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Will LEED Recertification Address Energy Performance?

There are a number of LEED-policy articles floating around the internet these days.  Fast Company wrote an article bashing LEED for poor energy performance.  Lloyd Alter responded at Treehugger with an article bashing the Fast Company article.

It’s time to move the discourse forward.

How Does the USGBC Intend to Improve Building Performance?

One of the key issues facing the USGBC is addressing buildings that get LEED certification but do not deliver energy savings.  Originally, it seemed as if the USGBC was going to propose a decertification system.  Here is how USGBC CEO Rick Fedrizzi described it last September:

“Once a LEED plaque is assigned to a building, and there is proof that the building is no longer performing the way that it should, there’s a very good chance that that information will then result in the ability for USGBC to remove the certification from the building — most likely on our website,” he says.

In the current LEED 2012 draft — the proposed new rating system — there is no mention of LEED decertification.  But in a November 2010 Greenprints article, Vandana Sinha confirmed that LEED 2012 will include a component to address energy performance:

To [Scot Horst, Senior Vice President for LEED,] the biggest difference [green buildings can make] comes down to managing energy. That means connecting the next iteration of LEED even more with energy savings (or the latest among ambiguous-sounding eco-friendly buzzwords: building performance). He envisions what’s being dubbed LEED 2012 to include an annual report card for all LEED-certified buildings — basically a statement of their energy consumption compared with other LEED counterparts to separate the energy dieters from the hogs. Those that meet energy-saving marks will get an updated plaque for that year. Those that don’t won’t get their plaques revoked, Horst assured multiple times (he called the whispered rumors of rampant decertification in LEED’s future “fear-mongering”). But those less-than-stellar-building owners will have to settle for, and undoubtedly explain to potential tenants, what would appear to be a past-due date on the property’s green-ness.

“If you don’t stay in the system, no one’s going to take the plaque away, but people will start to understand that a 2002 plaque would mean something a lot different from a 2010 plaque,” Horst said. “It’s about showing that you are performing the way you are designed to perform.”

If you compare the Fedrizzi and Horst statements, you will notice an important shift in proposed policy.  Fedrizzi described removing the certification from a building — which sounds a lot like decertification to me; Horst describes providing new plaques to energy efficient buildings — or LEED recertification.

The legal implications of LEED decertification would have been very messy.  The idea of LEED recertification is a more manageable process that mirrors the current Energy Star rating system.  And if the recertification system truly works as described, then a market should develop for the most recently certified LEED buildings.

Look for LEED recertification language to be included in the Minimum Program Requirements that are included with LEED 2012 when it is released for round two of comments.

Original Post by Chris Cheatham, Green Building Law Update

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