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Audits:Green Buildings Don't Save Energy

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Audits Show Green Buildings Don't Save Energy

"Some Buildings Not Living Up to Green Label," the New York Times notes that buildings built to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard aren't saving energy as expected.

Revelations that many buildings certified as green under a broadly accepted national standard for energy savings are not performing as well as predicted recently prompted changes to the program and are forcing San Francisco officials to consider amending city rules that are tied to the older guidelines.


Edited 9/20/2009 2:54 pm ET by rez


(post #157781, reply #1 of 8)

The Federal Building in downtown Youngstown, Ohio, features an extensive use of natural light to illuminate offices and a white roof to reflect heat.

 It has LEED certification, the country’s most recognized seal of approval for green buildings.

But the building is hardly a model of energy efficiency. According to an environmental assessment last year, it did not score high enough to qualify for the Energy Star label granted by the Environmental Protection Agency, which ranks buildings after looking at a year’s worth of utility bills.

 The building’s cooling system, a major gas guzzler, was one culprit. Another was its design: to get its LEED label, it racked up points for things like native landscaping rather than structural energy-saving features, according to a study by the General Services Administration, which owns the building.



(post #157781, reply #2 of 8)

I'm not at all surprised. Politics and philosophy aside - we've already had a few threads on those aspects of LEED - a few common presumptions about LEED are simply wrong.

Only a small part of the LEED score has anything to do with the energy directly used by a building. Much more of the score is based upon things like reduced parking, bike racks, building in undesireable areas, etc. LEED has a much, much broader scope than reducing power bills.

Indeed, some parts of LEED can only lead to increased energy consumption. For example, their 'daylighting' goal is in direct conflict with design measures that would reduce the power bill.

There is also the unintended consequence of people being less spartan in their use of something that is either cheap or plentiful. If, for example, you replace your 9mpg beast with a 50mpg econo-box, chances are you'll be driving more miles - which will offset your 'savings.'

On the flip side, if you made a building that -somehow- used absolutely no energy at all, but met no other criteria, it would not qualify for any LEED rating.

We all need to understand this before we hop on the 'green is good' bandwagon.

(post #157781, reply #3 of 8)

LEED certification was created to make it relatively easy to elevate building design to a higher standard with a general prescriptive 'cookie cutter' approach. LEED is not a focus on JUST energy as many people often think, but lots of things. In my experience, the LEED system has been used by designers as a marketing ploy and sales pitch and not as a true indicator of their ability to design a better building.

The LEED system has gained a lot of respect, and rightly so. It is WAY better than not having anything and it does do a great job of raising the awareness of design regardless of it's flaws. It is not, however (IMO) infallible and open to some degrees of abuse.

Being prescriptive in nature makes it inherently subject to some flaws. Enforcing existing energy codes IMO makes for the most energy efficient construction. Historically, in spite of codes, construction hasn't been inspected for strict compliance, so the results are less than ideal. Many BO don't understand much more than simple energy code concepts, so are really not in a position to enforce them ... besides, they are often so swamped with work that their focus tends to be more on immediate life safety types of code requirements and not the 'softer' or 'less important' requirements of energy efficiency.

But codes are really not intended to 'push the envelope' of e.g. efficiency ... just to elevate common practice into requirements so that those that practice on the extreme low end of the scale have to bring their standards up to what most people consider routine.  ... but I'm digressing, now.

There ain't NO free lunch. Not no how, not no where!

(post #157781, reply #4 of 8)

The title of this thread doesn't match the problem. Some LEED buildings aren't green. Not all LEED buildings are green, that's not the same as "green buildings don't save energy"

(post #157781, reply #5 of 8)

Well put. In fact, FHB's article talks specifically about one program which is based entirely on performance and guarantees heating and cooling performance.
p.s. rez in peace.

Edited 11/22/2009 2:01 am by KFC

It seems to me the headline (post #157781, reply #6 of 8)

It seems to me the headline for this thread should have read: "Audits Show Green Buildings Don't Save As Much Energy as hoped."

I think that, as written, the headline misrepresents what the quoted materials say.

======================================== "Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary." Reinhold Niebuhr: 'The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness' ========================================

Plakes with removalbe screws (post #157781, reply #7 of 8)

Plakes with removalbe screws - now thats substainable... Not following up actual energy consumption seems to all to typical delusional outcomes of far to many political follies. Perhaps a " Grand Greenie"  award to the buildings that actually perform in reducing enegrgy consumption. I always feel a shutter down my spine when somone builds a 10,000 square foot house proudly exclaims how Green it is.

Well, if you close those (post #157781, reply #8 of 8)

Well, if you close those shutters maybe you can save some energy.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville