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LEED Support Slips Again in Construction Industry

GreenBuildingStudyNearly 93 percent of design and construction professionals continue to endorse green building despite the recession, according to a new green building survey. The survey also finds that support for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification slipped again in 2009, widening the gap between support for green construction and LEED certification.

The “Fourth Annual Green Building Study” (PDF) reveals that support for green construction has slipped slightly over the past three years — 96 percent of respondents supported green construction in 2007, 93.5 percent in 2008 and 92.3 percent in 2009. There was a more significant change in LEED support, falling 11 percent in 2008 and 4.7 percent in 2009, with 62 percent of respondents supporting LEED certification. In 2007, 77.4 percent of respondents supported LEED certification and 66.4 percent in 2008. The survey was conducted by Allen Matkins, Constructive Technologies Group (CTG) and the Green Building Insider.

Still, survey researchers say support for LEED certification remains high compared to USGBC’s goal to represent the top 25 percent of all construction projects. The survey also finds that cost remains a major driver for green building during the economic downturn with saving energy and other operating costs as the number one reason for building green projects. Nearly 98 percent of all respondents believe that energy costs will continue to increase in the future, while 88 percent of respondents said they are more likely to include energy saving or sustainable elements in their future construction projects, which is a 14 percent increase compared to 2008.

A key finding shows that green building is perceived to have greater construction risks than non-green construction, despite LEED-mandated building tests, which reduce the risk of building system failure, say researchers. According to survey respondents the top strategies to avoid risks include hiring green consultants (such as LEED-AP consultants), measurement and re-commissioning, periodic testing and contractual risk shifting.

More than half of all respondents indicated that a LEED Gold rating increased project costs by four percent or more, while nearly 30 percent of respondents reported the costs of LEED Gold rating at significantly lower than four percent. Researchers believe the discrepancy may relate to the variety of local codes and professional experience in certain regions that raise the minimum standards close to LEED Gold standards, and the varying degree of difficulty in achieving a LEED Gold rating on different building types such as hotels versus office buildings.

The survey also finds that the purchase of carbon offsets remains near 7 percent. Researchers don’t expect a significant change in offsets unless mandatory carbon mitigation programs are adopted at the state or federal level.

Nearly 17 percent of respondents have conducted a carbon footprint analysis for their companies, which is up slightly from the previous year. Forty-one percent of respondents believe carbon footprint analysis is an important part of their firm’s strategy, up 3 percent from the previous year.

Green leasing is also growing with 30 percent of respondents reporting some activity in this area.

Several studies released over the past several months corroborate the survey’s findings. According to Good Energies, about half of non-residential building stock will be green buildings by 2015, up from about 15 percent today, while a report from McGraw-Hill finds that green buildings in the retrofit and renovation market for major projects will  grow to 20-30 percent by 2014, up from five to nine percent today.

According to research from Zpryme, the combined commercial and residential green building markets should grow nearly 146 percent from 2009 to 2013, representing a $128.6 billion market by 2013 with the commercial/institutional market for green building growing 137 percent from 2009 to 2013, to reach a $63 billion marketplace.

In addition, companies providing energy efficiency consulting services to U.S. commercial building owners are expected to make about $5.6 billion a year.

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2 thoughts on “LEED Support Slips Again in Construction Industry

  1. Perhaps some of the slippage in support of LEED comes from the fact that it is a less complex process to build an energy efficient building than it is to build a LEED building, since energy efficiency accounts for about one third of LEED points.

    A related factor may be that LEED does not allow designers to easily forecast energy savings of newer, or less understood, technologies.
    A case in point is NRG Insulated Block,which consistently delivers HVAC energy savings of over 60%, by creating insulated thermal mass. In talking to architects and engineers, it is apparent that many are not familiar with the Thermal Time Constant as a measure of a building’s thermal performance. Instead, they look to R-Value and thermal mass.

    An ICF wall can have high thermal mass, and high R value, but an ICF wall has isolated thermal mass, meaning that the insulation negates the benfits of the thermal mass.

    When forecasting performance, an ICF wall and an NRG wall may have a similar R-value, but the Thermal Time Constant of the NRG wall is much higher, because of NRG’s insulated thermal mass.

    NRG measures its performance by comparing US Department of Energy Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey figures(real numbers), with self-reported utility bills (also the source for US DOE CBEC numbers),so that energy intesity per sq ft is compared.

    Even though the HVAC energy savings are consistently above 60% over the CBEC numbers, engineers and architects have to forecast, based not on CBEC numbers, but on an individual energy model that may not deliver as accurate a picture of energy savings provided by insulated thermal mass.

    This results in specifying less energy efficient systems that “look good on paper”, but are not as energy efficient, or sustainable, in reality.

    Even net zero buildings can be made more sustainable and efficient by implementing solutions like NRG’s insulated thermal mass, but present energy forecasting models do not recognize that value.

  2. There are many alternatives to achieve sustainable goals. IAPMO has recently published the Green Supplemental Code: a much simpler alternative to LEED.

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