Two recent publications provide corroborating evidence that LEED-certified buildings, on average, do not save primary energy. One of these looks at energy consumption for 24 academic buildings at a major university. The other looks at energy consumption by LEED-certified buildings in India. In both cases there is no evidence that LEED-certification reduced energy consumption.
The study of academic buildings is found in the article entitled “Energy use assessment of educational buildings: toward a campus-wide susainability policy” by Agdas, Srinivasan, Frost, and Masters published in the peer-reviewed journal Sustainable Cities and Societies. These researchers looked at the 2013 energy consumption of 10 LEED-certified academic buildings and 14 non-certified buildings on the campus of the University of Florida at Gainesville. They appear to have considered site energy intensity (site EUI) rather than my preferred metric, source energy intensity. Nevertheless their conclusions are consistent with my own — that LEED certified buildings show no significant energy savings as compared with similar non-certified buildings. This is also consistent with what has been published now in about 8 peer-reviewed journal articles on this topic. Only one peer-reviewed article (Newshem et al) reached a different conclusion — and that conclusion was rebutted by my own paper (Scofield). There are, of course, several reports published by the USGBC and related organizations that draw other conclusions.
The second recent publication comes out of India. The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) — India’s equivalent of the USGBC — of its own accord posted energy consumption data for 50 of some 450 LEED certified buildings. Avikal Somvanshi and his colleagues at the Centre for Science and the Envionment took this opportunity to analyze the energy and water performance of these buildings, finding that the vast majority of these LEED-certified buildings were underperforming expectations. Moreover, roughly half of the 50 buildings failed even to qualify for the Bureau of Energy Efficiency’s (BEE) Star Rating (India’s equivalent of ENERGY STAR). The results were so embarrassing that the IGBC removed some of the data from their website and posted a disclaimer discounting the accuracy of the rest. In the future no doubt the IGBC will follow the practice of the USGBC of denying public access to energy consumption data while releasing selected tidbits for marketing purposes.
How long will the USGBC and its international affiliates be afforded the privilege of making unsupported claims about energy savings while hiding their data?