Without question, LEED has done wonders in the United States to promote environmental building design. However, LEED’s process is undeniably cumbersome and costly. The value of LEED is as reflective as the shiny plaque in the lobby. With active measurement and monitoring of energy performance, design and installation flaws become apparent. Without advanced energy metering and a process to monitor the results, it’s no wonder many owners question the value of pursuing LEED certification on their future projects.

The real metric of success in Environmental Design is proven performance. It’s not good enough to claim a certified or green labeled facility based on its design. A facility’s performance needs to be proven and clearly documented for at least two years following occupancy. Ongoing monitoring, analysis and adjustment of building performance can reduce a building’s Energy Use Index (EUI) over time. Scan the internet for successful examples from a bed tower Expansion at Mayo Clinic to our local gem, ENR2 – Institute of the Environment at the University of Arizona. In both cases EUIs were lowered through monitoring, measurement and verification of metered subcomponents of the energy model.

Commissioning (Cx) and Measurement & Verification (M&V) are two essential ingredients in green building design to achieve or beat estimated performance. LEED has popularized them and now replaced the M&V credit with Advanced Energy and Water Metering. Cx and M&V aren’t a product of LEED. Cx began nearly 40 years ago! It’s a unified process beginning with design reviews and continuing through post-occupancy seasonal trending. Cx helps fill the gap between rushed drawings and hyperspeed construction.

Cx testing verifies that energy-efficient systems, including the building envelope, are installed and functionally performing as intended. The pursuit of environmental building doesn’t stop here. It continues deep into occupancy where building performance can be proven. Here’s where M&V supplements the Cx process.

M&V with advanced metering digs deeper than overall metering of electricity, gas and water, which are now prerequisites of LEED certification. Advanced metering of energy and water now contributes only 2 points toward this certification. Metering, Measurement and Verification contributes up to 12 points to Green Globes certification. Contributing to the unpopularity of pursuing M&V is the fact that either green building certification can be achieved without it.

What is M&V?

Energy conservation measures provide the central thrust in environmental building design – they are highly analyzed and pursued from the project start. Measurement and Verification is the process of quantifying savings delivered by an Energy or Water Conservation Measure (ECM & WCM respectively). Various protocols for prudent practice in M&V exist, including the International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol (IPMVP), ASHRAE, and USDOE/ FEMP which defines common terminology and the key steps in implementing a robust M&V process. M&V demonstrates how much energy or water a particular conservation measure has avoided using, as well as the cost saved.

A key part of the M&V process is the development of an M&V Plan which defines how the savings analysis will be conducted before an ECM/WCM is implemented. This provides a degree of objectivity that is absent if the savings are merely evaluated after implementation.

Excerpt from M&V plan listing expected performance and savings in major categories

M&V can start with evaluating a single Energy Conservation Measure (ECM) to see if it earned the anticipated payback. Inputting monthly whole building energy and water usage into a data repository for a year or longer can help benchmark performance and spot trends. Examples of this include:

  • Evaluating the seasonal effect of using evaporative coolers to pre-cool chilled water for air handlers in Southern Arizona.
  • Comparing monthly electric bills, the year before and after adding networked lighting controls with Energy Star Portfolio Manager.

The next level of complexity is re-calibrating the energy model with advanced building metering. This can yield energy performance data for a range of ECMs or the energy use of specific end uses such as chilled water vs. domestic water or laboratory electrical process loads vs. standard office receptacle loads.

M&V is not free. Costs for M&V include procuring and installing sub-metering (electric, natural gas, steam, chilled water, potable water, etc.) Add labor for in-house or hired personnel to carry out the M&V Plan. This includes collection and distribution of data, which can range from simple, as highlighted in the illustration below, to exceptionally complex.

Despite the added project costs, a trend is emerging for proven performance. Many cities now require benchmarking and transparency. These include Atlanta, Austin, Boston, the entire state of California, Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Minneapolis, New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Portland and Seattle. Even more municipalities require benchmarking of City-owned buildings and voluntary benchmarking of commercial buildings.

The most compelling argument for pursing M&V is that many green labeled buildings don’t perform as designed/promised. By measuring and monitoring sub-components of energy and water use, owners and commissioning providers can isolate issues within individual building systems – including the building enclosure.

Verifying energy performance fits GLHN’s ethic to build enduring success with our clients, our partners. The University of Arizona, Arizona State University and City of Tucson are chief among them. We have successfully combined Cx and M&V on several projects in the past five years. We know the “proof of the pudding” with buildings is in measurable building performance.

Will LEED go away someday? It is definitely in transition and its future is foggy. What is clear is that most Institutions and building owners want more than just a green certified or labeled building. They want accountability and documentation of actual building performance. That can be proven independently of LEED.

About the authors:

Doug Stingelin is Mechanical Engineering and Building Systems Commissioning Director at GLHN Architects & Engineers. He is a registered mechanical engineer, a LEED accredited professional, and is a Certified Commissioning Process Provider. Doug is originally from State College, PA and has lived in Southern Arizona for 15 years. He holds a Master and Bachelor of Science degree in Architectural Engineering from Penn State University. rdsting@glhn.com

Joyce Kelly is an Architectural Eco-Systems Specialist with GLHN.  She is a LEED accredited professional (LEED BD+C) as well as a Certified Commissioning Agent.  Joyce is a graduate of the University of Arizona Architecture program with two years of graduate studies in Facilities Planning and Management at Cornell University. jjkelly@glhn.com


GLHN Architects & Engineers, Inc. GENUINE. DYNAMIC. PARTNERS. Designers of mutual success for over 5 decades through personal commitment in developing solutions that work. The adaptive systems we create reflect our culture; a high-functioning network of invested and brilliant individuals.   Enthusiastic about the future, we are actively engaged with our industry as educators, thinkers, and leaders. www.glhn.com