USGBC Boasts Top Energy Scores for LEED Buildings

LEED-certified buildings have better energy performance than 89% of buildings in the U.S., according to the results of a two-year study released today by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), creator of the LEED rating systems. Overall, the 195 commercial and retail buildings in the sample were using 47 percent less energy than average buildings in the U.S.

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More than half of the buildings in the analysis were certified under the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (EBOM) system, for which performance benchmarking through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star software is required. In order to be certified, EBOM buildings must achieve a minimum Energy Star score of 69, meaning they perform better than 69 percent of similar buildings—well below the average benchmark found for the buildings in the study.

The analysis also included new commercial and retail projects, some of which provided data to USGBC voluntarily; those certified under the 2009 version of the rating system are required to report. Critics of LEED  have often pointed to a lack of data verifying energy performance after occupancy; in response to a 2008 study of actual energy performance, a few even argued that new LEED buildings use more energy than average buildings.

It’s unclear how many of the buildings in this analysis were reporting voluntarily, so it probably does not give an accurate sense of the energy performance of buildings certified before 2009. But even those that did report voluntarily did not risk being exposed or punished for poor performance, so the scores wouldn’t have been skewed on that account. They do represent the subset of projects that were paying attention to their energy use, though.

Taken as a whole, the release does provide preliminary evidence that both existing and new buildings certified under the 2009 version of the rating systems perform better than average buildings. USGBC has promised to update this analysis as it receives more data, so these preliminary findings should be either confirmed or modified before long.

Copyright 2012 by BuildingGreen Inc.

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