LEED-EB Recertification vs. LEED Dynamic Plaque
The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® Dynamic Plaque™ is an innovative, global building performance monitoring and scoring tool used to assess a building’s performance in energy use, water consumption, waste, transportation and the overall human experience in a building. Based on these categories, the plaque generates a current building performance score out of 100. This system is geared towards buildings that are already LEED certified and keeps a building’s LEED certification current annually with continuous tracking and monitoring. In addition, the plaque publicly displays a building’s current performance, providing occupants with the ability to stay informed and engaged in building-wide sustainability initiatives.
With the potential to recertify using LEED Dynamic Plaque, it can be difficult to decide if the traditional LEED for Existing Buildings 5-year recertification path or the LEED Dynamic Plaque path is best for your building. Verdani Partners identified the following 8 categories to compare and contrast the two methods.
PROS AND CONS
Certification and Timeframe
Utilizing the LEED Dynamic Plaque as a recertification method, buildings must recertify every year. With the current LEED-EB recertification path, LEED buildings only need to be recertified at least every 5 years to maintain LEED status. As the LEED certification process can be time consuming and documentation intensive, certifying every year could become cumbersome to building managers, property owners and tenants.
Documentation and Tracking
However, LEED Dynamic Plaque requires much less documentation and tracking than LEED-EB recertification. The idea is that building teams spend more time tracking building performance and less time buried under paperwork. The documentation requirements for LEED Dynamic Plaque are much simpler and only require critical pieces of measured data, such as utility bills. According to LEED Dynamic Plaque’s website, in order to receive a performance score for this certification method, you must track and input the following data:
Energy: 12 consecutive months of total energy use for the whole building
Water: 12 consecutive months of total potable water use for the whole building. Includes all water uses (irrigation, cooling tower, fixtures, etc.)
Waste: At least one compliant set of readings for total weight of waste generated and diverted from landfill
Transportation: Administer at least one survey to building occupants, provided within the LEED Dynamic Plaque
Human experience: Administer at least one survey to building occupants; Administer at least one compliant set of readings for interior C02 and VOC (volatile organic compound) concentration for 12 consecutive months
In addition to energy, water, waste, transportation and human experience, LEED for Existing Buildings recertification requires tracking and documentation for additional categories and credits such as, site maintenance, purchasing, green cleaning and many more credits. LEED Dynamic Plaque can offer a less time intensive recertification method. While the extensive documentation associated with LEED-EB can provide building managers and occupants with more guidance on the building’s sustainable operations, both methods provide equal proof of ongoing sustainability and efficiency in the building through measured data.
LEED Dynamic Plaque is based on actual air quality levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) and Carbon Dioxide readings while the outside air calculations for LEED-EB utilize a complex and often inaccurate calculator.
Audits and Surveys
Audits are an important part of both recertification methods to gauge indoor environmental quality and alternative transportation. LEED-EB requires more audits; however, the occupant comfort survey is only required every 2 years while the transportation survey is every 5 years. LEED Dynamic Plaque requires these surveys every year, but the entire survey consists of 2 questions and the answers auto populate to immediately update the score.
ENERGY STAR Score
Energy efficiency is a vital part of LEED certification and building performance. The LEED-EB recertification method utilizes ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager to track energy efficiency. Buildings are assigned an ENERGY STAR score that is comparable with like buildings in the same category. This makes it simple to gauge energy performance and energy use intensity (EUI) as compared to similar buildings. Under the LEED Dynamic Plaque method, a building’s energy score is not as transparent. In a blog post on LEEDuser, Scot Horst, Chief Product Officer at the U.S. Green Building Council states, “The LEED performance score reflects an individual building’s performance at a given time—but the score is calibrated based on reference buildings. The algorithm is a software code that generates scores based on the reference set. LEED committees define the score and the algorithm implements it”. This algorithm is not publicly available so building owners and managers are unaware of how a particular energy score is achieved. However, USGBC does intend to provide additional information on how buildings will be scored to increase transparency in the scoring process and provide building owners and managers with a better understanding of the requirements needed to achieve a particular energy score.
Numbers of Vendors Involved
Vendors can either help or hinder a building’s LEED certification. Under LEED-EB, the building manager can keep track of vendors and request that they follow certain sustainability guidelines. LEED Dynamic Plaque does not track vendors. Without vendor information, building managers and owners cannot count environmentally preferable purchasing and other vendor related points towards recertification.
