Hoping to reduce energy consumption and environmental impacts, a number of states and federal agencies in the US have pledged to build new buildings in accordance with the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program developed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). Consequently, one would expect LEED-certified buildings to use less energy than conventional buildings with the same function. But this is not the case.
In an article in Yale Environment 360 (a publication of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies), Harvey Sachs of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) sums up the situation this way: “A green label building is not necessarily an energy efficient building.”
Dr. Sachs’ statement is supported by research commissioned by the USGBC itself. One way to assess the energy use of LEED-certified buildings is to compare them with Energy Star buildings. Energy Star is an EPA rating system that rates a building’s energy use against that of other buildings with similar functions: buildings consuming 25% less energy per square foot than their peers are awarded the Energy Star label.
So how do LEED-certified buildings stack up? It turns out that fully half of them would not qualify for the Energy Star! But to me the most amazing result from USGBC’s report is the following:
one quarter of these [LEED-certified] buildings had [Energy Star] ratings below 50, meaning they used more energy than average for comparable existing building stock.
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