But as the New York Times points out, LEED was not developed to manage energy consumption or carbon footprints over time. It is at best a snapshot of the building. It certifies that the building, as designed, has the potential to use less energy if all the use and occupancy assumptions turn out to be accurate, and if the building is properly operated and maintained over the course of its lifetime. Whether or not the building is able to achieve and sustain those projected savings will depend on how it is actually used, operated and maintained over the long term.
In fact, says the New York Times, "some certified buildings end up using much more energy than the evaluators predicted, because the buildings are more popular than expected or busy at different times than developers forecast, or because tenants ignore or misuse green features." The same is true of carbon footprints. "There are plenty of buildings that boast of being 'built to LEED standards' but might then leak excessive carbon once in operation."
The solution is continuous montioring and analysis of the building, thereby ensuring that the building is always operating at peak efficiency regardless of changing conditions, occupancy, or uses. This can be done on-site or remotely, by having energy experts monitor trends in real-time energy and water consumption, weather conditions, the amount and temperature of fresh air coming into the building, occupancy levels, and other variables that affect the facility's performance and energy consumption. Analyzing both real-time data and trends over time, these energy experts can either take control of buildings remotely or advise facilities personnel on actions to take at the facility to optimize its performance.
The Times points out that "Vornado Realty Trust, a rival to 1 Bryant Park's owner, places monitors in tenant's offices to track, and then reduce, energy use." This is a great first step. But information is valuable only if someone has the knowledge, skills and -- most importantly -- time to analyze it and take action. Many facilities managers have the knowledge and skills, but they do not have the time to sit at computer terminals and monitor facility performance on a consistent basis. Nor do they have time to take months or years of data and analyze trends in building performance. They are too busy with routine maintenance, emergency repairs, overseeing building improvements and upgrades, preparing and managing facility budgets, supervising outside vendors working in the building, and all the other daily tasks that take up every minute of their working days and nights.
The other problem is that buildings are becoming more complicated with many different variables to manage. Their responsibilities are not limited to traditional Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems Facilities managers must be experts in the maintenance of solar panels on the roof, inverters to convert the Direct Current (DC) produced by the solar panels into Alternating Current (AC), ice chillers that make ice at night when electricity rates are low to cool the building in the daytime, geothermal heat transfer systems, co-generation systems, rainwater collection systems, and other new sustainable technologies. They also must be familiar with the regulations and rates for net metering, feed-in tariffs and renewable energy credits to decide when and how much renewable energy should be generated on site.
Adding to this complexity is the fact that all of these traditional and new technologies are integrated. Whether or not to run the co-generation plant requires an analysis of the electricity and heating needs of the facility, plus the differential in pricing between electricity from the grid and natural gas or other fuels used to run the co-gen plant. No facility can afford to put all the expertise necessary to analyze all the options on site in every building.
With remote monitoring and advisory services, facilities managers can have teams of energy experts and analysts monitoring the facilities, analyzing the data in real time, and alerting them not only when action should be taken, but precisely what action should be taken. The energy experts work with the facilities managers to study trends over time in the context of actual facility performance to ensure that the building is always operating at peak efficiency. And because the energy experts can monitor and analyze multiple buildings remotely, all the different types of expertise needed to optimize a facility can be made available to every building at a fraction of what it would cost to employ the experts at each facility.
So please do go out and design your building to LEED standards. Designing to LEED standards will give your building the potential to be green and sustainable. Just make sure you have the ability to monitor resal-time and trending data o ensure that your building reaches that potential today and every day in the future.