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USGBC Rolls Out LEED Dynamic Plaque, Amid Debate

New hardware and rating methods underpin the data-rich plaque USGBC is promoting for already-certified buildings, but insiders have questions.
October 15, 2014

For those who never felt that a static LEED plaque adequately captured the performance of a building in all its complexity, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has an answer: the LEED Dynamic Plaque. The flatscreen hardware, bolstered by a back end that crunches data, loads up occupancy surveys, and reports back to USGBC, is the result of years of work by USGBC staff on a tool that could engage buildings after their initial LEED certification, and orient all buildings toward measured performance.

This LEED Dynamic Plaque, showing updated performance of USGBC headquarters, invites inquiry.

Photo – USGBC
Since LEEDuser initially reported on its development, the plaque has hit the streets, but it has also roiled a debate within USGBC committees and LEED insiders on whether it is up to the task. LEEDuser spoke with some critics of the LEED Dynamic Plaque and with Scot Horst, chief product officer at USGBC, to learn more.

Keeping LEED certifications up to date

Horst told LEEDuser that the plaque is “a platform for keeping a building’s LEED certification up to date.” At the same time, he says, it answers the question, “What are the core ways that all LEED buildings should perform in all parts of the world, at all times?” Essentially, the plaque should allow consistent measurement of performance, Horst says, “among all the LEED rating system types and versions, spanning version 1.0 to LEED v4; LEED for New Construction to Existing Buildings; and everything in between.”

Horst notes that while USGBC put two years into developing the design for the software platform, the hardware, and the program guidelines, the product available now to LEED projects is “version 1.0”; Horst says it will evolve.

A second path to recertification

According to Horst, the LEED Dynamic Plaque is a fresh take on the long-standing challenge of updating, or refreshing, certifications. This challenge applies both to the design and construction rating systems (such as LEED for New Construction) and to LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (LEED-EBOM).

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LEED recertification was introduced in 2012 as a process for LEED-EBOM projects to renew their LEED certifications, which officially expire after five years. The update path for the design and construction rating systems, which don’t expire, has always been LEED-EBOM.

However, USGBC’s efforts to plug LEED-NC certified projects into LEED-EBOM, including at one time offering free registration, have not gone well. Horst says 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. “The market finds no value in doing another rating system with us after they’ve done one,” Horst acknowledges. The uptake of recertification for certified LEED-EBOM projects is stronger but also disappointing, with about 300 projects out of roughly 3,000 certified.

It’s “not enough to leave recertification to the existing buildings system,” argues Horst. USGBC’s LEED Steering Committee passed a resolution in 2009 calling for LEED to “become a recertification program,” according to Horst, and the LEED-EBOM program hasn’t filled that need. He says, “Unfortunately, the rate of recertification for LEED isn’t as high as it should be—especially considering building performance is a place where we could make a dramatic impact.”

Both of those updating paths—LEED-EBOM for LEED-NC projects, and recertification for LEED-EBOM projects—remain available, but now there is also another option in the LEED Dynamic Plaque. Building owners pay a monthly fee to use it, inputting data and seeing the plaque display a live LEED performance score—using the LEED certification levels of Certified up to Platinum, and annual recertification by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI).

What the plaque measures

According to Horst, the signature feature of the LEED Dynamic Plaque is that it measures performance. “We’re helping people at the building level focus on what really matters,” says Horst. He contrasts the way in which traditional LEED credits detail “strategies” for projects to implement, while the Dynamic Plaque measures “outcomes”—where we see what comes out on the other side.

The LEED Dynamic Plaque measures five performance areas: energy, water, waste, transportation and occupant satisfaction (or “human experience” in Plaque-speak).

Scot Horst, chief product officer at USGBC

LEEDuser asked Horst for a Dynamic Plaque manual akin to the LEED Reference Guide. He said, “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,” and Horst says that the code started generating scores mid-2014. According to Horst, “LEED committees define the score and the algorithm implements it. A white paper describing this process will be available after it is reviewed by LEED committees.” Horst shared with LEEDuser a “crosswalk” document that, in Horst’s words, “identifies the desired outcomes from each LEED credit in LEED EB O+M v4 and how these are measured in the LEED Dynamic Plaque.”

What the critics say

LEEDuser has heard from a number of LEED professionals who are critical of key components of the LEED Dynamic Plaque. We’ll paraphrase key arguments that we’ve heard, and how Horst and others at USGBC respond.

