GreenBiz: What makes the LEED Dynamic Plaque a game-changer?
This article originally appeared on GreenBiz.com on July 22, 2014.
When the U.S. Green Building Council makes big changes to its systems or standards, the real estate industry takes notice - and with good reason. Its main initiative, LEED, has an outsize impact on the real estate industry, from building materials to investment criteria — and any major changes to the system have the potential to greatly affect green building for years to come.
Even for a building, a year's a long time
Without getting too deep into the technical details (USGBC explains it more extensively in a live web demonstration), the LEED Dynamic Plaque is an add-on to existing LEED certifications. It introduces an ongoing performance element to the traditionally static scheme. It's a platform — both physical and virtual, publicly displayed on an existing LEED building's site — that's designed to help property owners monitor, benchmark and update their LEED scores in five areas: energy, water, waste, transportation and occupant experience.
While a building's official score is recorded just once a year based on a recertification schedule, the Dynamic Plaque updates as frequently as it receives new information. For example, if your building has a LEED score of 72 but you think it could be higher, you might send out transportation and occupant experience surveys and perform a waste audit to look for potential improvements. After improvements are made, you can provide the platform with new data and the LEED score will be recalculated instantly.
Faster adoption of improvements
Why is this system such a potential breakthrough? Consider the following abridged version of how the commercial real estate industry makes decisions about green building: Investors want to make sure that their real estate investments carry minimal risk and maximum appropriate return. For some investors, particularly pension funds such as CalPERS, sustainability is finding its way into these calculations.
Asset managers are then tasked with implementing an investors' plan. Many real estate asset management groups (think Bentall Kennedy, TIAA-CREF, and Prudential Real Estate Investors) view green building as a way to minimize risk and improve returns — and LEED certifications are an accepted standard for implementing sustainability in a commercial real estate portfolio. Therefore, we find more asset managers want to know if potential acquisitions are LEED-certified or not, as well as an increased willingness to pursue LEED for existing portfolios.
The responsibility for pursuing LEED certification typically falls on the property management firm, a green building consultant, or both. Major property managers such as CBRE and Cushman & Wakefield have boosted their internal capabilities to handle the increased demand for LEED.
However, the relatively static nature of LEED certification leaves the system open to criticism that it is more about strategies than performance. In reality, we see some asset and property managers who consider LEED as a sort of "set it and forget it" commitment. By further opening up LEED certification to continuous monitoring, the LEED Dynamic Plaque allows investors, asset managers and even tenants to demand an actively-managed LEED score.