GBCI Extends Utility Reporting Requirement to 20 Years?

UPDATE (11.05.10) I just received a comment from Bruce DeMaine, Vice President of Certification for GBCI. He confirmed, as others noted in the comments below, "that the 20-year figure is a typo. The utility reporting time period was decreased to 5 years shortly after the introduction of the LEED 2009 Minimum Program Requirements. We are working with our information technology staff to correct this error as soon as possible." He also addressed other concerns I've raised below, and I've added his response to the end of the post in it's entirety. I'd like to personally thank him for reaching out to clear up this issue! I've left the remainder of the post as it was originally published:

Alert reader Eric Johnson of Gardiner & Theobald just pointed out that the latest edition of the LEED Certification Policy Manual (September 17, 2010 Release) has increased the period for which you must allow the GBCI access to utility data from a minimum of 5 years to at least 20 years:

"It is the intent of GBCI to review ongoing project performance to assess project compliance with LEED Green Building Rating System requirements. Project owners authorize GBCI to access and review their project’s Energy and Water Usage Data from the utility service provider and/or the whole-project metering facility where such meters are in place. This authorization shall be maintained for a period of twenty (20) years following the date the project achieves LEED certification."

This rather significant change has not been publicized in any way that I can see (the most recent LEED Update newsletter dated 10/29/10 doesn't mention the change), and it doesn't appear that the GBCI has informed the USGBC or its own legal department, as the Minimum Program Requirements (MPRs) document provided by the USGBC still shows the five year requirement (see page 4), as does the LEED Registration Agreement that was updated three days after the certification policy manual was changed (see page 6).

A New Process Needed

My biggest complaint with the LEED system right now is how these administrative changes are handled. Changes to LEED credits themselves are made using a thorough and rigorous comment and voting process from the membership on a regular schedule... and that's a good system. On the other hand updates to the LEED policy manuals, documentation requirements, reference guides, the MPRs, owner legal agreements, supplementary reference materials, and a vast array of other critical components of LEED certification seem to occur randomly and there's no system to easily see changes as they occur or to determine what requirements are in place when a project is registered.

The mechanisms by which LEED projects are completed must be stabilized. If it were up to me, there would be no changes to these ancillary materials between rating system updates, and ALL materials related to the LEED rating system should be open to comment. I don't have a problem not putting those ancillary materials up to a vote, but I think there is far more concern over things like LEED Certification Agreement and the LEED Project Registration Agreement than the GBCI/USGBC realize, if for no other reason than it's difficult to find these documents and no real path for commenting on them.

Let me use those two legal documents as an example. You can't even access those two documents before going through the registration process unless you happen to know the URLs for them (i.e. they don't appear to show up in any search results or accessible via links on the GBCI site prior to registration). The certification Agreement is in its second edition (09.20.10), and the registration agreement is in its third edition (09.20.10), yet when I log on to my project that was registered in 07.10 I don't have any access to the documents I agreed to at that date. There's no document highlighting the changes that I'm aware of, and the simple fact that they've changed 2-3 times in about a year is alarming in itself. Since these documents aren't mentioned until you start the registration process, I'm sure has made many first time v3 users look foolish to the project owners who are now forced to agree to another layer of restrictions that was not mentioned previously.

At the end of the day, I still believe the content of the LEED rating systems are the best available for a comprehensive assessment of , but the ever increasing warren of support documents and the added requirements they contain must be controlled or at least better organized and publicized. The USGBC and GBCI need to understand that those actually administering LEED projects are greatly impacted by such changes, and every time a change is made without ample notice we're at best unpleasantly surprised and at worst humiliated in front of our clients for appearing to be inept. That's not to say I don't welcome more stringent guidelines over time, and I welcomed the more stringent energy and water baselines in the LEED 2009 system. At the same time, however, it's more important to be predictable and consistent than it is to be 100% perfect. There's always the next edition, and there's absolutely no reason this reporting requirement couldn't wait until LEED 2011...

Please forgive my rant... I'm still VERY excited about Greenbuild and look forward learning more there.

Mr. DeMaine's Response

As Vice President of Certification for GBCI, I’d like to thank you for bringing these issues related to the LEED certification procedural documents and various associated agreements to our attention. GBCI can confirm that the 20-year figure is a typo. The utility reporting time period was decreased to 5 years shortly after the introduction of the LEED 2009 Minimum Program Requirements. We are working with our information technology staff to correct this error as soon as possible. In the meantime, please refer to the LEED Project Registration Agreement and the LEED Certification Agreement, both of which properly represent that this program is limited to 5 years.

To address the stated concerns regarding lack of access to these documents, both before and after participants register and/or certify projects, all of our current contracts and policy manuals are available at the LEED Online website, www.leedonline.com. To access these documents, visitors to LEED Online must register with the website by creating a site user account. The creation of a site user account is a free service by GBCI. Site users may login to LEED Online and access these documents by going to our “Legal” page. The LEED Certification Policy Manuals are also available on the GBCI website, www.gbci.org.

