The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (LEED-EB: O&M) rating system measures operations, improvements and maintenance on a consistent scale, with the goal of maximizing operational efficiency while minimizing environmental impacts. LEED-EB O&M addresses whole-building cleaning and maintenance issues, recycling programs, exterior maintenance programs and systems upgrades.
Although LEED-EB: O&M hasn’t yet been widely embraced in the marketplace, the newly launched 2009 version should increase its penetration.
Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, offers a rating system that helps measure a building’s current energy performance, set goals, track savings and reward improvements. Energy Star is particularly helpful for assessing how well a building performs in comparison to similar buildings.
The EPA reports that 83,000 buildings have been benchmarked for energy use through the Energy Star program, and large developers like Hines and Transwestern are using the system to benchmark significant percentages of their property portfolios.
New and developing local and national policies are helping to raise awareness and speed adoption of green development.
In October 2008, the City Council of Washington, D.C., unanimously passed the Clean and Affordable Energy Act of 2008. This legislation requires city government and private building owners to benchmark their buildings using the Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool and to submit performance data to the city, which will publish it for the public.
On the national front, a bill known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act is gaining traction within the U.S. House of Representatives. Among the requirements of the proposed law are a building labeling program that enables owners and prospective purchasers and tenants to compare energy use of a building to similar buildings in the area. ASHRAE is currently developing a similar label.
Certifications and public accolades shouldn’t overshadow the importance of ensuring that buildings meet occupant needs. Facility executives are beginning to understand the importance of engaging with occupants throughout the process of designing, constructing and maintaining a building.
Bringing users into the discussion — early and often — is a critical factor for understanding and addressing occupant needs while considering key decisions relative to waste, water, energy and quality of life. These conversations also provide valuable opportunities to manage occupant expectations, set clear performance metrics and establish effective feedback loops. Occupants will better understand how a building is supposed to operate, so they will be able to recognize when its performance falls outside those criteria. As a result, facility executives can progress beyond responding to individual employee complaints to focus on the big-picture issues of managing the space.
A new U.K. survey revealed that 78 percent of employees would accept more responsibility for reducing energy use at work if their employers asked them to. Conducted by the Carbon Trust, the survey found that 82 percent of employees say they regularly or occasionally see colleagues wasting energy at work, and 48 percent say they would be more willing to modify their behavior if they knew what they could do.
In this economy, it’s hard to imagine anyone who wouldn’t be willing to make simple changes to their behavior to save water, energy, resources — and potentially jobs.
In many respects, the prospects for green development have never been brighter.
The Business Case For Green Buildings
LEED, ENERGY STAR, And Existing Buildings
Greening on a Shoestring Budget