The built world has grown exponentially more complex over the past half-century. Yet, so too has our desire to track and measure energy use and building performance as the systems become more sophisticated. As a result, there are a variety of performance certifications a building can obtain, all seeming to do different things. The complexity of these buildings requires a wide range of standards to produce an optimized and well-rounded building.
Like the human body, a building is a system; many components that contribute to the whole. While there are a variety of certifications that focus on different aspects of a building, today we’ll be focusing on the ones related to energy. Many more certifications focus on materials, technology, or tenant experience to maximize improvements to the built environment.
These certifications fall under the umbrella of “sustainability” or “green”. The two most familiar ones are LEED and ENERGY STAR. Energy Star focuses mainly on energy and water usage while LEED takes a more comprehensive approach to whole building health. Well and Fitwel are two more that have been around for years that focus specifically on tenant and occupant happiness. A last one that is relatively new but has grown more in the age of high cybersecurity risks is Wired Score.
These certifications sound great on paper, but are they making an impact?
- LEED - LEED-certified buildings in the US achieve on average 25% energy savings compared to their non-LEED counterparts.
- ENERGY STAR - Last year alone, more than 275,000 buildings, comprising 25% of all commercial building floorspace in the U.S., used EPA's ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool. Since 1992, nearly 38,000 commercial buildings have earned an ENERGY STAR certification and on average, ENERGY STAR certified buildings use 35% less energy than typical buildings nationwide.
- Well – WELL building studies show that worker productivity increases up to 11% with better air quality. From a macro-perspective increased occupant experience can lead to 7% increase in rent, 6% increase in tenant retention, 8-10% increase in building valuation.
- Fitwel - Fitwel finds that healthy buildings can attract between 4.4 and 7.7% more per sq ft.
- Wired Score: Similarly Wire Score found a similar increase in value of around 5%.
Humans by nature are competitive creatures. This is reflected in the way certifications are presented in the built world. A big motivator for achieving is being able to broadcast a beautiful plaque on the front entrance.
In addition to bragging rights, certifications allow for a wide variety of financial incentives that help buildings stay competitive in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Firms that focus on occupant experience, tenant health and safety, or sustainability goals consistently see better returns on their investment. Furthermore, with more and more focus being directed to a company’s environmental social governance (ESG) standards, they cannot afford to ignore these issues.
Although the realm of certifications can initially appear overwhelming and potentially tedious, they all address specific niches that are important in the overall health of the building. Like a body or a machine, each component needs to operate effectively for the whole building to operate to its full potential.
Interested in diving further into building certifications? Energy Management Association (EMA) will be hosting a webinar later this month, “Getting Credit: Finding the Best Certification for Your Building” sponsored by PointGuard. You can find more information online here.WELL Buildings, ENERGY STAR, LEED Certification, etc. all have different value depending on a particular building’s priorities, location, and occupants. How do you choose and what is the best way to reach your goals? What role does analytics play in helping to achieve these certifications?