Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The building energy efficiency fraud

The super energy efficient Federal Building in San Francisco Showing us how energy efficiency works.

Buiilding energy use represents about 40% of the energy used in the United States. Self proclaimed energy efficiency expert Amory Lovins tells us, that by improving building design and installing more efficient energy technology enormous energy savings will be realized. The experience of The United States Green Building Council suggests, however that things are no where nerat as simple as Lovins suggest. Henry Grifford has pointed out that the USGBC's onw study showed that the average LEED certified building used more energy than the average non certified building. Gifford pointed to poor energy us management practices as a possible source of this paradox. Good energy practices must be localized. No universal standard is likely to yield optimal building energy efficiency. Even within a single locality different building sites may call for different efficiency standards.

There is no doubt that building energy efficiency is desirable and that there are considerable potentials for efficiency, but given the diverse challenges which building designers and managers face, getting anywhere close to the potential maximum efficiency out of buildings will not be easy. In the case of office buildings, tenant cooperation may be an important factor in the efficient operation of buildings. Yet building efficiency certification ignores tenant issues and behavior.

Recently, I posted a discussion about the shockingly shoddy greenwashing activities of the United States Green Buildings Council, and the efforts by building owner Henry Gifford to expose them. It is clear that the USGBC does not actually investigate the energy management practices of buildings it certifies to be green, does not conduct real research on best practices for energy efficiency of buildings, does not research the effects of energy consumption of gadgets it touts, and indeed does nothing substantial to pormote energy efficiency in buildings. The only study it conducted on the energy efficiency of buildings the USGBC has certified, while not scientifically valid, did suggest that USGBC certified buildings are less energy efficient than non certified buildings built at the same time. Brendan Owen of the USGBC acknowledged that he had been prepared to hide unfavorable results of the certified building study, or to publish results in statistically impenetrable forms. In fact the USGBC data wackers excluded especially inefficient certified buildings from their data set, and hid the poor performance of average LEED certified buildings. When the inefficient buildings are included it turns out that USGBC that average certified building was more energy inefficient than the average non-certified building.

Buildings consume 40% of the energy used in the United States. The saga of the USGBC and Henry Gifford reveals that the LEED efficiency standard for buildings is a travisty, and that the evidence, such as it is, is that LEED certified buildings are less energy efficient than non certified buildings. The failure of the LEED energy efficiency to establish effective standards for grading building energy efficiency, in turn raises serious questions about the validity of Green and renewables energy plans that call for significant energy savings through efficiency.

Renewable energy advocates are simply pulling a Bernie Madoff style energy fraud, telling us that money spent on green certifications programs mean that energy goals will be meet in the future.

Needless to say, green advocates never allow the lack of scientific evidence stand in their war. We are told that adopting LEED standards will help us reach future energy goals, without building new power plants. LEED certification certainly would not mean that valid empirical tests have shown the LEED buildings to be more efficient. It certainly does not mean that building energy management practices are consistent with energy conservation goals. It does not mean that weare making progress toward a goal of sustainable eenergy use savings. The notion that we are going to solve our energy problems through efficiency is another green fraud.


Bill said...

For what it's worth: Empire State Building Plans Environmental Retrofit (NYT)
"Owners of the New York City landmark announced on Monday that they will be beginning a renovation this summer expected to reduce the skyscraper’s energy use by 38 percent a year by 2013, at an annual savings of $4.4 million. The retrofit project will add $20 million to the $500 million building makeover already under way that aims to attract larger corporate occupants at higher rents."
This is "expected to pay back those costs in only about three years." My calculator says 20/4.4 = 4.5, but hey.

Charles Barton said...

I cannotevensay weshall see, becausethereisso much dishonesty about green building efficiency, that it is difficult to trust any report that green standards have actually lead to greater efficiency, let alone to more comfortable, better managed buildings.

Anonymous said...

If a carbon tax of $200 a ton CO2 were imposed.

Green efficiency would be far more efficient. It would be economic to justify the automation of building power systems using more sophisticated and effective control strategies. Now, these systems exist, but are expensive relative to the cost of electric power today.

But the question of tradeoffs is more complicated. Does it pay to automate a building for efficiency, or put the money into power generation?

The greens realize that there is a finite limit to the amount of power that green generation can produce; therefore they choose to support conservation no matter how expensive. The green efficiency tradeoff will eventually fail when power requirements approach the finite renewable power limit. But given the infinite capability of nuclear power, the tradeoff is toward power production. The nuclear tradeoff will never fail, since there is no power production limit.


Contributing Author said...

I realize that some leed certified buildings are less energy efficient because of the management but they have the ability to be more efficient so it's a step in the right direction for the time that management is ready to make changes.

Charles Barton said...

Contributing Author what is most disturbing is the lack of evidence that LEED certified buildings are actually more efficient as constructed. The limited evidence raises more questions than it answers. Clearly too much is being claimed, and probably too much is expected. The business of issuing LEED certificants without evidence that those certificats suggest superior energy efficiency is far to typical of "green" values. LEED certification is about greenwashing, not energy efficiency.


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