  • “We weren’t consulted.” The LEED Dynamic Plaque was developed outside of the LEED committee structure and public comment process, leaving some individuals and committees to ask why they weren’t consulted. In addition to noting that LEED committees have more recently been asked to review the plaque, Horst told LEEDuser that “the LEED Dynamic Plaque is not a rating system: rather, it is a tool that complements LEED certification” and allows owners to keep it updated over the years. He is matter-of-fact about the development process, noting “we created the product and now we’re putting it out.” Horst prizes the simplicity and outcome-based approach of the plaque and worries that it would have been weighed down by complications if done by committee (more on this below).
  • Competition with LEED for Existing Buildings. For LEED-EBOM proponents, an alternate recertification pathway is seen as potentially damaging to that program, and also raises questions of rigor (discussed next). But Horst says it’s simply reality that LEED-EBOM isn’t doing the job of recertification, and that another tool was needed. He emphasizes that some version of full, conventional LEED certification is a prerequisite for using the LEED Dynamic Plaque, and for existing buildings that certification remains LEED-EBOM.
  • Oversimplified? The Dynamic Plaque focuses on key performance indicators, but does not measure signature LEED strategies such as use of FSC-certified products, to name just one. In response, Horst notes that the Dynamic Plaque includes 10 “base points” that could include a point earned in the initial LEED certification such as for the FSC credit. More broadly Horst stands by the simplified approach asking LEEDuser, “If we create a recertification program that is so cumbersome that it deals with all of the issues that we really care about in an ongoing way but then no one uses it, are we having a bigger impact?” Noting again that buildings have to go through a full LEED process to get to the Dynamic Plaque, Horst says, “if you’ve certified your building you’ve come across the FSC credit.” Horst also notes the quickly evolving terrain of performance metrics in building products. LEED v4 articulates “a vision for how to build a performance connection with materials, but we aren’t there yet. That’s version 2.0 or 3.0 of this system.”
  •  (Shiny) black box. Even critics of the Dynamic Plaque praise its looks, but they raise concerns that key scoring components, especially on energy, are not transparent and don’t use existing tools like Energy Star. Horst says that “we are creating a score that is based on LEED data and it needs to be global”—something that Energy Star isn’t. As far as the algorithm, he said, “There is a certain amount of proprietary stuff that we’re very happy to have someone look at confidentially but we’re not publishing all the source code.”
  •  Enough data? The LEED Dynamic Plaque energy score is based on comparing a given LEED building with a reference set of buildings that share similar characteristics of climate, occupancy type, and other variables. Given how hard it has been for USGBC to share meaningful amounts and offer deep analysis of the energy data of LEED buildings, how well can we expect the Dynamic Plaque to do? Just fine, says Horst—unless you’re a grocery store. “We don’t need a lot of buildings” for the software to do its magic, but Horst says that USGBC is working to bring in more data points for building types that are underrepresented in its set, such as groceries and museums.

What will the market say?

Some critics of the LEED Dynamic Plaque are particularly concerned about its effect on the market. LEEDuser has spoken with LEED-EBOM consultants who aren’t keen on USGBC competing for access to their clientele, particularly paired with questions on rigor that they raise about the plaque. On the other hand, we’ve heard others say that real estate clients have shrugged at the plaque, seeing little value especially if it doesn’t tie into their building management systems.

Although few Dynamic Plaques have been deployed so far, Horst says that the response from commercial real estate companies has been one of strong interest, and that USGBC is working on a partnership with a major company that would incorporate the Dynamic Plaque into its building management dashboard.

Using a term coined by management consultant Clayton Christensen, Horst describes the LEED Dynamic Plaque as a disruptive technology, implying that it will shake up a marketplace that badly needs the shaking.

“One of the things I'm hearing is that this isn’t as robust as the recertification guidelines, but in fact what we’re seeing is that when people get into it, they have to make sure that things are working right,” says Horst. “They can’t just be in proximity to mass transit; they have to track carbon [emissions from people] coming to the building.” That’s where, in Horst’s view, even if the Dynamic Plaque automates some aspects of ongoing LEED certification, there will remain a need for LEED consultants and other professionals to help lagging buildings lift their performance, and pinpoint the strategies that truly deliver value to owners (for more on this, see my recent BuildingGreen article, Know Thy Client: 9 Un-Green Strategies for Delivering Better Buildings).

What do you think?

You’ve heard from me at LEEDuser on the LEED Dynamic Plaque providing background and paraphrasing Plaque debate in the LEED community, and you’ve heard from Scot Horst at USGBC. Time for you to weigh in on the LEED Dynamic Plaque: Do you have one? Do you want one? Do your clients want one? Will all of this ultimately clarify what LEED means to the broader market, or muddy the waters? Please post your comments below.

Postscript 10/21/14

See my comment below for more on the partnership with Honeywell that I alluded to above. Also I saw Lauren Riggs today, who helped develop the Plaque at USGBC and is now with Google, and got her permission to state that they're her distinctive locks that are featured in the photo above. Nice to see you Lauren!

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December 13, 2016 - 12:39 pm

I know of one building attempting to use LDP for EBOM recertification. Has anyone successfully achieved recertification and willing to share the experience? We achieved EBOM v.3 recertification 18 months ago and like the idea of less paperwork offered by LDP. Any pros or cons? Thanks!

May 24, 2016 - 2:12 pm

As we reported on BuildingGreen.com (see Dynamic Plaque Piloted as LEED Performance Path), USGBC is now offering Dynamic Plaque participation as an ACP to a big chunk of LEED-EBOM certification. From the article:

"Projects will need to purchase the LEED Dynamic Plaque software (though purchasing the actual display unit is optional). The software powers and provides access to LEEDon, a Web-based platform where project managers can input data about energy, water, waste, transportation, and human experience. The software generates a performance score, and if the building achieves a performance score of at least 40, then the score can serve as an alternative compliance path for the requirements of two prerequisites (Building-Level Water Metering and Building-Level Energy Metering) and sixteen credits."

