Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation.
Do you remember the Wendy’s ads that featured an old woman walking up to the counter of a burger joint and asking “Where’s the Beef?” Well there are times when I feel the same way about our efforts in the U.S. to really advance energy efficiency.
I am glad to see that the U.S. Green Building Council is upgrading the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards. The bar needs to be continually raised especially with regard to measuring the long-term results of energy upgrades. But will they have gone far enough and are there tools available now to accurately measure performance?
The retrofit market clearly needs to be encouraged to improve energy efficiency. One way that this is happening in major cities is through mandates. New York and San Francisco have such mandates but there are a great many cities and towns between those that are not even ready to mandate LEED on new construction.
Even with a stalled economy with regard to new construction, manufacturers continue to develop products that propel us into sustainability: wallboard that removes formaldehyde from the air; insulation that minimizes its environmental impact; and solar roofing to harness power from the sun instead of the grid. But without real incentives or mandates we continue to be a nation of obvious consumption because the cost of energy is still reasonable, for now.
The new LEED rating systems do include more stringent requirements regarding the sharing of data on a building’s energy use and owners of LEED certified buildings will have to re-apply for certification every five years. This is crucial because maintaining the systems is just as important as installing them in the first place.
In a previous blog, I discussed the ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers) Energy Quotient which rates buildings on energy consumption. Making these tools standard practice will drive us as consumers to improve the efficiency in our homes and buildings. It supports the “buyer beware” far beyond the current home inspection process.
More and more professionals are getting credentialed in building energy rating which will increase the ability to test buildings and make recommendations. These are the green jobs that are coming on line. Now we need to add more ‘beef’ and some incentives (not necessarily hand-outs) to help building and home owners choose a sustainable future.