Some buildings not living up to green label

There's no guarantee that earning LEED will lead to energy savings, but one consulting company is now guaranteeing LEED certification.

08/31/2009


According to a story in The New York Times , the Federal Building in downtown Youngstown, Ohio, features an extensive use of natural light to illuminate offices and a white roof to reflect heat.

It has U.S. Green Building Council LEED certification, the country's most recognized seal of approval for green buildings.
But the building is hardly a model of energy efficiency. According to an environmental assessment last year, it did not score high enough to qualify for the Energy Star label granted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which ranks buildings after looking at a year's worth of utility bills.

The building's cooling system, a major gas guzzler, was one culprit. Another was its design: to get its LEED label, it racked up points for things like native landscaping rather than structural energy-saving features, according to a study by the General Services Administration , which owns the building.

Wayne Robertson is a consulting engineer and the founder of Energy Ace Inc. , a firm that guarantees LEED certification for its clients. According to Robertson's story on Reuters , the process to "LEED" is fickle and unpredictable. For every project, there are hundreds of different sustainability combinations that can be used in order to meet certification requirements. It is not hard to envision the potential for failure to occur.

Facing government and industry mandates requiring higher levels of sustainability, engineers, contractors, and sustainability consultants are finding themselves between that proverbial rock and a hard place. Their clients want a guarantee that the project will be LEED-certified, but there is no hard and fast formula for LEED certification.

If an Energy Ace project misses its LEED target level or fails to earn certification, the client is refunded its LEED administration fee, which typically runs 30% to 45% of the total project fee. This is a relatively small price to pay in comparison to the prospect of a potential lawsuit involving attorney fees and damages that could dwarf initial consulting fees.

Taking the threat of a lawsuit out of the equation helps keep consultants focused on the task at hand. Because clients go into the agreement with eyes open (with regard to the failure clause), this model has the extra benefit of keeping the client committed to the task.

Read a Sept. 3 update on this story from Environmental Leader.

 





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