Regarding revisions to these documents, GBCI has pledged to make changes to our program documents and agreements more transparent. The next scheduled release of such documents will occur shortly before Greenbuild. The coming revision is largely being put forth to incorporate the launch of several additional new programs related to LEED. Further, it is our endeavor to summarize our revisions to these documents and future releases in an open and transparent manner. Such summaries will be made available within LEED Online and, to the extent possible, posted to the GBCI website.



On behalf of the organization, thank you for interest in our certification program and commitment to sustainability. If you or any of your readers have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at bdemaine@gbci.org.

5 comments:

Kimberly Walton said...

I agree about the extra legalities with registering a project. We had a recent v3 project where the owner was very surprised to have to sign the energy & water usage release form (on the owner's letterhead), and the new requirement to register the project in Portfolio Manager + create their own USGBC and Portfolio Manager accounts + walk them through how to initial credit forms and share facilities... I do think it's important to have the owner involved, but part of the reason they hire LEED consultants is because they don't want to deal with the red tape.

Michael Miller said...

In July of this year, someone asked about the 20-year requirement on LEEDUser (apparently the April version of the policy manual already said 20 years, so it would not be a 'change' in the latest version). Another user responded back that he had "asked the same question back in March of this year and received an e-mail response from GBCI stating the project team will be required to provide the energy and water usage data for five years as stated in the Minimum Program Requirements, and that they were in the process of updating the Policy Manual."

GBCI may have simply failed to correct in the latest revision.

Eric Johnson said...

Michael,

I looked up the April 2009 version of the GBCI LEED certification Policy Manual and it does list 20 years as the requirement with essentially the same wording. I guess I wasn't so alert after all. There is real conflicting language between the MPR and LEED Policy manual, they should fix it.

LEED 2009 MPR SUPPLEMENTAL GUIDANCE Version 1.0 November 2009
"Sale, Assignment or other Transfer of Ownership To own a LEED certified project is to participate in the ongoing evolution of the green building movement. In that spirit, and in keeping with the intent of this MPR, the owner’s commitment to provide whole‐building energy and usage data is expected to carry forward to the next owner if all or part of a LEED certified project is sold, re‐assigned or otherwise transferred. However, it is recognized that this may not always be possible, and GBCI will respect the realities of situations in which reasonable efforts to maintain the commitment are not successful. In this situation, the initial building owner will no longer be required to provide the data or access to the data."
April 2009 & September 17, 2010 LEED® Certification Policy Manual - It is the burden of the project owner to ensure that all subsequent owners and/or occupants of the project in part or in whole are notified of and comply with this requirement. Access must be authorized within the first calendar year after a project achieves LEED certification.

Bruce DeMaine, GBCI said...

As Vice President of Certification for GBCI, I’d like to thank you for bringing these issues related to the LEED certification procedural documents and various associated agreements to our attention. GBCI can confirm that the 20-year figure is a typo. The utility reporting time period was decreased to 5 years shortly after the introduction of the LEED 2009 Minimum Program Requirements. We are working with our information technology staff to correct this error as soon as possible. In the meantime, please refer to the LEED Project Registration Agreement and the LEED Certification Agreement, both of which properly represent that this program is limited to 5 years.

To address the stated concerns regarding lack of access to these documents, both before and after participants register and/or certify projects, all of our current contracts and policy manuals are available at the LEED Online website, www.leedonline.com. To access these documents, visitors to LEED Online must register with the website by creating a site user account. The creation of a site user account is a free service by GBCI. Site users may login to LEED Online and access these documents by going to our “Legal” page. The LEED Certification Policy Manuals are also available on the GBCI website, www.gbci.org.

Regarding revisions to these documents, GBCI has pledged to make changes to our program documents and agreements more transparent. The next scheduled release of such documents will occur shortly before Greenbuild. The coming revision is largely being put forth to incorporate the launch of several additional new programs related to LEED. Further, it is our endeavor to summarize our revisions to these documents and future releases in an open and transparent manner. Such summaries will be made available within LEED Online and, to the extent possible, posted to the GBCI website.



On behalf of the organization, thank you for interest in our certification program and commitment to sustainability. If you or any of your readers have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at bdemaine@gbci.org.

emergencypicnic said...

I think the energy reporting requirement is exactly right, and why not for 20 years? It represents little overhead, and with a minor amount of utility company cooperation, reporting overhead would be minimal. Energy Service Corporations already arrange similar access for customers. I'd like to see the system become more accountable, and this is one approach.

The current direction seems to be transparency without accountability, tho I don't think this is intentional. LEED is a system that has grown extremely fast. Perhaps that explains many of the persistent issues that remain and create a problematic environment for utilization. But it is a poor excuse for bad communication at the many levels it exists. I will say that I think changes are in process and have found the GBCI to be much more response than in years past. Yet LEED still has some fundamental problems that need to be addressed for it to remain relevant and to increase its influence in the world. If one looks at the data, the promise of LEED -- to substantially reduce the environmental impact of buildings -- is simply NOT even close to being fulfilled.

I suggest we need to step up the effort, partly through a vocal and reasoned critique of the system we are all generally enamored of. For what ever they are worth, my two cents are here: http://emergencypicnic.wordpress.com/