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Going Green with LEED v4: What You Need to Know

As many of you likely know, LEED is an internationally-recognized green building program that has been used for the past 10 years to provide certification of a building’s sustainability. While LEED has come under question in recent years for whether certified buildings are actually more sustainable than their standard counterparts, green standards have helped us advance the discussion around energy efficiency.

On December 10, the public comment period closed for LEED v4, with the revised version to be voted on between June 1 and June 30, 2013. The US Green Building Council (USGBC) gives some insight into the proposed changes, including new market sectors and streamlined services.

Another important change is “increased technical rigor,” including a focus on integrated design and a greater emphasis on measurement and performance. Among other areas of the building, this will likely affect lighting solutions. And for good reason: according to ENERGY STAR, lighting consumes almost 35 percent of the electricity used in commercial buildings in the United States.

So while it’s not yet certain what new changes LEED v4 will bring for building owners, managers and contractors, those hoping to earn LEED-certification can be certain that measuring the performance of energy efficient lighting solutions will remain a central vehicle to meeting those requirements. Therefore, an ongoing measurement and verification performance plan is central to ensuring that lighting and lighting control solutions are meeting expectations and performing to standard.

Measurement and verification (M&V) is a system designed to collect energy usage data from a building system and compare it to past or estimated performance, or against another building system. By using M&V to measure the performance of lighting and its associated controls, building managers can more easily determine whether LEED requirements are being met. Systems that provide M&V monitoring and analysis can also be used to identify new opportunities for increasing efficiency, providing further ROI on the initial investment.

For example, a university campus looking to meet LEED requirements may have difficulty doing so without monitoring systems and a formal M&V plan in place. This is because lighting use changes seasonally and even monthly – think of the campus library, which will be in use 24 hours a day during finals, and barely at all during summer break. It can be difficult to accurately predict energy usage simply by looking at manufacturer specs and “normal” usage hours. “Spot check” energy audits often overlook these changes. However, with an M&V monitoring system in place and a plan to put that energy data to use, a university can more easily identify opportunities for increasing efficiency and meet LEED requirements.

While LEED v4 won’t be finalized until mid to late 2013, it’s not too early to consider an M&V plan and system for your next LEED project, and enjoy the benefits of accurate energy usage data, increased efficiency and significant cost-savings.  Are you considering LEED? What do you hope to see in version 4?

Scott Jordan is business development manager for Schneider Electric.

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