Geospatial technologies are emerging as important new tools to inform and advance green building practice. For example, GIS-based tools are often applied by teams planning and evaluating neighborhood patterns and design. The tool helps estimate the “walkability” for LEED-ND projects based data on streets, pedestrian routes, bicycle routes, transit accessibility, building entrances, and a variety of other factors.
Over the past decade, green building has gone from the fringe to the mainstream of the building industry. In many major cities, new commercial buildings have “gone green” by adopting strategies such as integrative design, energy modeling, commissioning, enhanced energy efficiency, renewable materials, attention to daylight and views, water conservation measures, and on-site renewable energy generation. These green building strategies can dramatically reduce energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and water use while creating more comfortable and satisfying indoor environments. The green building movement seeks to sustain and accelerate these trends with the goal of driving permanent shifts in practice to benefit people and the environment.
The U.S. Green Building Council helps advance this vision with its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. LEED helps identify and prioritize best practices related to location and planning, sustainable sites, energy and atmosphere, water efficiency, materials and resources, and innovation in design. The initial release of LEED version 1.0 ten years ago focused on commercial new construction. Today, LEED 2009 encompasses a family of systems that reach across the lifecycle of built environments including neighborhoods, commercial buildings, health care facilities, school, homes, and existing facilities (among many others). LEED provides a consensus-based national benchmark for green building practice linked to rigorous third-party review and certification.
|The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system encompasses neighborhoods, commercial buildings, health care facilities, school, homes, and existing facilities.|
Geospatial technologies are emerging as important new tools to inform and advance green building practice. For example, GIS-based tools are often applied by teams planning and evaluating neighborhood patterns and design. Criterion Planners & Engineers developed the LEED-ND Connections using their INDEX software and ArcGIS. The tool helps estimate the “walkability” for LEED-ND projects based upon data on streets, pedestrian routes, bicycle routes, transit accessibility, building entrances, and a variety of other factors. At the scale of individual buildings, project teams using LEED for Building Design and Construction often utilize web-based mapping tools to characterize surrounding neighborhoods, such as distance to transit or the diversity of services. These factors contribute directly to LEED credits related to sustainable site design.
Moving forward, a number of promising new application areas are emerging including:
Advanced Rating Systems. LEED 2009 represents an important step forward in the design of green building rating systems. LEED 2009 is an “impact-driven” system. It consists of a combination of mandatory “prerequisites” and elective “credits”. Projects must satisfy all prerequisites and a certain number of credits to achieve certification. The number of points allocated to each LEED credit reflects their relative value for reducing a set of 13 environmental impacts developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These categories include greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel use, water consumption, among other factors. LEED 2009 uses an analytical framework that estimates building related impacts and applies this information to allocate points to each credit in the rating system. The credits that address the most important impacts receive the greatest number of points.
|A map-based interface provides details on LEED-certified buildings.|
Today, USGBC uses zipcode-based approaches to customize LEED 2009 rating system requirements to different regions. In the future, GIS provides the potential to create customized rating systems for specific building types in specific locations. For example, one can readily envision GIS-based systems that allow project teams to identify and prioritize green building strategies based on important factors such as regional electricity generation mix, availability of public transportation, water supply characteristics, and waste management practices. Combinations of these factors vary significantly between regions of the country, between neighborhoods within a city, and, in some cases, block-by-block. Changes in the relative importance of these factors can be used identify and prioritize individual green building strategies.
Building performance monitoring. Green building is not a singular event in the life of a building or community. Rather, it is an on-going process of continuous improvement and transformation. Today, this is reflected in a coordinated set of rating systems that address neighborhoods, building design and construction, and building operation and maintenance. One of the most pressing challenges is to coordinate and leverage flows of information across phases. Traditionally, divisions between disciplines and ownership have lead to discontinuities and the loss of information between phases. However, an increasing emphasis on delivered, operational performance has inspired many to look for ways to understand performance across the lifecycle. This means creating information systems that can seamlessly pass data from planners to designers to engineers to facilities manager and back again. GIS-based solutions have begun to address this issue, particularly at the intersection between design and facilities management. For example, ESRI Business Partner and USGBC member Spatial Systems Associates has used ArcGIS to develop a suite of tools for facilities management, some of which help streamline documentation required for the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance rating system.
Market patterns and trends. USGBC’s Research Program is applying ArcGIS and Business Analyst to understand spatial patterns in green building certification. The Research Program is helping others extend this work by sharing spatial data on LEED certified and registered projects on ArcGIS.com. This will provide a platform for analyzing market conditions and for making decisions toward most effectively meeting the demand for green real estate at a specific location. Real estate professionals can overlay LEED project data on other sources of supply and demand indicators to determine the size and character of the market for sustainable space. These types of GIS-based analyses offer the potential to map a wide variety of relationships to understand current patterns and create market forecasts and scenarios.
|ArcGIS.com contains data of the location and details of LEED-certified buildings.|
GIS is rapidly becoming part of the future of green building. Green building practitioners are beginning to recognize the need to move information technologies to the “front” of the sustainable design process. This means informing planning with quantitative analysis and planning for the collection of data that will enable rigorous analysis. We believe that information technologies such as GIS will ultimately become new prerequisites for green building. Milestones in the transition to a new spatially-aware, analytically-driven green building practice will include clear processes to define performance metrics across the lifecycle of built environments, application of fundamental Geodesign principles, and explicit strategies to monitor performance over time. The result will be higher-performance, more sustainable built environments that are informed by place and context, engineered to maximize benefits for people and the environment, and operated to achieve continuous improvement. GIS will contribute to this process by leveraging and extending its traditional strengths as a platform for data integration, interoperability, quantitative analysis, and visual communication.
Learn more at the ESRI 2010 International User Conference by joining the Facilities Management Special Interest Group (SIG) Meeting in San Diego, Calif., at the San Diego Convention Center on Wednesday, July 14, from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.. To find out about the conference and to register, visit www.esri.com/uc.
About the USGBC Research Program
The U.S. Green Building Council is a Washington, DC-based 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. USGBC’s Research Program seeks to advance green building practice through applied research and innovation. Research Program priorities include (1) advanced green building rating systems, (2) building performance and occupant experience, and (4) market trends and dynamics. The Research Program pursues these issues with in-house analysis, commissioned research, and collaborative projects.