievement energy savings. Let’s hope the trophy giver can clarify the issue through its new Building Performance Initiative.