This 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.