Please comment if you have thoughts or questions on this development!

November 3, 2014 - 11:27 am

As someone who was deeply involved while on USGBC staff with EBOM, Recertification, v4 and many other programs, but never with the Dynamic Plaque, I have a few thoughts I’d like to share.

First, I think we can probably all agree that an online platform that streamlines the collection, analysis, display and certification of ongoing performance data is a fantastic idea. I long advocated for a “mint.com” for buildings and I think it should be one of USGBC’s top priorities. It should be a common entry point for all buildings that want to move toward certifying their performance, regardless of whether they’ve received an initial LEED certification. It’s important, though, to make a distinction between the technology platform and the LEED technical requirements. The Dynamic Plaque is trying to address both.

It’s been said that the LDP does not create a new LEED rating system, which strikes me as somewhat disingenuous. If the LDP uses a set of criteria to provide a LEED certification (or recertification) to a building, it is a rating system. That’s simply the definition of a rating system. If the LDP has a different scope and different technical methodologies from the currently approved LEED rating systems, then it is a NEW LEED rating system. New LEED rating systems are required to be developed based on the Foundations of LEED (http://www.usgbc.org/sites/default/files/Foundations-of-LEED.pdf), a standard that was approved by the LEED Steering Committee while Scot Horst was chair. This document defines the consensus development and balloting process for LEED rating systems. No such process has been followed for the LDP.

If the LDP included the exact same technical requirements as EBOM (or a consensus-developed revision to EBOM) I don’t think many of us would have significant concerns about it. But the LDP has a much reduced scope and very different technical methodologies compared to EBOM. As far as I can tell, the categories contained in the LDP would add up to about 60 points in the equivalent credits in EBOM. That means that about 40% of the rating system simply isn’t there. Site maintenance, cooling tower management, purchasing, cleaning, pest control, demand response, and innovation are nowhere to be found. The LDP includes some “base credits” that don’t require performance tracking, but many of these credits have very relevant performance tracking components. The LDP is often compared to the Fitbit given its ability to automatically track steps and sleep. But the Fitbit also allows you to enter what you had for lunch to track nutrition info. Entering the caloric content of your salad is more difficult than having the device automatically track your steps, but Fitbit recognizes that this is still valid, and someone wanting to get the full benefit of the device will do this. We shouldn’t ignore certain environmental and human health issues just because they’re more difficult to track.

Finally, many of the technical approaches used in the LDP are problematic, like using a single waste audit to represent ongoing waste tracking. (The one technical innovation I really like in the LDP is weighting transit modes by carbon impact for the commute survey; this is something we unsuccessfully tried to add to v4.) The most troubling component is probably the energy score. It doesn’t use the industry-recognized ENERGY STAR, but rather a USGBC-generated score based on data from LEED buildings that have supplied their data via MPR #6 or otherwise. This is far from a statistically valid sample of all buildings. The methodology used to generate the energy score is outlined in this paper (http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~aothman/splines.pdf) which includes this troubling statement: "Scores are a product of the subjective input of domain experts and the only metric to gauge the validity of a scoring function is its acceptance by acclamation." This appears to mean that rather than using a regression analysis of objective building attributes, as ENERGY STAR does, the LDP says that the score is correct if some panel of experts thinks it is by looking at a few data points.

So I think there’s a lot to like in the concept of the LEED Dynamic Plaque, but the LEED technical side has a lot of issues that should be resolved using the standard consensus process.

November 4, 2014 - 11:00 am

Christopher, a very well written, clear and concise report. This should be printed out by the USGBC staff and pinned to every bulletin board in USGBC headquarters. It should also be printed out and placed on Rick and Scot's desk.

Rick & Scot. You currently have the LDP on the wrong course. Please bring together the knowledgeable people within the membership who are willing right now to help you both reset the LDP onto a consensus driven pathway to success.

We await your email

October 22, 2014 - 2:44 pm

This just feels like another gimmick. Oooohhh, flashy lights, look over here. I'm really not impressed with it. What was the target market for this? It's got to be a small percentage of the certified population. The price point seems to be targeted to an elite few. Most of the information will be updated annually, some will hopefully be done monthly. Other than energy and water the points don't seem to mean much. What is the value provided over having the building recertified via EBOM every 3-5 years? This is far from a disruptive technology. I doubt anyone will think much of this dynamic plaque in a few years. How many staff hours have been spent on this? How about some energy information on LEED projects that the v2009 requirement was suppose to be so transformative. Not cherry picking a couple hundred projects, but all of them. Let's show that LEED has value before we issue more gold stars for buildings.

ps. At least have the plaque turn off when the room goes dark. It's just wasting energy half the time when the space is empty. Make an effort to not contribute to the problem.

October 22, 2014 - 3:46 pm

Bill, a very pragmatic response. I hope we can meet in person one day. Beers on me.

October 21, 2014 - 10:33 am

USGBC has just announced the partnership I alluded to in this post, with Honeywell.

"The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and Honeywell today announced they are working together to deepen facility sustainability by integrating USGBC’s new LEED Dynamic Plaque, a near-real-time monitoring tool with integrated building automation technology from Honeywell to measure and provide performance feedback to help optimize operations."

