Making buildings greener: Looking past certifications

March 15, 2012

The number of green buildings in the U.S. is on the rise, and more than 1.8 billion square feet of commercial property is certified under the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, according to an article by Leslie Guevarra, the editor for GreenBiz.

The article noted that for many building owners, the LEED plaque that attests to the green structure achievement is a major goal. Guevarra noted, however, that this type of certification could act as a deterrent for future progress.

To transform the built environment in a generation in order to prevent catastrophic damage from climate change, much more needs to happen, and at a quick pace, she noted. To accomplish this goal, Chris Pyke, the USGBC's vice president for research, noted that it is necessary to "unpack the plaque."

Pyke noted that it is essential to take advantage of the technology that provides access to the streams of data available from entire portfolios of buildings, and from systems beyond the building's walls, as this can create an intelligent, connected built environment.

In an interview with Pyke, Guevarra asked him to outline the state of green buildings in the present. He noted it was a global push for more efficiency and that the size and shapes of the commercial structures that were being reshaped varied. However, he spoke to how the current trend favors retrofitting over new construction.

"What may be a surprise to some people, the fastest growing fraction of the green building movement is certainly existing buildings," said Pyke. "This last summer, we reached a milestone where we see more square footage of existing buildings than we do new construction."

The efforts toward retrofitting existing building stock and reducing emissions in the U.S. is being led by cities, according to a separate article by GreenBiz.

Daryl Dulaney, the president and chief executive for Siemens Industry, told the news source that markets like New York, Chicago and Philadelphia are making significant gains, due to ambitious urban sustainability programs and research.

"I like working with cities. Mayors are focused on getting things done. Politics comes second," Dulaney told the news source.

Efforts like the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings (GPIC), which seeks to enact a change to energy efficiency in the commercial buildings sector, are centered around Philadelphia and the surrounding area.