Chicago, LEED

New Tool Shows Off Commercial Buildings’ Energy Performance

By admin . 11 Jul, 2016 . in Energy Efficiency

By Ben Block

A growing number of commercial buildings around the world are installing performance-tracking software described as “Fitbit for buildings.”

The LEED Dynamic Plaque is a monitoring and performance-scoring platform that showcases real-time progress toward energy, water and waste reduction goals. The tracker helps facility managers to maintain high levels of energy efficiency, while presenting a uniquely visual tool for engaging occupants and marketing the building to potential tenants.

Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, the LEED Dynamic Plaque was unveiled in 2014. According to a recent article in Midwest Energy News, as of early 2016 nearly 600 buildings totaling 150 million square feet have either installed the software or have begun the process.

“The goal of the [LEED Dynamic Plaque] is to get people talking,” said Gretchen Sweeney, USGBC vice president of LEED implementation. “It’s one thing to hear about efficiency. To see actual numbers that show how efficient a building actually is at a given point in time? That’s more powerful.”

LEED Dynamic Plaque produces a constantly evolving score that reflects the most recent data available for a building’s energy and water consumption, waste production, tenant commuting choices, and levels of tenant comfort and satisfaction. A score of 50 to 59 results in the building ranking as LEED Silver, 69 to 79 as LEED Gold, and 80 to 100 as LEED Platinum, the highest designation.

The concept for the LEED Dynamic Plaque developed out of concern by USGBC that too few of their members were renewing LEED certifications. As of 2014, only 55 of the 23,000 LEED for New Construction (LEED-NC) or LEED Core and Shell projects elected to pursue LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (LEED-EBOM). Among the 3,000 LEED-EBOM projects, 300 chose to undergo recertification. Officially, LEED-EBOM certification expires after five years.

Though LEED-NC certified buildings never lose their certification, buildings will often see declines in performance if energy management protocols are not properly followed and maintained. By undergoing recertification, building managers can identify and correct otherwise unknown performance issues.

“Unfortunately, the rate of recertification for LEED isn’t as high as it should be — especially considering building performance is a place where we could make a dramatic impact,” said Scott Horst, USGBC chief product officer, in an interview with LEEDuser.

Using LEED Dynamic Plaque to assist recertification has attracted concerns within the industry. Christopher Davis, global energy and sustainability program manager for real estate services firm CBRE, commented on the LEEDuser post that the software’s performance scores should not be conflated with a more thorough certification processes. Davis estimated that the LEED Dynamic Plaque scoring system covers 60 percent of the scope of LEED-EBOM certification, leaving out factors such as site maintenance, cooling tower management, pest control and demand response, among others.

“We can probably all agree than an online platform that streamlines the collection, analysis, display and certification of ongoing performance data is a fantastic idea,” Davis wrote. “It’s important, though, to make a distinction between the technology platform and the LEED technical requirements.”

While the USGBC software is not as thorough as the process for recertification, Clean Markets Outreach Director Mike Newman agrees with Horst that the LEED Dynamic Plaque may inspire further LEED certifications. “The Plaque helps building owners see if their building is going too far off original design specs and to identify potential problems before they spiral out of control,” Newman said. “At that point, the owner has the option to go through a recommissioning and possible recertification if they’d like.”

During a recent trip to Chicago, I visited 200 W. Madison, the second office tower in the world to install the LEED Dynamic Plaque. The 45-story building in the West Loop obtained LEED-EBOM Gold recertification in 2015 with the help of the USGBC software.

LEED Dynamic Plaque has become an important tool for Transwestern, the management company at 200 W. Madison, to measure energy and water costs, air quality and recycling rates, and to compare performance across properties. The software has also assisted building managers engage tenants on topics related to energy use. For instance, 200 W. Madison tenants were recently provided an app to enable them to control the heating or air conditioning on their floor when they come into the building on weekends.

“The plaque has opened the door to more conversations with our tenants about how we can all save energy and reduce our waste,” said Katie Sakach, Transwestern vice president and general manager, in an interview with Midwest Energy News.

In addition to helping to retain tenants, the green building features of 200 W. Madison have helped Transwestern in marketing the building. It was recognized by the Building Owners and Management Association (BOMA) of Chicago as the 2015 Outstanding Building of the Year for buildings 500,000 to 1 million square feet. According to Midwest Real Estate News, the occupancy rate reached 92.5 percent in March 2016.

“During the last 10 years, having a green building has become more of a selling point,” said Allan Skodowski, Transwestern managing senior vice present and director of LEED and sustainability services, in the article. “It is moving from an environmental movement to save the planet to a discussion about health and wellness and how buildings impact employees.”

Ben Block is a Marketing Manager for Clean Markets. He can be reached at bblock@cleanmarkets.com.

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