Thoughts on construction law from Christopher G. Hill, Virginia construction lawyer, LEED AP, mediator, and member of the Virginia Legal Elite in Construction Law

LEED, BIM and Smart in the Land of Green Opportunity

The Green Skeptic, Scott Edward AndersonThis week Musings welcomes Scott Edward Anderson. Scott is founder of VerdeStrategy and the popular blog “the green skeptic.” He has held management positions with Ashoka and The Nature Conservancy, is co-founder of the Cleantech Alliance Mid-Atlantic, and a frequent commentator on Fox Business Network. VerdeStrategy is a consulting and advisory firm focused on the clean tech, energy, and environment sectors. You can follow Scott on Twitter at @greenskeptic.

“LEED buildings are great, until the tenant moves in,” the head of a large, international construction company once said to me. “Once the tenant moves in, the environmental sustainability of the building goes out the window.”

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), has done a great job providing standards for environmentally sustainable construction.

LEED now encompasses more than 14,000 projects in the United States and 30 countries covering 1.062 billion square feet (99 km²) of development area, according to the USGBC.

But what happens after the building is occupied? Is there a way to monitor and improve the performance of a LEED building throughout its life-cycle?

An interview in Energy Priorities Magazine may provide a clue. Editor Denis Du Bois was talking with Erin Rae Hoffer of AutoDesk, a developer of Building Information Modeling (BIM) software. Hoffer suggested that BIM and LEED were “two of the three big trends that seem to be converging.”

Du Bois later added that “one of the promises of BIM is, potentially, to be able to do continuous commissioning on a building. LEED is leaning this way toward looking more at the performance of a building after it’s occupied rather than solely at the attributes of the building at the point where the plaque is hung in the lobby.”

But, as Matthew Millan, a Philadelphia-based architect pointed out to me, “BIM doesn’t really have a feedback mechanism. You can enter information about how you think the building will perform once it’s occupied, but it is still speculative.”

So how to pull data from the building as it is being operated? You’ll need smart meters to pull the data, analyze it, and make suggestions to the building occupants or managers to make changes.

“BIM works very well when properly implemented during design and construction,” Millan says. “But once a building is complete, the building performance is largely dependent on the building’s occupants.”

“During use, building automation systems (BAS) can provide sophisticated feedback to its occupants, helping them to maximize the building performance,” Milan explains.

Potentially, you could also automate the process so that changes can be made from a remote location or without any human intervention at all.

That got me thinking about the opportunities for investors if this harmonic convergence of BIM and LEED takes off, and collides with changes in regulatory and reporting requirements related to CO2 output.

With buildings consuming 40 percent of energy in the US, according to the USGBC, and the prospect of energy efficiency design or retrofitting tackling that usage and its associated greenhouse gas emissions, it seems there will be plenty of opportunities for investors to get on the efficiency bandwagon.

This “perfect storm” of LEED, BIM, and the low-hanging carbon fruit of efficiency could lead to advances in data and systems needs, which in turn could drive further adoption of advanced building materials, LED lighting, demand management and energy management software, smart metering and smart grid technologies.

This isn’t your Jimmy Carter-sweater efficiency. We’re talking highly sophisticated software systems and metering installations, from simple smart meters and online portals to fully integrated, networked building automation systems that can actually control the usage, improve building performance, and save money for building operators.

Bright green investors are wise to keep an eye on developments in green building. It may yield a whole new arena of opportunities.

As always, please comment below and let Scott and I know what you think. Also, please subscribe to keep up with this and other Guest Post Fridays here at Construction Law Musings.

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17 Responses to LEED, BIM and Smart in the Land of Green Opportunity

  1. Scott, Chris,
    Great article. Matthew the architect is slightly behind with the latest developments. We’re actually linking BIM to FM to BAS enabling a feedback to see whether LEED expectations are met and what’s the reason for nonconformance. Probably will be a useful tool for you guys, “green lawyers”. 🙂
    If interested – email me.

  2. Quote “Once the tenant moves in, the environmental sustainability of the building goes out the window.” This is an outrageous statement! Tenants also have responsibilities and one would expect are audited just as other owner/occupiers”. If the building has been built or retrofitted to a standard that meets current legislative requirements then what, I ask, can the tenant do to undermine this? Is there not a clause in the lease/contract that would prevent him from destroying the foundations of the building?

  3. Scott – I read your article and would offer to posit some solutions that would contribute to monitoring energy use by the tenant on an on-going basis. We sell an energy monitor that is very easily installed using just clamps and a bluetooth emitter. The data that the bluetooth transmits can be monitored by the tenant using a display monitor and a service rep can download the data from the bluetooth on a monthly basis into a laptop. The software lets you analyze that data in a lot of different ways. So, both parties would have the data, they could discuss it and work out a plan that would keep the building in compliance. I think that this is really pretty easy. If you care to, please visit my website and look under Efergy energy monitors. Thanks!

    Mark Thomas
    .-= Mark Thomas´s last undefined post ..If you register your site for free at =-.

  4. I think Scott makes a great point. The fact that human usage and interference can affect the environmental sustainability of supposed green projects, not only LEED buildings, is a valid argument. More than the LEED buildings, we need the BIM to help monitor energy usage to remind tenants to take note of the energy consumption. I wonder if such sophisticated software is already available to the public.

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