LEED Platinum Hotel embodies the failings of LEED

On March 14, 2019 the US Green Building Council (USGBC) finally awarded the Hotel at Oberlin its LEED-platinum rating after earning 81 points under the LEED NC v2009 system, just over the 80-point minimum required for the platinum rating.  This milestone comes as a relief to Oberlin College which has for three years falsely claimed the Hotel at Oberlin to be a LEED-platinum building.  But a good day for Oberlin College is a bad day for the US Green Building Council because there is nothing exemplary about the Hotel’s energy performance — it is the very definition of mediocrity.  This latest member of the elite club of LEED-platinum hotels – I think it is the fifth such hotel in the U.S. – uses more energy per square foot than do 75% of other U.S. hotels and uses more natural gas than any other Oberlin College building except its Science Center.

The design team for the Hotel at Oberlin projected that it would annually use 1.43 million kWh of electric energy and 8,350 therms of natural gas.  These energy projections, if realized, would correspond to a site EUI of 56 kBtu/sf and a source EUI of 151 kBtu/sf.  The LEED Scorecard for the building shows that the USGBC awarded the building the maximum possible points for energy efficiency –19 out of 19 possible.

Had the Hotel achieved this projected target energy, however, it would not be an impressive accomplishment.  This target site EUI is still higher than that of 25% of the estimated 30,000 U.S. Hotels  We know about energy use by U.S. Hotels from the 2012 Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS).  The graph below shows the SiteEUI distribution for U.S. Hotels as determined from this survey.  It is clear that the projected site EUI use for the Hotel at Oberlin is lower than 75% of these hotels.  A similar statement can be made about the projected source EUI for the hotel.

More importantly, the Hotel at Oberlin has never achieved this projected energy use figure.  Since opening nearly three years ago the natural gas use has been 4-6 times higher than projected by its design team!  For the last 12 months the electric and natural gas use have been 1,680,000 kWh and 48,000 therms, respectively.  These correspond to annual site and source EUI of 104 and 215 kBtu/sf, respectively.  The graph below shows that this SiteEUI for the Hotel at Oberlin is higher than that of 75% or 22,500 of U.S. Hotels. The energy performance of this LEED Platinum Hotel is worse than mediocre.

The bottom line is that the Hotel at Oberlin, one of only five LEED-platinum hotels in the US, has energy use that is typical of U.S. Hotels — near the middle of the distribution.  There is nothing noteworthy or remarkable about its energy use, either site or source.  Its certification as one of the nation’s most energy-efficient hotels is simply an embarrassment to the USGBC.  It illustrates how meaningless energy efficiency points are for LEED certification.

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