Data-driven results: Q&A with USGBC's Rick Fedrizzi

Data-driven results: Q&A with USGBC's Rick Fedrizzi

It's shaping up to be a banner year for the U.S. Green Building Council.

Last week, the Northern California Chapter held its 6th annual gala -- featuring top organizations leading the green building movement -- as a part of the leadup to its monster fall event, Greenbuild Conference & Expo, being held in San Francisco in November. (By the way, with VERGE SF @ Greenbuild, GreenBiz is proud to be a part of the fall conference.)

At the gala event, building engineering company Integral Group was honored with the world's highest LEED rating for commercial interior. Oakland, Calif.’s mayor Jean Quan was on hand and USGBC president Rick Fedrizzi called the Integral Group office a “transformative space” that underscores innovation in low-cost, high-impact green building strategies.

With project teams in 120 countries and more than 1.8 billion square feet of commercial property certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, the USGBC holds considerable sway in advocating for sustainable building design and construction. We recently caught up with USGBC president Rick Fedrizzi to get his take on the role of data and IT in building design, the changing landscape for green building players and what's next for LEED.

GreenBiz: How has the growth of data made an impact on innovations in the green building market?

Rick Fedrizzi: As the old adage goes, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Data is driving the building industry forward no matter how you look at it – helping us unlock the most basic information about the buildings and communities we occupy. And a new generation of data driven information technology is helping us navigate terrain at the speed of light, creating richer opportunities for sharing, taking the pulse of our industry and creating a new generation of market indicators and barometers.

GreenBiz: Can you elaborate a little further on specific market indicators?

Fedrizzi: More and more, building performance -- a discipline rooted in data -- is becoming a central determinant for success in sustainability. The emergence of rich, green building data, specifically in the scope of energy and water savings, is helping our projects focus and cluster around outputs as opposed to inputs.

No more is it acceptable to tout the newest technology as an indicator of sustainability. We are part of an industry based on returns: How much energy is the building saving compared to one built to code? How is the building performing as a whole relative to other green buildings? The biggest outcome of all, though, is using this ecosystem of building data to learn, apply changes and create ever-improving structures that perform better.

GreenBiz: What challenges need to be addressed in managing this data? Is more technology necessary to create value?

Fedrizzi: Right now, we see data that flows between vast networks of sensors and systems within individual buildings. Thanks to tools like EPA's Portfolio Manager, we have an idea of how existing building projects stack up to one another.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The challenge, and what we see as the promise of the future, is creating data systems that flow between buildings, allowing stakeholders to benchmark their success and thus driving continuous improvement --improvement that reduces operating costs and benefits occupants and the environment. Creating this network of data will not necessarily require more technology, but rather a more clever and collaborative way of integrating the data that we have as individuals and as project teams.

GreenBiz: Can you talk a little about new players in the green building marketplace? Are there competitive or collaborative trends changing the ecosystem for industry participants?

Fedrizzi: It's been amazing to watch as everyone from small companies to major brands step up to green building, greening their portfolios and making really stunning commitments to change the way they operate as companies. As for collaboration versus competition: I think it's a little of both. Isn't that what we're talking about when we discuss this vision for transparent data across buildings? Data is fact, and the hard facts on building performance stimulate people to move, to step up and do more so that they can remain cutting edge and competitive in an evolving industry. But the backbone of raising that bar is collaboration.

Recently, at the Greenbuild kickoff event in San Francisco, hosted by our Northern California Chapter, companies like Google, Adobe and SAP committed to reduce energy, water and waste by 20 percent in two years. By uniting behind this challenge, they're bringing attention to these green building ideals. It takes championing and teamwork to work toward the final goal, but I think the friendly competition -- the question of who can remain cutting edge in this sphere -- is certainly a motivator.

City gardens photo by Noraluca013 via Shutterstock.