"By integrating with Honeywell technology, the plaque automatically receives information from core building systems that contribute to a facility’s LEED performance score, in addition to input from occupant surveys and waste tracking information. The score updates as data feeds in and can raise awareness of likely issues — and potential fixes — that could affect operations."

See my blog post above for more background on the LEED Dynamic Plaque.

October 20, 2014 - 2:09 pm

On the acceptance of EBOM: Having just returned from the National Conference on Building & Facility Operations in Vancouver BC, it was identified that building owners feel that existing building commissioning isn't worth the cost when it is promoted as a 'greening' or energy-saving project. Since existing buildings consume so much energy, there is a lot of room for positive change and the industry needs to find better, broader ways to promote the optimization of existing buildings. This is a service that owners and operators should be jumping on but we are failing to communicate to them why EBCx would be so beneficial to them specifically.
We need to show owners the direct financial benefits first, and the benefits to society and the future after.

October 20, 2014 - 6:48 pm

I'm referring to commissioning systems that were either never commissioned, were commissioned years ago, or for buildings that have changed uses. Either way, I'm happy to hear you're seeing this type commissioning becoming more popular.
The value of commissioning new systems (LEED or not) is established but we aren't seeing the same demand for existing buildings. I agree that the FFD/M&V software being introduced is really valuable with real-time actionable data provided to operations personnel. Maybe many owners are going for this optimization by software? (We aren't vendors of software so wouldn't see this).

October 20, 2014 - 4:50 pm

Hi Shevaun - I have to disagree with your assessment of commissioning. I have seen considerable growth in commissioning in my work, where the effort is directly tied to value-add improvements and financial incentives. In fact, we introduced our own internal commissioning services last year to meet our clients' demands. My cautionary tale is that more often than not, my clients want commissioning and the savings that go with it, but they don't want LEED and all of LEED's political hurdles.

October 20, 2014 - 4:24 pm

When you refer to EBCx, are you including retro-commissioning? We are seeing great demand for this from building owners.

A portion of EBCx includes on-going commissioning through use of a software system...this market is ramping up as well, having gotten off to a slower start.

Several of the vendors may be able to include attractive features to the installation including prioritization of fixes based on real-time calculated savings, automated dispatch, and other O&M functions. MBCx also generally includes some features to track performance over time, so that the persistence of the implementation is for a longer period of time.

MBCx often has a higher upfront cost though, if the building doesn't already have the necessary metering installed. Certainly an obstacle to adoption.

October 16, 2014 - 11:09 pm

As far as I know, the cost of $6000 a year is kind of like annual subscription fees for the LDP. After 12 months, you’ve to return the LDP back to USGBC in good shape. Then I start wondering what’s in return after paying $6000 other than renting a digital display and proud to be telling we’re LEED believer. Don’t forget, there are many software and hardware out in the market can do the similar things tie-in the BMS to displaying real time electricity use, carbon emission, water use, IAQ, etc. In fact, the building owner can have more choices custom made what information and message want to display.
Instead of giving $6000 away to rent the LDP, USGBC shall consider providing useful technical analysis and advises to the LDP user based on the collected real data, such as sending quarterly report to the building operator and owner. I believe USGBC is capable and shall do the analysis because of owing a large database. USGBC may outsource to 3rd party qualified professional doing the analytical job if worrying the liability issues. The building owner can understand what’s run wrong and making decision to tweak the building systems right away by reading the report. That USGBC diagnostic report not only allow the building owner to fine tune the building performance, it can give chance to the building operator or contractor to do better jobs improving the building. Then I will say $6000 a year is worth every penny.

October 17, 2014 - 2:21 pm

Hello Wing.

You have options when purchasing the subscription to the LEED Dynamic Plaque. You can purchase for one year or for more.

Currently, USGBC is not providing analysis on how you might improve your building performance in order to improve your score. We believe that this is the work of the LEED APs that exist in the market and that are interested in helping to improve building performance.

But you do raise a really interesting connection. We began the Building Performance Partnership following the inclusion of MPR 6 in LEED 2009. Building Performance Partnership did provide analytical reports to those who agreed to share their data on energy and water. Maybe we should consider adding that again in a future version.

Thank you for the suggestion.

Also, please remember that the LEED Dynamic Plaque is meant to work in conjunction with BMS feeds. It does not compete with them. Instead it provides a score that allows a larger audience to understand whether performance is improving or not.

October 16, 2014 - 11:22 pm

Wing. It's THREE year contract...you can't return it at the end of a year. Yes there are options that might make the LDP a useful piece, but those are really only as an adjunct to LEED EB ...not as a poor substitute.

October 15, 2014 - 3:46 pm

Tristan - Nice article and review of the LEED "Feedback Plaque" as some folks are calling it. You asked for our feedback on the plaque itself as well and I have to admit that I'm conflicted. On one hand, I do see the benefit to having a dynamic tool that allows property owners and passers-by to see their building's performance in real time (or as close as possible to real time). In a sense, the building's behavior mimics the behavior of the building users themselves. It's a very unique way to engage people in a manner that's slightly more meaningful than the static etched glass "trophy."

