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Going Retrofit: Existing Buildings Top New Construction on LEED Charts

Friday, December 9, 2011

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The U.S. Green Building Council reported that Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified existing buildings have passed their newly built counterparts by 15 million square feet on a cumulative basis.

 Empire State Building in New York City
 Empire State Building in New York City

“The U.S. is home to more than 60 billion square feet of existing commercial buildings, and we know that most of those buildings are energy guzzlers and water sieves,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president and CEO, USGBC.

“Greening these buildings takes hands-on work, creating precious jobs especially for construction workers. Making these existing buildings energy and water efficient has an enormous positive impact on the building’s cost of operations,” he said.

Historically, USGBC says the majority of LEED-certified green projects have been new construction, both in volume and square footage. In 2008, however, the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (O&M) program began experiencing explosive growth and changed the trend.

In 2009, projects certified under LEED for Existing Buildings: O&M surpassed those certified under the new-construction counterpart on an annual basis. This trend has continued in 2010 and 2011, USGBC said.

 San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid

 Daniel Schwen/wikicommons

 San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid

“The market is becoming increasingly aware of how building owners can get better performance through green operations and maintenance, and tools such as LEED for Existing Buildings: O&M are essential to cost-effectively driving improvements in our economy and environment,” Fedrizzi said.

Projects worldwide are proving that “green building doesn’t have to mean building new,” USGBC said. A notable example: the Empire State Building, recently certified LEED Gold and predicted to slash energy consumption by more than 38%, saving $4.4 million in energy costs annually and projected to recoup the costs of a major renovation and retrofit program in three years. (See the D+D news story High Prize: Empire State Retrofit Garners LEED Gold.)

In addition, the second tallest building in the world, Taipei 101, in Taipei, Taiwan, has earned the “tallest honor”—LEED Platinum. The skyscraper was retrofitted to use 30% less energy, reducing annual utility costs by $700,000 a year, USGBC said.

San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid also earned LEED Platinum as an existing building, 39 years after it was originally built. The landmark’s onsite co-generation plant saves an average of $700,000 annually in energy costs.

‘Better Buildings’ Initiative Touted

USGBC also went on record as a “strong supporter” of the White House’s Better Buildings Initiative, and said it is doing its part to make America’s commercial buildings more energy- and resource-efficient over the next decade.

 Taipei 101, the second tallest building in the world.


 Taipei 101, the second tallest building in the world.

The Better Buildings plan catalyzes private-sector investment through a series of incentives to upgrade existing offices, stores, schools and universities, hospitals and other commercial and municipal buildings. (See Presidents Past, Present Join in Touting Expanded Building-Upgrade Plans.)

A recent report by Capital-E found that efficiency financing has the potential to increase from $20 to $150 billion annually, creating over one million jobs, making the American economy more competitive, enhancing national security, and helping slow the impacts of climate change, USGBC said.

In its Green Outlook 2011 report, McGraw Hill Construction found that by 2015, the green share of the largest commercial retrofit and renovation activity will more than triple, growing to 25% to 33% of the activity by value—a $14 to $18 billion opportunity in major construction projects, USGBC said.

More information: www.usgbc.org/LEED/EB.



Tagged categories: Architects; Better Buildings Initiative; Building design; Commercial Buildings; Energy efficiency; Green building; LEED; Sustainability; U.S. Green Building Council

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (12/12/2011, 9:46 AM)

This article again conflates LEED with energy efficiency. While there is some overlap, LEED is a very broad "green" standard, not an energy efficiency standard. It also relies on "predicted" energy savings, not actual energy savings.

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