New York Times, USGBC Address LEED Performance Gap

You may have recently read the New York Times article about the gap between LEED building designs and actual energy performance.  If not, I would recommend reading the article.  You may have also noticed a reference to "construction lawyers": 

"Already, some construction lawyers have said that owners might face additional risk of lawsuits if buildings are found to under-perform."

In May 2009, I spoke with Ms. Navarro about legal issues that could arise from under-performing green buildings.  I told her that under-performing green buildings might result in unhappy owners when energy performance promises were not met.  Even worse, owners might interpret a green building energy performance design as a promise and be disappointed when actual performance does not match.  Finally, I pointed Ms. Navarro to Malcolm Lewis of CTG Energetics, who actually corrects energy performance gaps that occur in new buildings. 

A lot has happened since my conversation with Ms. Navarro.  The USGBC has taken big steps to address the energy performance gap, which the article covers.  Remember when we discussed the USGBC's new requirement for reporting of energy data from LEED buildings?  Remember how the USGBC threatened to de-certify buildings that do not report energy savings?  These actions mean the USGBC is addressing the energy performance gap head on. 

Want more proof of how seriously the USGBC is taking this issue?  This is from a June 2009 press release from the USGBC:

The U.S. Green Building Council announced this week that Christopher Pyke, Ph. D. has been appointed Research Director. Dr. Pyke joins USGBC from CTG Energetics in Irvine, Calif., where he was National Director of Climate Change Services.   He brings a strong background of leadership in green building research to USGBC, underscoring its commitment to raising the bar on research related to green building science and technology, including the performance of LEED-certified buildings. This research will be vital to the ongoing development of the LEED green building certification program.

CTG Energetics is one of the leading building energy performance companies.  In hiring Dr. Pyke, the USGBC is investing significant resources into researching energy performance. 

Of course, this is all old news.  Friday we will discuss new information revealed by the USGBC's Scot Horst that has enormous ramifications for LEED.

Photo:  Geoff Livingston

Links: 

Some Buildings Not Living Up to Green Label (NYT)

Malcolm Lewis (CTG)

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love LEED De-Certificaiton (GBLU)

This Post is Really Important and Is Not For the Faint of Heart (GBLU)

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Comments (4) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Leigh Monette - September 2, 2009 10:38 AM

I'm keenly watching the development of this issue, and the industry's responses to the changes made.

One item that jumped out at me (only on my thirteenth time through the NYT article) is the implication that building owners would be sued for underperforming buildings.

My sense is that the opposite is true - it will be owners bringing suit against design professionals and builders, seeking to recoup the losses (whether actual or imputed) caused by a decertification or failure to achieve certification.

Thanks for the information Chris, particularly on the USGBC hiring and on CTG Energetics role in things.

Christopher G. Hill - September 2, 2009 11:22 AM

I agree with Leigh if for no other reason than the one that pays/has the money for the project will be the one suing. Given the fact that the owner is the one that will have paid and not gotten what it thinks is bargained for in terms of efficiency over time, I think the lawsuits are more likely to go that direction.

Chris Cheatham - September 3, 2009 7:46 AM

@Leigh Monette - Thanks for the comment. Energy performance lawsuits could go both ways but I do agree that the suits are more likely to come from unhappy owners.

@Christopher G. Hill - Agreed. But I could definitely imagine a scenario where tenants band together to go after an owner that promised particular energy savings.

Ujjval K. Vyas - September 24, 2009 4:16 PM

It does not insprie confidence that the USGBC is hiring someone from their own inner circle to act as "Research Director." The long-standing relationship between the USGBC and CTG Energetics is well-known. Such a marketing move may convince the USGBC's intended audience, but it only creates a negative perception in those that value objectivity and credibility combined with technical, intellectual and ethical excellence. The continued provicialism of the USGBC's refusal to engage those not drinking the kool-aid (or not in mutually advantageous business relationships) is unfortunate though fully understandable.

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