That being said, there are a number of ways this tool misses the point. The main one being, LEED is losing favor in the industry. Yes, there, I said it! Despite everyone's efforts to use LEED as a tool to promote sustainable and environmentally sensitive business practices, the industry is moving away from it in rapid fashion; especially with the dawn of v4, a seemingly overly complicated rearrangement of well-established LEED terminology for no apparent reason at all. Developers and corporations who would have otherwise continued to support LEED are floating away.

Furthermore, the design industry is outright scared of v4. They don't understand the change, don't see a need for the change, and don't accept the change. What this translates into is a host of design professionals and project financiers who are fine with self-policing v3 protocols and forgoing the pomp and circumstance associated with the next LEED rating, and most of all, they are forgoing the plaque. Many companies have internalized a lot of what LEED has to offer, the market for green building products has shifted irreversibly upward, and energy codes have caught up to LEED in all but the most obscure US real estate markets. There’s a global focus on GHG and carbon reduction, alternative energy generation, and ending oil dependency. Through all of this discussion and shift in global initiatives and prioritization, LEED (and to a certain extent, the USGBC as an organization) has not been mentioned.

All this being said, the prognosis is not all doom and gloom. The fact that the global leaders are beginning to recognize and publicly address the long-term negative socio-economic impacts of climate change on our world is encouraging, albeit decades late. In my opinion, the USGBC has an unprecedented opportunity to propel LEED into the climate change discussion in a way that cements it into the minds of people throughout the world. They can do this, not by flashing a new fancy electronic plaque, but by directing LEED’s efforts toward responsible and resilient development, community interaction and education, and fostering a sense of unity and parity between socio-economic classes.

LEED has the potential to be so much more than a “green building rating system.” LEED has the potential to be a “life experience rating system.” The fact that the USGBC has spent years developing the “Feedback Plaque” and countless incoherent tweaks to an already confusing and frustrating rating system, just proves that they have lost their way. They have lost the sense of community that LEED provided to design and construction professionals from 2005 to 2012 and have instead directed their attention to mass commercialization and “process.” My hope is that the USGBC will regain its composure, throw v4 and this plaque idea out the window, and revisit what made LEED such a powerful and unifying tool for designers. Perhaps those same characteristics can be used to unify and heal this troubled world we live in.

October 20, 2014 - 5:03 pm

To Scot Horst - I appreciate your response. Thank you.

This article pretty much sums it up for me.


Especially this paragraph:

"For example, LEED for Homes is supposed to be simpler than most of the LEED systems. Yet if you want to discover what your credit is for landscape irrigation, it’s 3 pages of relatively complex calculations. The Anti-LEED system should ask one incisive question: “are you using native or well-adapted plants that don’t need long-term irrigation here?” If the answer is “yes,” you get the credit. If not, you don’t."

Having attempted 2 LEED for Homes projects in the past, I have vowed never to do one again. (The other rating systems are significantly better and are manageable.)

The point of me posting here is not to just bitch about LEED. It's a system that has supported and progressed green buildings far more aggressively and successfully than any other system out there. Kudos to the USGBC for what they have done. My criticism is that going forward it seems the USGBC has lost its focus on what matters and instead put a lot of focus on "gizmos" for lobby entrances.

October 20, 2014 - 4:56 pm

Your question: "What would you change in LEED EB to make it take up better in the marketplace? "

My answer: "Take the process OUT of the process."

What I mean by that is, get rid of LEED Online in its present form and recreate LEED Online as a web site "tool" that helps teams manage projects.

Take the bureaucratic B.S. out of the certification process. Allow the LEED reviewers some latitude when reviewing and responding to project inquiries so the project teams can have a dialogue with the reviewers; rather than just having project teams and reviewers answer to some form-based checklist that holds all projects to an unrealistic level of "sameness."

The USGBC claims that LEED is a system by which designers can explore their creativity and develop more natural, flexible, and organic spaces, yet the certification process itself is wrote, static, and uninspired.

October 16, 2014 - 11:38 pm

Brian. Great discussion. (And I want to get back to that comment in a minute)

We're not finding that clients don't want to take LEED up...in fact our re-certification rate is 80% and so are others consulting groups in this field. Maybe we're in never never land here in California I'm not sure, but we certainly find that clients DO want to undertake LEED EB again...and again.

Let's turn this discussion around. What would you change in LEED EB to make it take up better in the marketplace? Now that question could be rhetorical..but what I want to point out to the USGBC is that there are many, many people out in the nation who have a very deep understanding of the LEED EB system who would have liked nothing better than a high level discussion which could have come up with many ways to make changes to LEED EB......so why did we never get the chance? Why were we completely sidelined and even now are not included in any conversation?

October 16, 2014 - 11:01 pm

Barry - Interesting points. Part of the reason why EB has not captured the hearts and minds of property owners is because "the why" has not been described well enough to get people to adopt the program and act. Aside from tracking energy and water usage, which is a requirement of any LEED certification anyway, the other elements of EB don't produce actionable data that's meaningful to the bottom line operations of the real estate.

