Brendan Owens of USGBC.
The holistic combination of energy efficiency and sustainability means tenants and homeowners are willing to pay more for ENERGY STAR and LEED-certified buildings. In Los Angeles, a CoStar report found that while conventional buildings command an average of $2.16/square foot, tenants were willing to pay $2.69/square foot for ENERGY STAR certified buildings and $2.91/square foot for LEED-certified spaces.
Of course, utility savings and salability are just part of the picture. LEED-certified workplaces can decrease worker healthcare costs and increase their productivity. A U.S. Department of Energy study found that improving indoor air quality in a building reduces communicable respiratory diseases by 9 to 20 percent. And companies that adopt rigorous environmental standards are associated with 16 percent higher worker productivity, according to the Journal of Organizational Behavior.
For 2017 ENERGY STAR Award winners Verizon, Big Ass Solutions, EnergyLogic, Inc., and Salt River Project, the benefits of ENERGY STAR and LEED are well known. All four won the prestigious 2017 ENERGY STAR Award, and all four use ENERGY STAR and LEED to improve energy efficiency and sustainability for their companies and customers.
Dialing in the Savings
Christian Taber of Big Ass Solutions.
“Our utility bills are a huge annual expense item, so anything we can do to reduce our energy consumption is a good thing,” says Pam McKay, senior analyst for real estate operations at Verizon. “And since we have so many customers going into our retail stores across the country, we want to make those spaces as comfortable as we can, which is where LEED comes in, using materials that are better for the environment and for our customers.”
Verizon, a Gold-level member of USGBC, won the ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Award for Sustained Excellence in Energy Management. The company operates more than 1,000 retail locations, and it made a public commitment to seeking ENERGY STAR certification for 100 percent of its eligible stores. Currently, the wireless giant has more than 220 ENERGY STAR certified buildings and more than 320 LEED-certified buildings. More than 30 stores are certified through both programs.
Verizon’s 1.4-million-sq-ft operations center in Basking Ridge, N.J., is also both ENERGY STAR certified and LEED Silver. The building uses temperature sensors and energy management systems to monitor heating, ventilation, and air conditioning performance. The company controls the facility’s lighting schedules; tracks maintenance and service requirements; uses air handlers with variable frequency drives for energy-efficient heating and cooling; and has installed energy-efficient light-emitting diode and fluorescent T-5 lights. The building also includes a SunPower 374KW photovoltaic system and five ClearEdge Power PureCell 400KW fuel cell systems totaling 2.0MW of power.
Those commitments to ENERGY STAR and LEED are paying off in more than bottom line energy savings at Verizon. In 2016, the company reached its long-term goal of reducing its carbon intensity by 50 percent, four years ahead of schedule. And Verizon is using the programs’ clout to help it stand out from the competition.
“One of the great things that both ENERGY STAR and LEED give,” says McKay, “is a tool to showcase our buildings and locations that are doing well. It helps us know where we are, not just compared to other Verizon buildings, but compared to the entire industry. So, the bar is always being raised.”
Big Ass Solutions brings cooling comfort to Goodfellas Pizzeria in Lexington, Kentucky.
Keeping Cows Cool
Competition for green bragging rights has helped make ENERGY STAR and LEED successful across industries, and it’s been a motivating force at Big Ass Solutions, a Silver-level member of USGBC, since the company built its first “Big Ass” fans for Kentucky dairy barns in 1999.
These days, Big Ass Solutions does much more than keep cows comfortable. The Lexington, Kentucky based company builds energy-efficient fans and lighting for homes and industry, from agriculture to aviation, sports venues to restaurants and commercial spaces. It won the 2017 ENERGY STAR Excellence Award for Product Design, and 100 percent of its eligible fans were ENERGY STAR certified in 2016.
Christian Taber, principal engineer for codes and standards at Big Ass Solutions, says ENERGY STAR and LEED provide trusted, third-party validation for the company’s products and buildings.
“They allow us to quantify and give us the ability to say, ‘I built this energy-efficient product or building, and there it is,’” says Taber. “We take a lot of pride when our name comes up over and over again as the most energy-efficient products.”
Big Ass Solutions’ own facilities are a case study in the cooperative potential of ENERGY STAR and LEED. In 2009, the company opened a state-of-the-art, LEED Gold research and development laboratory. The 44,000-sq-ft facility is designed for the unique requirements and challenges of testing fans that are up to 24 feet in diameter. The ceilings are 60 feet high, and heavy curtains divide the space into quadrants and retract for testing the company’s largest fans. Inside, engineers build full-scale replicas of classrooms, offices, residential rooms, and warehouses to measure airflow and distribution in real-life scenarios.
The company used its own ENERGY STAR certified fans to achieve LEED credits on the project, including Minimum Energy Performance; Optimize Energy Performance; Minimum IAQ (indoor air quality) Performance; Increased Ventilation; Thermal Comfort, Design; and Innovation in Design. The building now uses 35 percent less energy than a non-LEED building and 58 percent less water, and its construction sent 51 percent less waste to landfill.
When installing Big Ass products for clients, Taber and his crew take a similar approach. Over the years, more than 40 Big Ass Solutions team members have achieved LEED Green Associate credentials, ensuring that fans and lighting work in harmony with clients’ ENERGY STAR and LEED-certified buildings.
“For us, making a great ceiling fan is one thing, but that fan needs to be part of a bigger system,” says Taber. “The building side of ENERGY STAR and LEED tells us if we fit well into the overall design strategy to provide the lowest EUI or dollars per square foot or CO2 per square foot, whatever the metric.”
EnergyLogic’s director of marketing Jala Curtis.
Train, Measure, Repeat
The task of predicting and measuring those metrics falls to companies such as EnergyLogic, Inc., winner of the 2017 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Award for Sustained Excellence for Home Energy Rater. To date, the company has verified 22,000 ENERGY STAR certified homes and almost 1,000 LEED-certified homes in its home state of Colorado. Last year, Colorado built nearly 4,000 ENERGY STAR certified homes and 16 million square feet of LEED-certified space, placing second on USGBC’s annual Top Ten States for LEED.
In addition to home ratings and energy audits, EnergyLogic is an official LEED education provider and has a team of LEED APs that train developers and contractors to meet LEED certification benchmarks. The company estimates it saves Colorado consumers more than $5.6 million annually and reduces yearly carbon dioxide emissions by 132,000 tons.
While investing in an ENERGY STAR or LEED-certified home used to be for those with “deep pockets,” says Jala Curtis, director of marketing at EnergyLogic, public awareness has changed that dynamic. “Over time, consumers have become more educated, understanding that long term, it’s not only going to help with the value of their homes but also decrease their utility costs and make for a cleaner environment,” says Curtis. “In our work in residential space, we often work on certifying compliance pathways for both ENERGY STAR and LEED certification on the same project.”
EnergyLogic worked with USGBC to pilot a streamlined LEED for Building Design and Construction: Homes and Multifamily Lowrise certification for production builders who participate in the Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready Home Alternative Compliance Path program (DOE ZERH ACP). The DOE’s program requires ENERGY STAR certification as well as the EPA’s Indoor airPLUS and WaterSense certifications, meeting many, but not all, prerequisites of LEED.