The US Green Building Council (USGBC) is implementing major upgrades in LEED certification standards for buildings in 2012 in response to criticisms.
Critics say LEED ratings don’t go far enough – that adding up a bunch of points for green features doesn’t necessarily result in a building that’s green overall, and that there’s no method of verifying whether a finished building is performing as planned.
Should having a bike rack earn points in a building that hasn’t upgraded an old furnace system, for example? How do you know that a building owner even uses green technology after its been installed?
Over the years, LEED standards have been raised several times as the market matured and could absorb more advanced standards. Now, it’s time to do that again.
The originators of LEED always had the vision of creating fully functioning green buildings, not just a list of features to check off. But in the early days, the USGBC designed a point system to entice architects and builders to use the system. At the time, they knew little about green features and how to use them and weren’t so sure they cared.
The market has matured to the point where major cities such as New York and San Francisco mandate energy retrofits of older buildings, and they have to meet LEED standards. Dozens of cities and about a hundred towns mandate that new buildings be LEED-certified. There are many thousands of LEED-accredited professionals.
The USGBC says its LEED 2012 rating system, set to launch in November, will contain new important features.
To make sure buildings function as intended and improve over time:
- building owners will be required to report data on the building’s energy and water use, using real-time reporting technology;
- Owners of LEED-certified buildings will have to apply for re-certification every five years.
"Our goal is to show that real leaders share data," says Scot Horst, USGBC Senior Vice President of LEED.
The energy services industry hails the new requirements. "No longer does a bike rack get credit over an integrated process," says Jeff Drees, US president for Schneider Electric. Drees says he hopes building owners will now get credit for synchronizing design, fuel, operations, and maintenance.
Another criticism is that data on how buildings perform isn’t available. To improve the transparency of its data, USGBC is inviting software developers to design applications to make comparison of energy saving technologies easier for building owners. The Green Building Information Gateway allows owners to compare their buildings’ data with those of similar buildings.
Over 30 companies are developing tools to help building owners track and improve energy performance.
Green building is expected to become the norm in the construction industry long-term, with over a 20% market share by 2013. LEED certification is the de facto standard thanks to 17 years of work by the USGBC.