by Laura Steinbrink
Brightworks Sustainability Advisor
On the eve of the Heartland Chapter’s Greening the Heartland USGBC Regional Conference, I wanted to take a look at how green building has taken root in the Midwest. We have pulled together some data provided by the USGBC to get a picture of the latest trends in the region.
Green building continues to grow throughout the country, indicating that developers and owners recognize that there is a better, more sustainable and efficient way to build and operate their buildings. The graph above shows the nationwide rise in adoption of LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance projects. The chart below shows that the west coast as a region is leading the way in numbers for LEED-EB, with a 3:1 ratio of New Construction to Existing Building project registrations. The midwest is beginning to take a serious look at the LEED-EB as well, and none to soon.
LEED-EB certification provides a terrific way for property owners and managers to systematically improve their buildings’ energy and water efficiencies, track waste reduction and gain healthier living, learning and work spaces. What is striking in the data is that the percentage of EB certifications is dramatically lower than new construction certifications in the Midwest. More mature markets see one EB project registration for every 3 new construction registration. In states such as Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa the ratio is around 10:1, or less. This means the majority of buildings – and their property owners and tenants – are leaving substantial energy savings on the table. In fact, according to the EPA, the average building can save up to 30% in energy costs through energy efficiency retrofits. How can they afford to do nothing?
Chances are, they can’t, but they simply have no idea how to achieve the savings. In some cases, modest investments are required to achieve cost savings – but not always. One of our clients saved $68,000 in energy costs from the installation of a $150 device that changes cycles on an exhaust fan. The small steps are often obvious to the people who operate the systems, but less obvious to management. That is why engaging people in the pursuit of savings is critical to success.
A good bargain is a good bargain – whether it’s shoes, purses or a gallon of milk. When presented with the opportunity to save 30%, what shopper doesn’t jump for joy? When considering the opportunity to save 30% in rising energy costs, I just scratch my head to understand why not everyone is running to act. Engaging people in achieving energy savings makes for a more profitable building, a more environmentally friendly facility and a stronger organization.
I’ll be at the Greening the Heartland along with a couple of other folks from Brightworks, and we’ll also be at 3 Monkeys Pub and Grub on Thursday evening. We’ll give a brief presentation entitled “Envisioning Fully Sustainable Buildings – Taking green building to the next level” and offering advice on all your questions about sustainability and LEED. It’s exciting to be on the verge of these changes in the heartland and I hope to see you there!