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Making Buildings Greener

We’ve heard it time and time again in the news – “LEED is fine, but these touted green buildings use more energy than other buildings”. Or “LEED is great, but the buildings use more energy than predicted!”  Hold on – let’s take a look.

First, many LEED buildings do use more energy than other buildings.  What is being compared? A science lab from 1940 will have entirely different usage parameters for energy, even if upgraded, than a science lab from 2012.

A classroom of today employs better lighting and more controls and hopefully includes exceptional insulation and integration of daylight, but it also has more plugs, higher demand vending machines, a projector in every room, and higher air quality requirements pushing more conditioned air through the systems.

We each use much more delivered energy today for nearly every task than we did even 20 years ago. Times and processes have changed.

Let’s also address the “more energy than predicted” part.  I would hope the buildings still use less energy than code.  If the predictions were too heavy handed, ok, but ideally the building should be more efficient than your average or code compliant building.  Remember that meeting code means you just avoided breaking the law, and we can do so much better.

Even so, we have a clear and growing need to better control the operations of our buildings.

The new LEED V4 rating system, to be released in 2013, is including much more attention to the actual performance of the buildings, and putting more weight on controls and maintenance.  This will of necessity include training the building operators and the occupants to be engaged partners in running these more efficient buildings.

Now that we have green buildings we will learn to run them better.

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