If You Don't Measure, You're Just GUESSING

Sept. 1, 2009
The continuing building-performance saga

It's no secret that there has been significant criticism of the certification process for the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC's) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. In February, HPAC Engineering Editorial Advisory Board member Mark S. Lentz, PE, summed up much of that criticism in a letter to the editor citing a lack of a credible review process, which leads to buildings that don't perform to specification and yet still attain LEED certification.

In this issue (Page 26), Tim Kensok points to the fact that only one of the nine LEED rating systems — LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance — requires an actual demonstration of whole-building energy performance, while others, such as LEED for New Construction, rely entirely on simulation-model results. Consequently, there are many buildings in which actual energy performance falls far short of design.

Here's the good news: On Aug. 25, the USGBC announced the launch of the Building Performance Initiative. This program is designed to “put in place a comprehensive data-collection effort from all buildings that have achieved LEED certification, implement an appropriate analysis methodology of that data, and provide feedback to building owners so they have better information with which to address any … gaps” between predicted and actual performance.

USGBC LEED Senior Vice President Scot Horst said: “Plenty of people are content to point to long-standing issues without offering a constructive way to address them. We're going to take them on and engage practitioners and thought leaders alike in establishing a national road map to optimize building performance.”

To do that, the USGBC will hold four summits across the country this month and next. Details were unavailable at the time of this writing; however, we know participants will be able to preview the USGBC's data-collection agenda and proposed analysis methodology and provide feedback. Inputs from those meetings will be reported during Greenbuild, which will be held Nov. 11-13 in Phoenix.

This is good news and a solid step for the USGBC. We all need to remember that, as Mark wrote in February, the sustainable-building movement and its associated technology are in their infancy and require continuous development.

As a friend who is a columnist for HPAC Engineering sister publication Contracting Business often tells me, “If you don't measure, you're just guessing.” I guess the USGBC believes that as well and is taking steps in the right direction. Your thoughts?

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