Since LEED Dynamic Plaque requires much less documentation and tracking, there is less of a time commitment associated with this method of recertification. In a recent GRESB case study, UBS Global Asset Management reduced their recertification paperwork by 90% and reduced LEED recertification costs by approximately 40% by using LEED Dynamic Plaque.
The size of the recertification project will dictate which method is more cost effective. LEED-EB requires a recertification fee every 5 years. The fee is based on $0.03/sq ft., not to exceed $15,000. LEED Dynamic Plaque software has a GBCI fee of $1,800 annually ($9,000 over 5 years). If buildings choose to include the display unit, this is an optional one-time payment of $6,000. The LEED Dynamic Plaque will be more cost effective for large buildings. As mentioned above, LEED Dynamic Plaque reduced UBS Asset Management’s recertification fee by 40%. This is a significant benefit to LEED Dynamic Plaque as many building owners do not want to pay the expensive LEED-EB recertification fees. In one of our comparison analysis, the LEED Dynamic Plaque Fees were almost 50% cheaper than the standard recertification path.
As the LEED Dynamic Plaque is still a very new product in the market, LEED experts and LEED for Existing Building proponents have expressed concern over the plaque. Some worry that it will provide competition with the LEED for Existing Buildings recertification method. However, Horst mentions that only 55 LEED-NC or LEED Core and Shell projects have gone on to get a LEED-EBOM plaque, out of roughly 23,000 LEED projects to date and only 300 projects out of roughly 3,000 LEED-EBOM projects. LEED-EB alone was not producing the desired results and Horst believes another method of recertification was needed.
Opponents also feel that the Dynamic Plaque may be too simplistic to truly measure building performance. As mentioned above, in the documentation and tracking section, many categories and LEED strategies are missing from the plaque’s measurements. However, as the plaque is meant for buildings that have already been LEED certified, they are already equipped with the policies and strategies required by LEED. The categories in the LEED dynamic Plaque are intended to focus on outcomes and provide flexibility for project teams to choose their strategy. The overall intent is to be proactive than prescriptive. Some also feel that is a less valuable certification but buildings certified under the current path or LEED Dynamic Plaque are both LEED Certified so this should not be a concern. When reporting the number of LEED Certified buildings, the methodology used to maintain the recertification is not as relevant.
There are also concerns about the frequency of tenant surveys required and ability to track waste data.
Another concern is privacy. Many building owners and managers are reluctant to share building performance data. Information entered into the plaque dashboard will be aggregated with the USGBC’s existing building data. However, building owners can opt out of sharing details. The USGBC will only share the building’s most recent level of certification.
The Verdani Team has collaborated with the Transwestern team on pilot testing the LEED Dynamic Plaque with 10 Clarion Partners buildings. One of the concerns were how the buildings would score in comparison with their original certification ratings. We were also concerned about the Energy Scores. The results showed fairly comparable energy scores. Although some of the buildings dropped their LEED Ratings, most of the buildings achieved higher LEED ratings. The pilot project was a helpful exercise and made us much more comfortable with the software. We are now recommending it to all our clients to switch to the LDP for ongoing recertification’s since it measures actual results and it's significantly cheaper and more streamlined. The data being tracked also aligns well with annual tracking and reporting efforts on a portfolio scale since energy, water, CO2 emissions and waste are key metrics reported on GRESB, GRI Reports, UNPRI and other corporate sustainability efforts.
While the LEED Dynamic Plaque is still very new to the market, Scot Horst says commercial real estate companies are showing strong interest in the plaque. This new tracking and scoring system will allow for global comparability amongst buildings and alleviate some of the recertification burdens of the LEED-EB method. One of the biggest pros to the LEED Dynamic Plaque is the potential to keep building managers and occupants engaged after the LEED certification process ends and to ensure they are committed to continuous improvement after earning the LEED plaque.
LEED is supposed to be a market transformation tool, but a market cannot be truly transformed if the tool used is only accessible by a very small segment of that market. It is important to remove certain barriers to increase the EBOM market penetration and cost and complexity can be a barrier.
The USGBC efforts to create the dynamic plaque is an attempt to simplify, gather real data and streamline the process at least from a recertification point. The dynamic plaque may also be used for buildings that want to benchmark and track ongoing improvements but that might never qualify for a LEED rating. It’s important to engage the low performers in continuous improvement programs so we can scale our efforts and transform the market at a bigger scale.
USGBC Exploring A New Kind of LEED Plaque, LEED User