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September 2009
The Future of Green Buildings: An Aggressive Focus on Measurable Performance

Next week, USGBC’s newly announced Building Performance Initiative will be in full swing with the first of five summits planned to raise the level of discussion about how we can ensure that all green buildings perform the way they are intended and that our entire building stock – new and existing buildings alike – is upgraded for measurably better energy, water, human health and natural resources outcomes.

The first Building Performance Initiative summit, in Chicago on Sept. 29, will be followed by an Oct. 6 summit in San Francisco, an Oct. 8 summit in Los Angeles, an Oct. 15 summit in New York City, and an Oct. 21 summit in Washington, D.C. These summits will convene between 75 and 100 people each, and attendees will bring the experience and expertise of a diversity of sectors, including representatives from local, state and federal governments, USGBC chapters, LEED project teams, developers, architects, engineers and many others.

The summits will combine lessons learned from the current state of building performance – both success stories and signs that improvement is needed – and USGBC’s proposals for raising the bar on performance. They will provide an opportunity for participants to view USGBC’s data collection agenda and proposed analysis methodology and to provide feedback and share their own ideas and insights. USGBC will report on these summits at the 2009 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Phoenix, Ariz., Nov. 11-13.

For nearly a decade, LEED has been driving a change throughout the building industry that has led to a new consciousness about the way our buildings are designed, constructed and operated. This new focus on building better buildings has meant great potential for increased efficiency and sustainability, but USGBC has recognized that there is a difference between intention and actual performance.

For the vast majority of well-designed and well-built buildings, the performance advantages are clear. However, when building occupants fail to understand or fully take advantage of their green buildings, there can be a performance gap that we must fill if we are to truly transform the built environment. And without an aggressive, proactive campaign to address performance, the gaps will not be filled.

So the summits are only the first part of the Building Performance Initiative. They begin an essential national discussion about buildings and will guide the continued evolution of a program that is committed to real performance in all buildings through rigorous data collection and analysis, feedback loops and continuous searching for better ways to design, build, manage and occupy buildings.

Quality data about building performance is key to this initiative and will serve two vital purposes. First, the LEED-certified buildings that participate – initially, between 300 and 500 pilot participants dating back to the very first version of LEED – will receive detailed information on how they are performing, what’s working, and where there is room for improvement. This will allow those buildings’ owners, facilities managers and occupants to make crucial changes to their own protocols and may lead to upgrades, repairs and other efforts to fill the gap.

And USGBC’s ultimate goal is that one day, every owner or manager of a LEED-certified building will be actively engaged in measuring, analyzing and improving that building’s performance. USGBC took the first step toward that goal by announcing that, under LEED 2009, LEED certification will require project teams to collect and submit ongoing performance data, either through their own measurement or by allowing USGBC access to utility bills and other information.

The second outcome of this data-collection campaign will be its ability to drive the ongoing evolution of LEED, USGBC’s strategic planning, future breakthroughs in green building science and technology, improvements in public policy and private-sector initiatives, and an overall better understanding of how we can continue to work toward our goal of green buildings for all within a generation. Green buildings are living labs, and the Building Performance Initiative aims to ensure that all buildings contribute to the body of green building research and knowledge, gaining a better understanding both of how their individual buildings are performing and how we can use that information to improve performance industry-wide.

Learn more about the Building Performance Initiative »

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