Starting next week, all construction projects seeking certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, must use a new version of the green building standard. One of the biggest changes to LEED with the new version has to do with energy reporting — building owners must now annually submit data about how much energy (and water) they use or get recertified every two years. The new requirements aren’t perfect, and the standard’s approach to building energy use has some critics, but companies developing energy-related technologies for buildings could see some increased demand for their products.
The U.S. Green Building Council, which designs LEED, says the collection of data will provide valuable information about the way buildings actually perform and help improve future versions of LEED. And the nonprofit organization hopes that forcing certified building owners to report energy use on an ongoing basis will push them to reduce the amount they use. In a press release Thursday, Scot Horst, senior vice president of LEED, said it “will bring to light external issues such as occupant behavior or unanticipated building usage patterns, all key factors that influence performance.”
Still, even with the changes, LEED has shortcomings in how it treats the energy use of buildings, said Prudence Ferreira, a principal with the San Francisco-based energy consulting firm Integral Impact. The energy-modeling software it relies on still lacks accuracy, and the new standard doesn’t require building owners to perform regular monitoring and recalibration of systems, like heating or air conditioning, after initial commissioning. The latter would ensure the building was performing as well as intended. The new LEED standards would be even better if they limited the permissible net energy use of buildings based on their size, Ferreira said. That would be a true performance criteria, she said.
But beyond the shortcomings, the new LEED provisions could give a boost to companies that sell the tools that enable building owners to manage energy consumption. While building owners can simply turn over their utility bills to the green building council to meet the new reporting provisions, some might look to emerging technologies to keep that energy consumption down, like Seattle-based Optimum Energy’s efficient HVAC system. In particular technologies that utilize wireless sensors, and intelligent analytics to identify faults in heating and air conditioning (after years of use these machines can become inefficient) could enable building owners to make sure they continuously meet the energy requirements.
And even if the new LEED standards aren’t enough to convince building owners to buy these tools now, these types of reporting requirements could some day come from the states, too. California has been moving to require buildings to report annual energy use, and Michele Russo, director of green building research at McGraw-Hill Construction, said she believes state governments probably will eventually require performance standards, along the lines of what Ferreira described.