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Massachusetts Green Buildings Used 40 Percent More Energy Than Predicted

Back in 2007, the Energy Engineering Program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell completed a study of the actual energy performance of 19 green buildings across the Bay State. The study was funded by the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust and identified 13 schools which were certified under the LEED-based Massachusetts Collaborative for High Performance Schools Criteria, as well as 6 buildings that had earned LEED certification. The study compared energy consumption as predicted during the design phase and actual occupancy post-construction; buildings included in the study provided at least one year of occupancy data. The authors also interviewed individual project teams and energy modelers and conducted occupancy surveys in evaluating the effectiveness of various types of efficiency measures. All of the buildings received design or construction grants from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, which provided the prediction data that project teams had submitted in connection with their funding applications. Although the study concluded that these 19 green buildings were consuming (on average) 40 percent more energy than predicted, all of the buildings were consuming less than a building designed to Massachusetts baseline building codes. The disparity in predicted versus actual energy consumption is probably not surprising, but the study did identify a number of issues common across the buildings which resonate with many of the technical and operational provisions of documents like the Model Green Lease. I think it is therefore worthwhile to review the study both from a green leasing perspective, but also in terms of LEED, particularly because the Lowell study has not been referenced in many of the recent articles discussing the ongoing LEED performance gap.

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Is San Francisco Reconsidering Its Green Building Legislation in Light of the LEED Performance Debate?

The San Francisco Chronicle has picked up on the recent flurry of commentary generated by Mireya Navarro’s piece in the New York Times about the LEED building performance gap. The article opens up by stating “[r]evelations 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 [LEED] program and are forcing San Francisco officials to consider amending city rules that are tied to the older guidelines.” However, a closer look at the substance of the article suggests that city officials may actually be trying to expedite the application of the LEED 2009 system and its corresponding Minimum Program Requirements (“MPRs”) to large, private construction projects. (As you will recall, the new MPRs require that projects which pursue LEED certification to “commit to allow USGBC to access all available actual whole-project energy and water usage data in the future for research purpose” or risk decertification.) I also think the piece is noteworthy because it suggests an inextricable link between increased data reporting and increased building performance.

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