How Performance Metrics Will Change LEED Forever

Green Building

How Performance Metrics Will Change LEED Forever

Since its inception, the LEED rating system has been criticized for its points-based approach to green building that focuses on design intent rather than actual building performance. In fact, in many circles, this was strongly considered to be a potential Achilles’ heel of the blossoming rating system.

Case in point: about two and half years ago, the New Buildings Institute (NBI) published a study that now appears to have been a watershed moment in the green building movement. In that study, NBI found that amongst 121 new LEED certified buildings that had been occupied for over a year, more than half of the buildings did not qualify for the Energy Star label. In fact, 15 percent scored below 30 – which basically meant that roughly 70 percent of the comparable, existing national building stock theoretically outperformed those structures.

Almost a year ago today, the New York Times published an article that brought the NBI study to national attention and gave LEED a major black eye.

By this time, USGBC was well aware of the so-called “performance gap” highlighted by the NBI study. In response, USGBC announced its intention to initiate a process of collecting and analyzing building performance data from LEED-certified facilities. Thus, the Building Performance Partnership was born. USGBC also announced that all new LEED projects would be required to provide building performance data as a condition for certification.

One year later, it is evident that the green building community understands the implications of the disconnect between design intent and real-world building performance and is placing ever-increasing value on performance metrics. The 2010 AIA COTE awards jury was instructed to prescreen all of the data from potential award winners. The team was instructed to identify areas where data was missing or ambiguous. No longer could award winners simply look good – they had to act good too. Moreover, USGBC is dedicated to bridging the “performance gap.” The organization has stated that building performance data “will contribute to the continuous improvement of the LEED Rating System, performance reporting tools, and green building innovation.”

The next version of LEED (2012) will reportedly be overhauled to include more aggressive performance targets. It will be interesting to observe what influence the organization’s growing body of performance metrics will have on the evolution of the nation’s most popular green building rating system.

At any rate, it is now evident that performance metrics will change LEED forever.

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