If It Doesn’t Perform, It’s Not Green!

Sixth-floor-park-Roppongi-Hills-Tokyo-Japan

In a forthcoming keynote address to the Green Cities conference of the Green Building Council of Australia, green building guru Jerry Yudelson intends to tackle a important concern in the sustainable building world: performance.  His keynote, entitled “If it doesn’t perform, it’s not green,” is at the center of a hot button topic that seems to be taking on new fervor these days. 

Yudelson, principal of green building consultancy Yudelson Associates, said in a press release, "The major focus of the green building movement has become the performance of green-rated and green-labeled buildings … what we’re seeing is many high-level rated green buildings falling well short of predicted performance.

Perhaps, Yudelson is referring, at least in part, to a study by Cathy Turner and Mark Frankel, “Energy Performance of LEED for New Construction Buildings.”  In general terms, after examining the performance of 121 newly constructed LEED buildings, the authors found that several buildings use more energy than the code baseline and an even greater number use more energy than predicted. 

The so-called performance gap in new green buildings – the difference between design and actual building performance – has led to some changes to LEED certification by the USGBC.  The newest version of LEED requires projects to monitor and report on energy and water use data.  The data isn’t used to yank certification or demote previously certified projects – at least not yet – it’s designed to move towards a system where actual energy and water information is available to both stakeholders and certification bodies. 

Yudelson, author of several books and one on greening existing buildings, says buildings that fall short of initial performance claims should receive a reduced level of certification as with existing certified buildings: “Certifying existing buildings as green uses actual performance data; new buildings should be held to the same standard … it’s unacceptable to give green certifications to new buildings that don’t meet the same standard.” 

The fourth annual Green Cities conference will be held in Melbourne, Australia, where Jerry Yudelson will speak on February 23, 2010.  Given the importance of the topic, I expect those who can’t make it to the conference will be able to catch a similar speech here in the states.


  • http://www.mistymorningfog.wordpress.com/ Michael

    While I agree that final “demonstrated” building energy performance ought to be taken into account, it’s worth noting that energy performance is only one of the six categories measured to determine the level of sustainability under the LEED rating system.

    It’s also important to remember that this is an evolving science. There is a lot of tweaking and fine-tuning that can happen as we learn which strategies are most effective in various climates. Tracking the performance of buildings built under the LEED guidelines is the first step toward that goal. But even this can be misleading – many buildings (especially today) are not fully occupied right away, which tends to skew the data.

    It’s great to keep our eye on the prize, but unless we’re prepared to levy accusations of fraud against our design teams, I think it’s best to tread lightly here until the industry has a chance to mature a bit.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with Michael that there are lot of things to worry about other than renouncing certifications. Although of course, when industries go to the trouble of greening their structures through LEED certifications, they should complete their green efforts by smarting up and using water and energy resources wisely.

  • http://bruteforcecollaborative.wordpress.com/ mike

    not only do i strongly believe that USGBC should strip buildings for failing to perform, i strongly believe that certain energy targets should be met to move up the LEED ratings ladder.

    eg. platinum 80 points and 80% reduction over baseline
    gold: 60 pts and 60% reduction over baseline
    and so on and so forth.

    that or give significant, proven energy reductions more weight.

    otherwise, we’re giving away ‘leadership’ to developers that choose bike racks and parking spaces over energy efficiency.

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