Owners Must Agree to Report Building Energy and Water Use as Precondition for Certification
Exactly how energy-efficient are the nation’s most sustainable buildings? That question has puzzled experts because of insufficient data, but the U.S. Green Building Council will soon have an answer.
Landlords seeking the coveted LEED badge must now agree to submit the energy and water consumption of their buildings to USGBC as a precondition for certification, a major change from previous requirements. The provision is part of a suite of changes to the LEED rating system that became mandatory for newly registered projects on June 27.
Projects can comply either by reporting performance data annually or allowing USGBC to access the information directly from utilities, or by earning certification under the LEED platform for existing buildings and re-certifying every two years. Performance data would not be disclosed publicly.
In a statement last week, USGBC said there are multiple upshots for aggregating the information. For one, a greater awareness of building performance will help owners and managers fine-tune their properties, which often operate with less efficiency than is possible.
The organization will also examine the data to determine which LEED credits are most effective at optimizing building performance, helping inform future revisions to the 10-year-old rating system.
“Building performance will guide LEED’s evolution,” Brendan Owens, vice president of LEED technical development, said in a statement. “This data will show us what strategies work -- and which don’t.”
Energy requirements for LEED are currently based on building codes or, under some platforms, the average energy intensity for similar building types. Hypothetically, if USGBC aggregated enough performance data, LEED energy requirements could one day be formulated using the average performance of other LEED buildings.
But so far, that information has been difficult to come by. The most comprehensive study on the energy performance of LEED-certified buildings, completed by New Buildings Institute last year, was able to gather data on just 122 certified buildings (about 550 buildings were invited to participate.)
“We have not done enough to examine how our buildings work,” said Scot Horst, senior vice president of LEED. “We need to create partnerships that allow data to come to us.”
USGBC said it would work with building owners to pursue “cost effective ways” for every LEED building to become metered, although it would consider exceptions.
In the past, the performance reporting requirement and other recent changes to strengthen LEED may have found a chilly reception in the market. That is changing, Horst said.
“It’s a priority to us that this not to turn into a burdensome exercise for building owners,” he said. “But the reality now is that the culture is clearly stating that all buildings need to step up to a different level. We need to make sure LEED stays in a leadership position.”