Some Green Buildings Not Always As Green As They Seem

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THE VINE AUGUST 30, 2009

Some Green Buildings Not Always As Green As They Seem

Mireya Navarro has an smart piece in The New York Times today about how a lot of those vaunted LEED-certified "green buildings" aren't actually all that green in practice:

The council’s own research suggests that a quarter of the new buildings that have been certified do not save as much energy as their designs predicted and that most do not track energy consumption once in use. And the program has been under attack from architects, engineers and energy experts who argue that because building performance is not tracked, the certification may be falling short in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions tied to global warming.

And a bit further down, some sensible advice for patching up this problem:

Some experts have contended that the seal should be withheld until a building proves itself energy efficient, which is the cornerstone of what makes a building green, and that energy-use data from every rated building should be made public.

“The plaque should be installed with removable screws,” said Henry Gifford, an energy consultant in New York City. “Once the plaque is glued on, there’s no incentive to do better.”

Why does any of this matter? Because virtually everyone agrees that making buildings more energy-efficient is one of the cheapest and just plain easiest ways of curtailing our electricity use and hacking away at carbon emissions. Indeed, it's sort of staggering what efficiencies we can wring out of our leaky buildings and homes. A recent analysis by Architecture 2030 compared the carbon savings from the federal building codes that were tucked into the House climate bill with those from, say, a push to build 100 new nuclear plants. The building codes, it turns out, would cut six times as much carbon-dioxide as the nukes would—and at a sliver of the cost.

But, of course, someone has to check up on the buildings to make sure those savings really materialize. Fortunately, most of the efficiency provisions in the House bill rely on a different verification system than LEED does (in fact, I believe they use the very EPA/EnergyStar system that caught the problems with LEED buildings). Still, as the Times piece implies, monitoring can be tricky.

(Flickr photo credit: Eridony)

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posted in: the vine, environment and energy, energy, environment, the new york times, environmental issue, mireya navarro

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