For example, conducting a transit survey and encouraging or subsidizing public transit for occupants is a great concept, and the "right thing to do." However, for many many buildings, especially in an urban context, where parking revenue is directly linked to a property's profitability, where's the incentive for building owners to move people away from car travel? If I were an owner of a building and I was reliant on a few hundred thousand dollars of CASH REVENUE from parking cars in my building, why on Earth would I encourage people to take alternative transportation?

EB lacks "teeth" and lacks a direct connection to financial metrics that make buildings work. The other project-oriented rating systems have just started to churn out enough market data to show developers and corporations the benefits of green construction, i.e. - increased market value and lower cap rates on exit. These metrics have not been translated by the USGBC in terms of the EB program. Yes, driving down costs will help NOI and therefore market value, but a property owner can track energy usage for FREE via the Portfolio Manager Tool and not have to consult with an outside party, or buy a fancy plaque (it's also free). That's why EnergyStar for commercial buildings has trumped EB as the defacto standard for property managers.

All that said and returning to the "LDP", where's the financial incentive to put one of these things in my lobby, potentially uncover flaws in building operations that then become public knowledge, AND pay upwards of $6000 per year to maintain device that is also drawing energy from my building?

The LDP is an interesting idea, but it was not hatched properly, definitely without the feedback of property owners and their consultants, and without any meaningful connection to what drives decision-making for property managers just at the fringe CBD markets (where the LDP and where EB could potentially do the most good). Outline for me in financial terms how the LDP drives tenants to a building and helps stabilize rents (like LEED NC and CS have) and then I'll change my tune.


I should also end by saying, many of my clients are telling me, "We've done a few LEED projects, this project will be our last LEED project." And without naming names, I'm talking about Fortune 100 companies. The fancy plaque is not going to drive people toward LEED, but rather drive people further away. It's too gimmicky and unrelated to how the business is run.

October 16, 2014 - 3:59 pm

Hello Brian,

I love your passion for change and I agree that we have so much that we are capable of. I want to emphasize that the LEED Dynamic Plaque is not a rating system, unlike LEED for Existing Buildings, which is proven to be a fantastic rating system that continues to help us with our mission of transformation.

We have not yet been successful at connecting LEED to ongoing performance - think of the opportunity that we are leaving on the table. We've tried many things, but we have not been successful. Imagine trying to get in shape without having a scale or trying to improve your blood pressure without a monitor. The LEED Dynamic Plaque is not replacing anything or competing with any rating system. It is only adding a dimension that we have been talking about as a community for over ten years. It is a monitor for keeping your certification up to date.

The question is…do we want to be connecting buildings to ongoing performance by keeping their certifications up to date?

There is one typo in the article above. The LEED Steering Committee passed a resolution in 2011 to make all of LEED – not just existing buildings but new construction, commercial interiors, etc. - a recertification program. That was when we began development on the LEED Dynamic Plaque began.

As more individuals and teams use the platform, I believe they will understand the incredible opportunity that it presents. It's a matter of looking at the world with innocence and fresh eyes and freeing ourselves from pre-established notions of the only way something can work. As USGBC has worked to incorporate performance into our suite of products and offerings, and now as we are all getting acquainted with the LEED Dynamic Plaque – that open mindedness is critical.

Consider that the LEED Dynamic Plaque does not measure everything the same way as the LEED rating system does. It is not measuring strategies. It is only measuring results. Take the LEED Dynamic Plaque's transportation score: instead of measuring achievement of bike racks, showers, proximity to mass transit, preferred parking, etc., we are measuring the carbon spent getting people to the building. That is lighter in terms of numbers of measures but much more robust in terms of outcomes that matter to the future. Of course we want to measure them all, strategies and outcomes. That is why we want both original LEED certification and an update of the outcome of that certification based on performance.

I suggest you try the LEED Dynamic Plaque and see what you think.

October 16, 2014 - 11:39 am

Brian, While I agree to the general thrust of what you say, combating climate change (through the looking glass of buildings only) is not going to be successful without realizing that the majority of buildings causing us grief have already been built....in fact one can quite rightly say 'you can design and build the greenest building in the world, but if you don't operate it that way then it's a serious waste of time, money and effort'.
LEED has always been about change. Radical change in some ways (the original program...Version 4 as examples) but mostly one can accommodate that change by seeing the results happening.
Scot points out, and to summarize his comments, that LEED EB isn't doing the job it was designed to do and that LSC has given permission to eviscerate LEED EB through a resolution taken in 2009....that's five years ago and prior to Version 4.
My concern is that if LEED EB is 'broken' then given all the effort that went into that rating system why oh why were the membership never given the opportunity of fixing it?

October 15, 2014 - 12:44 pm

As we explore building energy efficiency, is one more energized device plugged into the internet of things really a strategy for sustainability? While a glass plaque may represent a moment in time, and be partially based upon the artificial construct of an energy model, it has a fixed embodied energy. Are we as a body of professionals moving further away from sustainability core principles as we denounce books, plaques, etc. and embrace smart phones, computers, tablets, wearables, etc. that are in need of charging, use bandwidth and power for the 'cloud', use precious mined resources, and further tether us to the energy (fossil fuel) economy, not to mention environmental impacts associated with disposal. If we are pursuing EBOM, then this is an added layer of technology that might not be needed if we have designed our original project with recertification in-mind. While I hypocritically type this on my computer, I'd like to open the debate to the community: We design buildings with an R-4 curtainwall envelope and use highly efficient systems to show energy savings and code compliance, while increasing our dependency on electronic 'things' as being green. Shouldn't we as designers, engineers, specialists and consultants be looking at strategies that promote energy savings, conservation of resources and reduction of environmental impacts a little more closely? The green building movement is supposedly no longer in its infancy. Is this the best we can do?

