LEED-EBOM's Energy Star Prerequisite Not Intended to Discourage Participation

By Jenny Carney  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Higher Energy Star Score Key to LEED-EBOMPt. 2: Auditing, Retrocommissioning Can Lead to Better Energy Star Score, LEED SuccessPt. 3: This PagePt. 4: USGBC Perspective: LEED 2012 Revises Point System, Adds Market Sectors

The Energy Star score prerequisite in LEED is far and away the main gatekeeper to EBOM participation, even with the current threshold of 69. Some think the increase to an Energy Star score of 75 is desirable, as LEED should reward elite performance. Whether or not you agree, what's most important is that facility managers are actually able to participate in LEED-EBOM, as LEED-EBOM is a multifaceted rating system engaging huge numbers of buildings. The goal for LEED-EBOM is to make buildings better across a range of environmental (and human) performance categories. This is not to say that all certified green buildings shouldn't have to make strides in energy efficiency; they should.

A wonderful aspect of LEED-EBOM is that it provides training and professional development opportunities for facility managers and their teams. Owners are more willing to provide resources for property management, facilities, and engineering personnel during a LEED-EBOM project. Another compelling aspect of LEED-EBOM is the heightened attention to health and well-being, through the credits related to green cleaning, integrated pest management and indoor air quality evaluations.

Limiting LEED-EBOM to top energy performers means only about 25 percent of buildings will ever meet the minimum eligibility requirements, which in turn could mean that green practices overall are not as widely adopted. Sure, any building can adopt green initiatives regardless of participation in LEED-EBOM, but part of the genius of LEED is that, as a coveted third-party certification, it propels adoption of best practices that otherwise are underutilized. If these practices were commonplace or readily adopted anyhow, a program devoted to market transformation such as LEED-EBOM would not be necessary.

Using a dynamic, percentile-based threshold for eligibility like Energy Star means that the majority of buildings (75 percent) won't qualify. A possible end result: LEED and green buildings are disproportionately located in affluent areas, or progressive areas that provide incentives for energy efficiency investments. Could this approach to eligibility thwart the social equity aspects of the LEED program by concentrating green building engagement and uptake in certain areas?

A strategy for avoiding this scenario might be to open up LEED-EBOM eligibility to a requirement for a minimum percent improvement over historic conditions at a given building (see "Pilot Credit Provides Alternative Path" above). For low-performing buildings, operational and low-cost measures can actually provide large savings (and large environmental benefits), even if they won't yield a top tier Energy Star score.

Jenny Carney (jcarney@yrgxyz.com) is a principal of YR&G Sustainability Consultants. She manages the Chicago office and oversees project work related to LEED-EBOM. Carney is also vice-chair of the Sustainable Sites Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for USGBC.

Green Building Report Briefings

Green On Campus

The Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council, in conjunction with the Princeton Review has released the free "Guide to 322 Green Colleges: 2012." The 232-page book profiles 322 institutions of higher education in the U.S and Canada that demonstrate commitments to sustainability in their academic offerings, campus infrastructure, and career preparation.

The guide details each school's most impressive environmental sustainability initiatives, offers sidebars reporting statistics and facts on everything from the school's use of renewable energy resources to conservation efforts, and lists schools with LEED certified buildings and that are signatories of the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment.

Download the document at The Center for Green Schools' website: www.centerforgreenschools.org/greenguide

New LEED Pilot Credits

The U.S. Green Building Council has introduced 10 new pilot credits to its Pilot Credit Library.

A few examples include Pilot Credit 54: Avoidance of Chemical Concerns in Building Materials, which combines two previous Materials & Resources (M&R) pilot credits, and encourages LEED project teams to avoid chemicals know to negatively affect human health, specifically in regards to cancer and reproductive toxicity. Also in the M&R category, former Pilot Credit 43 is being broken into two, Pilot Credit 61: Material Disclosure and Assessment and Pilot Credit 52: Material Multi-Attribute Assessment.

One significant new pilot credit under Energy and Atmosphere is Pilot Credit 67: Energy & Atmosphere Prerequisite 2 Alternative Compliance Path. It enables EBOM project teams to document substantial energy performance improvement, as opposed to meeting a minimum Energy Star score, which E&A Prerequisite 2 currently requires.

There are total of 36 active pilot credits. For more information on the LEED pilot credits, visit www.usgbc.org/pilotcreditlibrary


Pilot Credit Provides Alternate Path

In the early drafts of LEED 2012, a new option was presented for all building types that involved showing substantial improvement in energy performance (20 percent) over a relatively recent historic baseline comprised of average annual kBtu/sf from three consecutive years.

This option was removed from the third public comment draft, but is temporarily available as a pilot credit (there's a cap of 500 buildings using it) as an alternative compliance path for meeting the Minimum Energy Efficiency prerequisite.

Depending on the outcome of the pilot, this could be reinstated as a standard option within the EBOM 2012 rating system. If you have a project that isn't within reach of the minimum Energy Star score, this is an opportunity to move forward with certification anyway.

More information about Pilot Credit 67 can be found at the U.S. Green Building Council's website. Visit the USGBC Pilot Credit Library here: http://bit.ly/HORj5P

— Jenny Carney

Sustainability Training Programs

  • 1,000 Green Supers (specific to New York City, though you can look for similar opportunities locally): www.1000supers.com

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  posted on 5/21/2012   Article Use Policy

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