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USGBC Expands Data Collection from LEED Buildings

August 25, 2010

By Tristan Roberts and Allyson Wendt
This article originally appeared on BuildingGreen.com

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has begun collecting energy- and water-use data from LEED-certified buildings, and is promising preliminary performance reports for building owners participating in its Building Performance Partnership (BPP) by November 2010.

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In 2009 USGBC announced that buildings certified under LEED 2009 would be required share energy- and water-use data (see “New USGBC Initiative Targets Building Performance”). There has been much debate in recent years about whether LEED-certified buildings actually perform as well as their LEED designation suggests they should. BPP should bring a big expansion in the amount of data available, leading to richer and more reliable analysis in the future. “[BPP] is the foundation of USGBC’s commitment to a meaningful demonstration of the value of building and operating green,” says Scot Horst, senior vice president of LEED for USGBC. Brendan Owens, P.E., vice president for LEED technical development, adds that BPP is intended to help underachieving projects identify and fix performance problems.

However, the reporting requirement raised fears that a project could lose a LEED certification due to poor performance, or that unflattering data would become public. USGBC has worked to allay those fears. As stated by a press release about BPP, “no building will be decertified for performance or a performance gap,” and USGBC has promised that public reports of data will be anonymous, while owners will receive tailored reports. Furthermore, while agreeing to report data is a requirement, the data collection systems of BPP are works-in-progress, and projects have been assured that they won’t be penalized as USGBC gets its systems running.

Professionals indicated that USGBC’s efforts on BPP have been welcome. Heather Holdridge of Lake | Flato Architects says that various clients from residential to commercial and university have been “thrilled” about the data collection and look forward to getting value from it. Brian Feagans of Ratcliff is a bit more hesitant, noting that, “it’s not so much the architects that have to be convinced, but the owner has to see value in it.” Owners who operate facilities are likely to get on board, Feagans says. For owners who may have to install a $45,000 piece of monitoring equipment to report data, it “is not going to happen,” he says. (Buildings aren’t required to install submeters to meet the reporting requirement.) According to Owens, over 150 buildings are currently participating in BPP, and the number is growing daily with active outreach from USGBC.

USGBC has set up two simple ways to report data: commercial building owners will share information through Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager program; homeowners will use a similar tool called Earth Aid. Buildings certified under LEED 2009 are required to participate, but USGBC has created additional incentives for them to do so. Projects that share data and are certifying under the LEED 2009 New Construction, Core & Shell, or Schools rating systems are eligible for one point under Energy and Atmosphere Credit 5: Measurement and Verification. Projects registered under pre-2009 LEED rating systems are not required to participate, but BPP is now open to them.

Obstacles to the program may be twofold. Mainly, it’s tough to collect data. Owens reports that despite USGBC’s outreach, the handoff from the LEED project team to the owner or manager often leave USGBC without a good point of contact for tracking down data, and the operations team may be less aware of the reporting requirement.

Going forward, some architects say that their lawyers and sometimes their clients’ lawyers were spooked by the contract that projects are required to sign when registering a LEED 2009 project. “There is a recognition that this legal language is over the top,” says Mary Ann Lazarus, AIA, sustainable design director for HOK. Lazarus hastened to add, however, that she is confident that “USGBC recognizes this and they want to do something about it.” USGBC’s Owens says, “The purpose of that document was to make it clear what was entered into.” He adds, “it is being viewed as a stumbling block and we are working to simplify it.”

Copyright 2010 by BuildingGreen, LLC

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