Green buildings have to operate efficiently to be truly "green," and the U.S. Green Building Council is about to begin enforcing that simple rule.
The USGBC has had a busy week, announcing a couple of major changes to its Leadership in Energy and Efficiency Design (LEED) rating system.
First, it announced that as part of LEED v3, the latest version of the rating system, "buildings seeking LEED certification will begin submitting operational performance data on a recurring basis as a precondition to certification."
The change gets at what has long been the primary complaint about LEED: That it stops once the building is built.
The new version, to be used by all new LEED applicants starting this week, also ties the green building rating system into the emergent smart grid, and it will likely increase demand for building energy monitoring systems.
In order to gain LEED certification, building owners or developers will need to prove ongoing energy efficiency in one of three ways: submit energy data to the USGBC on an ongoing basis; get recertified every two years through LEED for Existing Buildings: Operation and Maintenance; or sign a release that allows the USGBC to get energy and water use data directly from local utilities.
Given that getting recertified every two years would be expensive and time-consuming, that allowing the USGBC just to grab data without building owners seeing it first could make for some unpleasant surprises, and that there are an increasing number of building energy monitoring systems on the market, it seems likely that most developers will opt for the first option.
"USGBC is proactively investigating cost effective ways for every LEED building to become metered as a way to capture this data," said Brendan Owens, vice president of LEED technical development.
In addition to closing the gap between how a building was designed and how it actually operates on a day-to-day basis, the requirement will help inform future iterations of LEED, according to the council.
Next Up: Greening IT?
Meanwhile, information technology industry groups are pushing for a LEED standard for data centers, the country's most energy-hungry buildings.
The Lawrence Berkeley National Lab created draft standards at the request of the California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research program and recently submitted them to the USGBC for consideration.
It's looking very likely that the council will release a LEED for Data Centers standard in the not-so-distant future. And given that it will have to include the performance data component, there's yet another big potential market for both building energy monitoring systems and demand-response systems, which can power systems on and off depending on the time of day to optimize energy efficiency.
The market took a high-profile leap forward this week when Yahoo! announced that it was shifting its climate strategy from buying offset to investing in data center energy efficiency. The company's new goal: reduce its data centers' carbon intensity by at least 40% by 2014.
ACES High in Washington
The USGBC also is celebrating the House passage of the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) bill, which included a handful of green building-related provisions that the Council either supported or helped draft.
Of particular note are:
the Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance (REEP) program (Sec. 202), which will help provide incentives and financing mechanisms to get nationwide retrofitting programs underway;
the Green Resources for Energy Efficient Neighborhoods (GREEN) Act (Sec. 281), which increases energy efficiency standards for HUD housing and provides incentives to financial lenders to provide lower interest loans to consumers who build, buy, or remodel homes with a focus on energy efficiency;
and the Building Energy Performance Labeling Program (Sec. 204), which directs the EPA to create a sort of Energy Star labeling system for buildings (which would seem to cut into the USGBC's business, but they're behind it).
It all brings us one step closer to minimizing the impact of buildings on the environment.
As the USGBC is fond of pointing out, buildings in the United States are responsible for 39 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, 40 percent of energy consumption, 13 percent of water consumption and 15 percent of GDP per year, making green building a source of significant economic and environmental opportunity.