Green building efforts trampled by end-users – the reason operations are a part of the USGBC LEED rating system

The following case study from my experience at the Bowie Town Center in Bowie, Maryland, shows the absolute necessity for end-user education in order to maximize efficiency and effectiveness of any building system. The following article was printed in the Bowie Blade newspaper after I had an eye-opening experience on a very hot, humid day…

“Taking the LEED

My son and I were recently at the Bowie Town Center on a 90-degree day and noticed several stores with their front doors locked open. The cool breeze was nice for a moment until I asked someone at each location why this was happening and if they knew how much energy was being wasted. I received responses ranging from “that’s what we do” (as the thermostat behind the cash register remained set at 72), to “we do that to attract customers” (and let the pleasant scent of candles waft over the sidewalk).

As a U.S. Green Building Council LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Accredited Professional, I was appalled. As a former Marine whose brothers are in harm’s way for various reasons, I’m more than a bit ticked at some of the wretched excess I see.

And it’s not a strictly emotional issue.

According to the EPA, the built environment accounts for over 40 percent of the energy consumption in this country. There are many thousands of dedicated professionals who do all they can to improve efficiency and be better stewards of the environment; and I’m sure many would love to chat with the few retailers at the Bowie Town Center, and anyone who walked by without saying anything.
It would be my pleasure to address this issue in detail with anyone interested. This wasted energy doesn’t just waste the store owner’s capital by increasing operating costs, it contributes to poor outdoor air quality issues on hot and humid days (from increased electricity production). Add to that the increased maintenance costs and shorter life-span of cooling equipment, and mix in some really bad PR (at least with green beans like me) and it’s a losing proposition in more ways than one.
Think about the oil spill in the Gulf and maybe this won’t seem quite so harmless.
Drill, baby, drill … into the facts.


Here is a short video I took with my phone when I just had to ask someone at one of the stores why they were doing this. The response floored me.

Now that you and about 30,000 people have read this (based on the response I got after its publication), let me know if you see it the same way I do.  This is a perfect example of how an uneducated end-user can completely undermine an efficient system and waste far more energy than any project planner could have imagined.

To get specific as to how this relates to my specialty, LEED-CI, consider the following:
Several credits and prerequisites within the various LEED ratings systems come to mind whose merit are undermined in this example.
LEED for Retail 2009: Commercial Interiors has the following sections.
  Sustainable Sites
  Water Efficiency
  Energy & Atmosphere
  Materials & Resources
  Indoor Environmental Quality
  Innovation & Design Process
  Regional Priority
It’s obvious which section gets undermined by what’s happening in this video – Energy & Atmosphere – when you look at the credit categories:
Energy & Atmosphere breakdown of credits:
Prerequisite 1 – Fundamental Commissioning of Building Energy Systems
Prerequisite 2 – Minimum Energy Performance
Prerequisite 3 – Fundamental Refrigerant Management
Credit 1.1 – Optimize Energy Performance – Lighting Power
Credit 1.2 – Optimize Energy Performance – Lighting Controls
Credit 1.3 – Optimize Energy Performance – HVAC
Credit 1.4 – Optimize Energy Performance – Equipment and Appliances
Credit 1.5 – Optimize Energy Performance – Envelope
Credit 2 – Enhanced Commissioning
Credit 3 – Measurement and Verification
Credit 4 – Green Power
Credit 5 – On-site Renewable Energy
It’s easy to see how most of these count for nothing when the end-users completely undermine the intent of even the first prerequisite, that is, “To verify that the project’s energy-related systems are installed and calibrated to perform according to the owner’s project requirements, baseis of design and construction documents.” The benefits of commissioning include:
Reduced energy use
Lower operating costs
Fewer contractor callbacks
Better building documentation
Improved occupant productivity
& Verification that the systems perform as expected by the owner.

Please comment and let’s talk!
All the best,


Christopher Moline, LEED AP

about Chris Moline, LEED AP

Chris is our Residential Group Manager & a US Green Building Council LEED Accredited Professional

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