October 16, 2014 - 4:07 pm

Dear Michael,

The current display uses fifty watts of electricity but if you don't want that in your lobby you do not need the physical display. You can play the LEED Dynamic Plaque on your other devices that you have already agreed are worth the electricity such as your phone, pad or computer. The software system connects data from a variety of sources and makes sense out of that data by creating a score that is understandable to an audience that is not necessarily technical.

Our goal is to automate as much of the system as possible and we are working closely with our first partner, to be announced next week, to connect building data from their Building Management System to our score. We believe that this will provide ongoing incentive to improve scores because it is tied with keeping your LEED certification up to date.

I hope this is helpful, Michael.

October 15, 2014 - 12:10 pm

The cost is $6,000 a year! For a plaque! None of our clients will pay that kind of money, especially since it may actually result in a lower score and you'd still have to hire LEED consultants to help you get your score up.

I think USGBC is going in the right direction, trying to make LEED buildings more engaging, but this is not the answer.

October 16, 2014 - 4:20 pm

Dear Nena,

Our pricing is preliminary, and as you know from Tristan’s article, the LEED Dynamic Plaque is in version 1.0. Do you still have your version of LEED 1.0 or 2.0? Do you recall how light and simple they were? We started something with those documents that we have created significant change.

The LEED Dynamic Plaque is designed to be used on any sized project. The data does not need to be automated and the input screens are designed to be easy to use with multiple ways to increase inputs. Please contact us about your project or projects and let’s discuss the best way to make the system work for you. Please call or email if you are interested: contact@leedon.io.

In terms of your question about calculating a score, we are working on a demo version of the software that will allow you to try your data and see how you would score. I expect that we will have the demo site in place later this year.

In terms of the system, we will continue to add measures, especially in the Human Experience section. The market is robust in this area right now with many companies creating and testing sensor boxes that include automation of sound, particulates, VOCs, CO2 and many more. But the technology is not quite proven and more importantly the costs are too high. We will get there but I believe these automation methods will be in version 2.0 or higher of the LEED Dynamic Plaque.

Most importantly, the LEED Dynamic Plaque is absolutely not a replacement for LEED for Existing Buildings. We'd all love it if every LEED for New Construction project went on to pursue LEED for Existing Buildings to keep their LEED project up to date, but we have our answer from the market - they aren’t going to do it. So, how do we connect LEED-certified projects to ongoing performance? We certainly have not done it successfully to date and it is time to do this. We believe the LEED Dynamic Plaque is an optimal and inspiring solution. We are adding a dimension to LEED that provides that critical connection where it has never existed. I appreciate that you think this is the right direction and i hear that you don't think this is the answer. LEED 1.0 was not the answer either. I suppose we can all agree that LEED v4 is only a step in an ongoing evolution of rating systems. Let's keep working on the LEED Dynamic Plaque and make it what it can be. I would love to know what would make it usable for your projects.

In the meantime, we are holding regular calls with committees and will be relying on the LEED Steering Committee, the Technical Committee and the Implementation Committee to help us adjust and calibrate the scoring in the system as well as advise as we build version 2.0.

October 16, 2014 - 12:35 pm

Nena-Your second comment is perhaps the crux of the conversation....are we only concerned about the costs...or are the 'impacts' that are created by LEED EB the most important thing? Scot's comments can be summed up as 'LEED EB hasn't made headway because there's too much paperwork, takes too long and costs too much'...and you know what...he's right!.
Yet dumming LEED EB down into an LDP...which then doesn't reduce the cost but reduces the time and the paperwork but, inadvertently perhaps, reduces the impact of LEED in the existing building marketplace could be classed as 'cutting our nose off to spite our face'.

October 16, 2014 - 12:26 pm

Nena. Great comments. The IAQ test is only a CO2 test based on a PPM for interior, regularly occupies spaces. The VOC will be done via annual audit. That VOC test is purely a grab sample and the one parameter that doesn’t change much in an aged building is total VOC’s, unless new products are introduced in large quantities. Raising the score is then based on a very very small viewpoint. In any case for validity the test 'should ' be performed by a hygienist.

October 16, 2014 - 12:21 pm

Also, there are few buildings that re-certify every year anyway, so they are not saving money by spending every year to re-certify rather then certifying every 5 years.

October 16, 2014 - 12:18 pm

Barry, it all depends on building size! Certainly it would make sense for very large buildings. And you assume that a business has an in-house team that has the time to collect and input the data in the LDP's interface.

Even if the buildings is able to tie its BMS to the LDP and has the time to run the surveys, do the IAQ test, etc., what if they end up with a low score? They will need to hire a consultant then to help them with improvement. Most companies I work with wouldn't have the in house capability or time to look into what they can do to improve their score.

