At the State of Green Business Forum in Chicago, we convened a luncheon to talk about the buildings that aren't just greener, but smarter. The lunch, sponsored by IBM and moderated by Marc Gunther, brought together senior executives from a number of industries to talk about how to make the most of the emerging smarter building market, a market that promises both rapid growth and big impacts on greenhouse gas emissions.
We convened a similar event at our forum in Washington, D.C. A report on that event is here.
The event featured a panel of experts from some of the leading companies in the field -- among them, IBM, Johnson Controls, Eaton and Schneider Electric. The wide-ranging discussion brought in the deep expertise of the audience as well.
Although the event focused on the development of smarter buildings -- as simply put as possible, buildings that incorporate energy and environmental management controls as a way to boost energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and employee productivity -- it started by looking at and beyond those buildings certified under the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED standard. Marc Gunther kicked off the discussion by asking what, if anything, having a LEED-certified building guarantees.
Clay Nesler of Johnson Controls responded: "That's been an area of pretty interesting debate over the years. From time to time there have been retroactive studies of LEED buildings. It's been predominantly applied to New Construction, whlile the Existing Buildings standard has been in place for almost as long as NC, the marjoity of projects have been focused on NC."
He continued: "Some folks have decided it'd be interesting to check on those buildings that have been certified since 2001 -- and lo and behold, there's a wide diversity; some perform much better than they had predicted, most perform better than code, but there are always those few, some of which don't even meet code. When you have the big plaque on the wall, it's sort of like the Good Housekeeping seal, which has led to some controversy. Now, no one at the USGBC wants that to happen. It isn't like anyone is pushing it under the rug, it's just the reality of the construction process."
The USGBC has recognized this, and with the new versions of the standards, performance data will need to be submitted to the USGBC for LEED certification, although it won't necessarily need to be disclosed, even though some areas of the U.S. are pushing for laws that will require that information to be disclosed for all buildings.
The USGBC will publish a study next month that looks at where buildings fall on the spectrum of above, at or below code. But what it comes down to for any building owner or operator, LEED-certified or not, is how the building is commissioned and managed. Building owners and operators need to train their managers on making the most of a LEED-certified building -- and at the very least making sure it meets code.
What Is a Smart Building?
The state of the art of buildings is that they aren't just green, but "smart" -- structures that go beyond simple resource efficiency and indoor air quality, built with the latest technology for building controls and automation.