WASHINGTON, DC — Recognizing that the 4.5 million existing buildings in the United States can achieve a 20% to 30% reduction in energy use, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) here, together with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE), have jointly announced a partnership between LEED™ and Energy Star® to help ease the country’s energy crunch.

The USGBC is introducing LEED for existing buildings. LEED, which stands for leadership in energy and environmental design, is the council’s sustainable building rating system for certifying green design and construction in new buildings, which has already been adopted by a number of private and public concerns for new construction projects. During the past year, the USGBC has been developing green building standards for existing-building upgrades and operations.

Using data from the DOE’s Energy Information Agency, the Madison, WI-based Leonardo Academy stated that annual electrical demand in existing buildings could be potentially reduced by nearly 45 gigawatts and save about $21 billion a year in energy costs if all commercial buildings were made more efficient.

This amounts to eliminating the need to build 85 500-MW power plants. It also translates into reducing CO2 emissions by more than 275 million tons annually. That does not include efficiencies that can be realized in homes and other residential buildings. LEED for existing buildings incorporates many specifications set by the Energy Star program sponsored by the EPA and DOE. Energy Star recognizes buildings that are in the top 25% of the market for energy performance.

“When it comes to measuring performance of energy use in buildings, Energy Star sets the bar,” said Steven Winter, chairman of the USGBC's board of directors and president of Steven Winter Associates, Inc.

“LEED draws upon national and regional standards for site development, water use, energy use, materials, and indoor environmental quality. Based on EPA and DOE success in helping buildings improve their energy performance, it only made sense to build the widely used Energy Star specifications into our rating system. Not only do building owners and occupants benefit from reduced energy bills, but they get all the advantages of a superior office environment and public recognition for their leadership.”

“About 71 percent of nonresidential, existing buildings are 20 years or older,” said Jean Lupinacci, director of the Commercial and Industrial Branch of Energy Star. “We know there is a wealth of energy savings and thereby reduced emissions that can be realized from existing buildings.

“Partners in the EPA’s Energy Star program average 30 to 40 percent return on investment to retrofit older buildings with high-efficiency lighting, for example. LEED for existing buildings is an important tool for helping to upgrade and operate buildings at their highest levels of environmental performance. At the EPA, we’re pleased to participate in the development of this version of the USGBC’s rating system because both LEED and Energy Star are voluntary programs that are transforming the building industry.”

LEED for existing buildings is a set of sustainable standards based on whole building performance for operating and/or retrofitting commercial and institutional facilities. Included are standards for making green improvements to building core, shell, and roof systems; central mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems; and building operations practices by both occupants and owners.

The comprehensive green building rating system addresses cleaning and maintenance practices;, indoor air quality; energy and water performance; and ongoing monitoring, measurement, and management of all building systems. It will also help enhance building and occupant recycling programs and supporting facilities.

Development of LEED for existing buildings follows a similar path set by the USGBC when it developed the new construction program. The first draft of the standards has been prepared and is being reviewed by an advisory group of experts, including the EPA and DOE. It will be piloted in about 50 building projects. A second draft with input from the pilots and experts will then go to the USGBC membership for balloting by consensus. The official launch of an approved version is expected in 2003.

For more information on LEED and the U.S. Green Building Council, visit www.usgbc.org.

Publication date: 08/06/2001