October 16, 2014 - 12:07 pm

Nella. The cost is actually a 'snip' as it includes yearly GBCI certification fees and on a building of say 200,000 sq feet that is a HUGE saving.
However in reply to your comment about LEED consultants 'to help get the score up' I doubt that will happen. The LDP is being sold direct by USGBC LEED AP's have no role in it's sale, setup or operation. The LDP has been designed to be operated by the in-house team (direct upload of energy and water data from the BMS) and by having the other surveys completed as a direct email (transportation survey as an example) from the LDP software to the buildings FTE. That's leaves dumpster diving and the yearly VOC grab sample.

October 15, 2014 - 3:51 pm

Nena - Another fine point. LEED is beginning to be associated once again with high cost and elitism. I disagree with the USGBC's handling of the program. LEED should be inclusive and accessible. USGBC has lost their way....

October 15, 2014 - 12:30 pm

Thanks, Nena! I appreciate your comments.

October 15, 2014 - 12:12 pm

Great, unbiased article LEED User!

October 15, 2014 - 11:58 am

There is not very much information released on the program yet, even if you speak directly with representatives of the program and drill them with pointed questions.

Last time we checked in with LEED Plaque Program representatives, only 15 projects are currently using the plaque, and we can't find much information on how these teams believe the program is going for them.

Also, we have concerns about how our clients would score LEED-wise in the program because the "industry data" used to determine points for certain parts of the system will be constantly changing as the program grows. This makes getting a certain level of certification an unsure thing and based on circumstances a project team cannot control.

Would love additional info - thanks LEEDuser!

October 31, 2014 - 4:31 pm

1) It looks cool

2) You can only manage what you can measure and communicate to building occupants. This plaque is a lot cooler than an email saying "look at what our energy and water use was last month."

3) Different people care about different metrics and one size does not fit all. I think that will be part of the challenge. Awesome measurement tools aren't that useful if your analysis of the data is not valid. For example- some office building could have an awesome culture and lots of people bike to work from far away and then take a shower at the building. If that's just grouped into water consumption they might look "inefficient" compared to the same size office building where no one bikes to work. One metric for water efficiency isn't going to be valid for thousands of different building types. The building operators and occupants are still going to need to develpop their own specific set of metrics to measure their baseline performance and grade themselves as they strive to improve.

I'm all for sending out data in a visually stunning way to encourage behavior change. Kudos to the designers of the plaque. The plaque looks a lot cooler than an Energy Star plaque, for example. I think these are out of the price range of smaller buildings and will make more sense for large (>200,000 square foot) buildings.

In my opinion the water calculations from the LEED for New Construction forms are not going to be valid for hardly any occupied buildings. So I hope the LEED plaque algorithm corrects that and matches real-world occupant behavior better:)

October 31, 2014 - 1:18 pm

Renee, you raise some interesting points, however buildings only need to recertify in the version current at the time of registration. The best method we have found is to immediately register for recertification the day that GBCI informs you that the building has gained the initial certification. In most cases this will be in the same version that you just completed. Recertification is an interesting process. We have found the best method is to work closely with the client on a quarterly basis helping them maintain the initial certification and gathering the data for recert. So far we have an 80% recert rate with our clients by this method.
You are right to be concerned about your role. As you have had no input into the creation of LDP it will come as no surprise to learn that you have no role in Its sale or operation. The buildings team will need to email the tenants the surveys and upload the total results to GBCI. Certification of those results and the increase or decrease in LEED certification will be completed without your input.
This should then raise the important question in your mind...'where is the value in LDP'?
The value might be in the dumming down of the LEED EB process to the minimum possible components to a level that an intern in the building can complete the process....something that would allow the building to maintain he plaque at the cheapest possible cost...even if the certification level bares no relationship to the initial certification content. However I do agree that GSA could be a special case provided that the LDP has followed ANSI rules GSA should be able to soak up plenty of plaques.

October 31, 2014 - 1:49 am

As a LEED-EBOM consultant, I see the value in the LEED Dynamic Plaque. I have not been successful at convincing most of my clients to recertify after initial LEED-EBOM certification, and we work a lot with the Federal Government on these projects! GSA hasn't even decided if they want or need to recertify their EBOM projects nationally. The fact is not many companys have 0.5 to 2 FTEs on their staff willing and able to do the inside work of an EBOM or Recertification project so its a very hard sell and a very long process. If USGBC had not said that recertifications had to be in the latest version of LEED, there may have been a higher percentage that were willing to recertify but that ruling alone has limited recertifications. What I like about the Dynamic Plaque is its simplicity and its behavioral focus on doing the right things because everyone in the building can see where the low scores are. We would like to focus on how to help companies improve their scores. However, I'm a little conflicted as well because there isn't a whole lot for consultants to help with, so I'm wondering why I'm selling the LEED Dynamic Plaque to lots of people interested in the Colorado market. I think its because its the right thing to do. If I can sell 10 LEED Dynamic Plaques versus only 2 LEED EBOM projects a year, I think there will be a bigger environmental impact overall.

October 16, 2014 - 12:41 pm

Melissa. Contact Al Skodowski (allan.skodowski@transwestern.com). They are running several of the LDP's a pilots. He will provide you with lots of info.