Become a LEED Building With the Help of IoT

Interested in becoming a LEED certified building for better performance and environmental benefits? You can use IoT to help you reach your goals.

447
Illustration: © IoT For All

The progress made toward green and sustainable buildings over the last decade has been remarkable. Today, there are high-rises that catch and reuse rainwater and produce and store ice for cooling, have wind turbines built into the design, and use recycled cooking oil from nearby restaurants to produce energy. 

Even if that level of performance seems unattainable, you can still do many things to make your facility more competitive in the sustainability arena. LEED for buildings, the widely used green rating system, is becoming increasingly popular, and certification is well within reach of most buildings. (Approximately 2.2 million square feet of building space becomes certified every day!) Today, many building planners and owner/operators are achieving LEED certification with the help of the Internet of Things (IoT). Not only is IoT making it easier to implement the necessary strategies during initial building and construction, but it’s also enabling managers and owners to maintain a higher level of performance over time. 

LEED Building Certification for New Design and Construction

Incorporating sustainability and green building guidelines into the design and construction phases of a new building is the focus of this rating system. It applies to buildings that are being newly constructed or those undergoing major renovations. The goal is to “achieve high levels of building performance, human performance, and environmental benefits.”  

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) recommends approaching LEED building certification in three phases: discovery (predesign); design and construction; and occupancy, operations, and performance feedback. The last phase is intended to help applicants assess their performance against targets and to identify areas requiring improvement. 

The IoT Advantage

Here, advanced IoT analytics platforms are becoming a crucial part of the feedback loop, helping to gather, analyze, and act on information about building performance. Analytics tools usually involve statistical algorithms, and, more recently, machine-learning capabilities. These sophisticated technologies can drill into the details of your building’s environmental characteristics and energy use, and even integrate various data streams (from both inside and outside your building) to formulate the best approach to achieving your goals. For example, by combining weather data, your utility time of use rate structure, and your HVAC operating patterns, an analytics platform can recommend ways to reduce your electricity consumption, by better predicting peak demand periods and by automating the process to mitigate demand spikes. As time goes on, you’ll be able to see the impact of the steps you’re taking, which measures are working well, and which may need to be adjusted to achieve the desired performance scores.

LEED for Existing Buildings

Although LEED building certification is often associated with the design and construction of new buildings, existing buildings can become LEED certified as well. New buildings constructed using LEED have achieved a great milestone, but the next hurdle is to implement and maintain sustainable practices throughout a building’s lifetime. 

Even older buildings that were not constructed in accordance with LEED can still achieve certification. According to the USGBC, it can take up to 80 years to make up for the impact of demolishing an existing building and constructing a new one, even if the new building is extremely energy efficient. Therefore, it makes sense to help convert the world’s old, inefficient, resource-depleting facilities into healthier, greener places by taking steps to adjust and improve operations. 

LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance focuses on “performance-oriented sustainable strategies and outcomes” with regard to a building’s physical systems and the way the building is occupied and operated by its managers. It covers the following key areas: 

  • Water savings
  • Energy efficiency
  • Materials selection
  • Indoor environment
  • Sustainable site development

The IoT Advantage, Again

IoT is a natural fit for one of the key goals of LEED, which is to create a standardized process of reporting, inspection, and review of performance over the lifetime of a building. IoT sensors are capable of continuously capturing a vast array of granular building data—from the energy consumption of individual pieces of machinery to water leakage detection to the specific characteristics of air in every room. Examining that data over time allows you to “see” the impact of your efforts, from days after implementation to years later.

For example, energy-use monitoring on a granular level (i.e., individual compressors, pumps, motors, etc.) is readily measurable with IoT sensors. Rather than measuring energy use at a single point in time, IoT sensors continuously monitor your building’s energy consumption in a dynamic process, giving you quantifiable numbers you can use to show an actual reduction of consumption over time. That reduction can then be translated into environmental impact in terms of carbon offset and air pollution reduction. 

Another example: LEED certified buildings make a concerted effort to preserve water. The loss of water from leaking pipes or water distribution lines is quite significant. Leakage detection through dynamic water consumption monitoring could substantially reduce both consumption and waste. 

Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of USGBC, has also noted the value of performance-benchmarking tools. IoT data can be used for benchmarking exercises, allowing you to see how you’re performing relative to your peers and whether you’re moving in the right direction with your sustainability strategies.   

LEED for Existing Buildings requires three months of operational data for an initial certification. You can learn the details of certification requirements here. LEED building certification levels for this rating system are platinum (the highest), gold, silver, and certified.  

As technology becomes increasingly important in green building, so do knowledgeable IoT partners who can help you better understand and improve your building’s energy performance. Not only can they facilitate putting key elements of your new building construction into place, they can also help navigate the monitoring, measuring, and benchmarking of various facets of your existing facility as you pursue LEED building certification.