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How Regulators, Standards Setters And Tech Advance The Green Building Revolution

The way forward for sustainable buildings requires standards-setting organizations, government regulators and innovative startups to work collaboratively, according to panelists at Bisnow's San Francisco Sustainability: Green Building Revolution event last week.


US Green Building Council (USGBC) executive director Brenden McEneany discussed the role of regulation and standards organizations. That's Brenden, above right, on stage with Logan Soya and Barry Hooper.

“Every regulation leads to innovation even if there is temporary pain,” he told the crowd of around 200 professionals at S.F.'s Kabuki Hotel. McEneany added the push and pull between regulators and companies benefits both parties in the long run, since the process leads to streamlined building codes that ultimately help firms innovate. He said programs like LEED may have taken root in city centers and set the standards for major construction, but much more remained to be done “10 or 20 miles away from downtown.”

He also talked about the latest for LEED. USGBC launched the initiative to offer a standardized rating measuring the energy efficiency of a project’s “design, construction, operations and maintenance.”  The current version launched in 2009, and the USGBC is in the process of rolling out version 4. The latest update will be more streamlined and the section around materials credits has been thoroughly revamped, he said.



San Francisco's green built environment manager, Barry Hooper (above left with Brenden), spoke about the role regulators play in reducing energy use. The overarching sustainability targets of the city were 0% landfill waste, 50% non-automobile transportation (including public transportation and biking) and 100% renewable energy. Barry said codes work best with energy benchmarking. Under this approach, San Francisco doubled employment while reducing absolute energy consumption by 2%.

Barry said there were a lot of opportunities outside of city centers, calling capital improvement plans outside of Class-A properties a “distant dream.” When asked about the latest version of LEED, he said he is interested in finding a way forward that stresses transparency. He remained optimistic about the city’s sustainability targets. While not all San Francisco buildings will achieve zero net energy, a lot of them will, he said.


The tech sector was represented by Aquicore CEO Logan Soya. The software startup helps owners and operators manage energy usage through automated data collection and analysis. Soya said 60% of real estate managers do not have a real-time data collection practice. His ultimate hope is for people to use Aquicore’s software to make strategic decisions on energy usage at the portfolio level. “We want people to manage 900 buildings instead of a few,” he said when asked about his vision.