Green building industry clouded by variance in energy metrics

June 26, 2012

Although the number of energy efficient buildings in the U.S. has grown by a significant amount in the past decade, there are a number of obstacles that remain to the complete transformation of the commercial real estate market.

Commercial buildings in the U.S. account for roughly 40 percent of the total energy consumption in the country, and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the Department of Energy (DOE) are looking to use public-private partnerships to promote a change in the industry.

The DOE designated a specific effort, the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub), to help revolutionize the commercial real estate market in the Greater Philadelphia region, as the agency is hoping that this will serve as a national model for how green structures can be adopted.

The USGBC is a part of a number of initiatives, but the main engine for change from the organization is the increasing value of its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system. Not only does this designation mean that a building is efficiently constructed and operated, but it also increases the value of the property.

However, the LEED certification system relies on specific metrics and measurements, and the commercial real estate market is struggling to determine how to keep up with the ever-changing measurements for efficiency.

The Atlantic Cities reported that along with the changing nature of energy efficient requirements, companies often struggle to determine which system to go by.

"A virtual blizzard of green and sustainability metrics has emerged over the past few years," said Patricia Connolly, director of global sustainability for RREEF Real Estate. "LEED has been the default standard, and it’s a good place to start."

However, she noted that there is not a standard or accepted practice to monitor continued performance.

"There’s been a lack of standards in the industry to communicate sustainability performance, and from an investment manager’s perspective, we need standard metrics to demonstrate both financial performance and operating efficiency for buildings," said Connolly.

Plastics News reported that the American Chemistry Council called the General Services Administration (GSA) Green Building Review fatally flawed, as it noted that many government organizations continue to change their metrics while the building industry struggles to keep up.