I’ve been absent from the blog for about a week. My apologies. I was traveling and studying for the LEED AP exam, which I took on Monday this week and passed. I have since been recovering. I’m glad it’s over, and I am looking forward to enrolling in the LEED AP+ program when it comes out later this year. The test was pretty much what I had expected, and I’m definitely glad that I studied.
So on to the next topic at hand. Over the last few months, there has been a fair amount of hubbub about the true impact of LEED on energy efficiency. Some of the key players in the brouhaha have been Joe Lstiburek, Henry Gifford, and Brendan Owens at the USGBC. It all stems from a study that was released by the New Buildings Institute of the energy performance of LEED-certified commercial buildings.
On the one side, the study shows LEED commercial buildings to be more energy efficient than buildings in the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey, which is issued by the federal government every four years. On the other side, some folks feel that the report’s data was improperly analyzed and that the data support the contrary, that LEED buildings are, on average, energy hogs. (An aside: This argument stems from a commercial buildings study, but it ties directly into the residential sector, as I will explain.)
Now folks, I’m a scientist by training (biologist, to be more accurate). As I have said before, I look at most things through a scientific filter. I have only a B.A. degree from an excellent institution. I’m no Ph.D., engineer, architect, or any of the like. That said, I would like to take a step back and look at this argument from another point of view (I would love for you to get involved by posting your opinions here as well). So, I am going to dissect the issue and try to explain all the viewpoints. It would be impossible for me to do that without sharing my own opinions, so I will toss those in periodically. If this is as riveting to you as it is to me, please let me know that as well.
There is an extreme urgency in this nation to solve some major issues. Economy, climate change, loss of habitat and its biodiversity come to mind. More than ever in my lifetime, we as a nation need to agree, or at least “constructively disagree” about the major problems that we face. We have a great opportunity during this current reality check to hit the reset button. If we can’t achieve the greater good of energy independence and environmental protection because of squabbling, then shame on us. Hence the title of this blog post.
In the next few entries, I will be looking at the issues on both sides of this argument to try to quench the conflagration, or at least bring it under control, and to explain to you what this means for builders and trades for adaptation to the current market.
Sometimes, change is good. Sometimes it is brought on by unforeseeable (by most people) circumstances, but with change and economic instability come opportunity. What we do now with that opportunity is of paramount importance. Everyone in the green-building community wants the same thing, I think, especially now that we have all had a big dose of reality.
So let’s start at the beginning. 4.6 billion years ago…
Maybe that’s too far back. How about, between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago, Homo sapiens evolved…
Nope, too far as well. The Industrial Revolution…
Damn it, last chance, but I think that I have properly framed this conversation. On March 4, 2008, the New Buildings Institute released a study entitled, “Energy Performance for LEED¯ for New Construction Buildings”. The New Buildings Institute is a nonprofit with a reputable board of directors that works with entities to promote energy efficiency in commercial buildings. The study, funded by the USGBC, states that its results support that LEED NC buildings demonstrate substantially improved energy performance when compared to the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey.
Here’s where the crux of the argument lies for the folks that dispute the study’s claim. The study invited all LEED NC certified buildings to participate (552 buildings). Participants were required to have at least one year’s energy usage data, and 121 buildings provided the proper info. Here’s the kicker: The 21 bottom-performing buildings were omitted from the comparison. This released the hounds. I personally think that there was a good reason for the removal of these outliers, which I will discuss in the next blog.
As I mentioned earlier, I want to hear your opinion. Next blog, I’ll dive deeper into this choice, its effects on the findings, and the rebuttals. Until next time, cut off some damn lights in your house.