When you see a LEED plaque on a building, there are a few things you can be sure that it signifies, regardless of whether it is Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum. One such certainty is that the building has met the mandatory prerequisite for energy efficiency.
For LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (LEED-EBOM), that prerequisite (Energy & Atmosphere Prerequisite 2, or EAp2) requires an ENERGY STAR score of at least 69 for buildings eligible to participate. This ensures that all buildings are satisfying base-level energy efficiency goals in addition to all of the other strategies and operational protocols implemented to improve environmental performance and human health.
Therein lies the dilemma.
For some buildings, achieving an ENERGY STAR score of 69 may require capital improvements that can be both disruptive and perceived to be costly. This demanding requirement represents a serious and sometimes fatal obstacle for some projects considering LEED – if the bottom rung on the ladder looks out of reach, there may be no way to even envision starting the climb.
Buildings with ENERGY STAR scores in the 50s and below are the lowest of the low-hanging fruit to curb building energy consumption, yet the same properties that could bring the most significant reductions in energy find themselves too far out of the race to even consider starting it.
An Alternative Approach on Energy
To address this catch-22, LEED introduced Pilot Credit 67, known as Energy Jumpstart. This alternative compliance path for meeting the minimum energy requirement under LEED-EBOM was designed specifically to motivate buildings with high energy intensity. It offers them the opportunity to participate in LEED if they make substantial energy efficiency improvements, even if their absolute performance falls short of the ENERGY STAR 69 prerequisite.
LEED certification has tremendous potential to help buildings reduce their carbon emissions, save energy, and reduce their operating costs. Energy Jumpstart acts as an on-ramp to help more projects realize these many benefits and can help spread out the cost of improving efficiency with the eventual goal of achieving the baseline ENERGY STAR score.
“When someone uses LEED, they’re not just improving their energy performance,” says Lauren Riggs, LEED manager at USGBC. “We also have other categories where we look at their location and the materials they’re using. So by getting more projects in the door using this on-ramp, we’ll be able to affect a larger range of sustainability outcomes.”
The alternative compliance path requires projects to achieve an energy improvement of 20% over a 12-month period, as compared to a three-year baseline. This qualifies the building for an initial certification at the Certified level.
However, because buildings must recertify every five years under EBOM, there is ample opportunity and significant motivation for buildings to achieve higher certification levels and additional reductions in energy use down the road.
USGBC is engaging in a pilot test of Energy Jumpstart to collect feedback, determine demand, and refine the technical requirements of the credit.
The goal of the pilot test is to ensure that the alternative compliance path is both technically rigorous and accomplishes the objective of motivating building owners to engage.