The New Buildings Institute (NBI), a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Washington State, published an interesting report last year that unfortunately didn’t get very much attention. It documented a study attempting to quantify the actual performance of all 552 buildings that had earned formal certification under LEED-NC v.2 through 2006.
While the executive summary of the report states, “…on average, LEED buildings are saving energy,” this conclusion was based on a VERY UNIMPRESSIVE number of buildings for which actual performance data was obtained. According to the NBI study, ONLY 121 of the 552 LEED-NC v.2 certified buildings (22%) responded to the invitation to participate in the study.
The figure above (taken from the full study) reveals another VERY UNIMPRESSIVE trend: the number of buildings whose actual performance does not resemble the design performance and a disturbing number of buildings whose actual performance falls WELL BELOW the design expectations.
This study begs the following critical questions:
- Why didn’t 431 out of 552 LEED-NC v.2 buildings respond to an invitation that simply requested one full year of measured post-occupancy energy usage data?
- Did the non-responders not have access to this data? Or were they unwilling to expose their actual performance?
- From among these 552 buildings, how many fawning press releases were issued about their decisions to seek LEED certification and their commitments to “going green”?
- Should NBI have drawn any meaningful performance conclusions based on a dismal 22% response rate?
- Should LEED-NC certification requirements include one full year of operational performance documentation?
- Could architects, engineers, LEED consultants or USGBC end up on the witness stand when facility managers and owners realize their LEED certified buildings lack the superior performance that was promised when justifying a 2% construction price premium?
The industry should petition NBI or USGBC to follow up with the non-responders and attempt to quantify the actual performance of the other 78 % of LEED-NC certified facilities.
To request a PDF of the study, send an e-mail to [email protected] with the words “LEED NC Study” in the subject line of your e-mail.