All That Glitters Is Not LEED Gold

All That Glitters Is Not LEED Gold

In many cities, there stands a mass of steel and concrete that is also a thing of beauty – coveted for its dual-pane windows and variable frequency drives; beloved for its solar co-generation and its minimal carbon footprint. It’s the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building – a rating system for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of green buildings that helps owners and operators be environmentally responsible and energy efficient.

But wait, what is the actual footprint of this building? Certainly, it should be significantly less than the average building; however, if you look closely you might find that it’s strikingly similar to the much less glamorous, 1970’s era beast that sits next to it.

But how can this be? All of those carefully designed features that are crafted and calculated by the architect must have a positive impact. Attaining LEED status is not an easy feat – each LEED rating system follows prerequisites (green building strategies that must be included) and credits (optional elements or strategies to gain points toward LEED certification). The problem lies here: the building is stamped LEED certified, silver, gold, or platinum before it becomes operational. It’s not the design and creation of the building that’s warming our globe, it’s the fossil fuels this little gem burns during operation.

Avoid “drift” with real-time recommissioning

A building’s operating environment can conclusively be tied to a single process – commissioning. This is where it should be determined that the building will function as expected, or not, and adjustments made to run the building as lean as possible.  Of course, this process rarely occurs as intended, and sometimes the building runs with a number of factory defaults in place that are deemed ‘most appropriate’, but perhaps not optimal for this specific building. And so, the variable frequency drives run constantly and the co-generation runs on a schedule, rarely offsetting peak demand. Even buildings that are commissioned properly typically “drift” from their original use and performance profile every one to three years. More dynamic spaces like arenas, convention centres and hospitals drift daily.

What’s needed to combat this phenomenon is a technology that allows green building professionals to be assured that their buildings will perform as intended. A technology that essentially virtualizes the commissioning agent and remains in the building forever. Used as a key element of the building process today, it can ensure that those beautiful LEED buildings truly represent the green, lean building.