Saturday, April 12, 2008

LEED Buildings Save Money, but, really...need more info

The banners proclaim green buildings use 25 to 30 percent less energy than others. These on top of articles about a study released on behalf of the US Green Building Council, administrator of the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) system that rates and certifies green buildings.

A major flaw, however, is that the study compares 121 LEED buildings to "all national building stock." All stock presumably includes a lot of old, worn out buildings, and thus does not deliver the apples to apples comparison that will get skeptical building owners to bite. The offspring of this study ought to measure against the true option: new, non-LEED buildings. (A challenge authors of this study may have faced is that non-LEED building owners are reluctant to participate).

The study does offer some actionable conclusions:
  • the higher the LEED rating, the better the energy performance

  • there are wide disparities between modeled (predicted) and actual performance

  • labs and other buildings with high process loads use twice as much energy as predicted

This study plows new ground and moves in the right direction. But future studies should show conclusive justification for LEED in the cost arena. If LEED is conclusively justified, it's a no-brainer. If a no-brainer, everyone will design and build according to LEED tenets, so that the need for LEED, and the corresponding costs to administer it, go away.