What Is the LEED Dynamic Plaque and Why Is It Useful? [video]

LEED sustainable house

Tom Mills (host of GreenShortz): I’m with Gretchen Sweeney, and she is part of the USGBC [United States Green Building Council] LEED Team, LEED of course being a building certification program, certify buildings’ performance, but a certification is only as good as that performance, right?

Gretchen: That’s correct. The LEED rating system for buildings has been around for about 15 years, and it’s been certifying by asking people to take action in a building, strategies to improve that building. But what we haven’t been doing is measuring how the buildings actually perform once all of these strategies are in place, whether it’s a policy or something that’s implemented when the building is designed and constructed.

Tom: And that’s where the Dynamic Plaque comes in.

Editor’s Note: The LEED Dynamic Plaque is now used in Canada as well as in the United States, and the first Canadian building in which it was installed was the Telus Tower in Toronto.

The LEED Dynamic Plaque

Tom: We’re standing in front of this beautiful device here, and it’s measuring five categories of that building’s performance. So…

Gretchen: Yeah.

Tom: Criteria that are different than the certification program…

Gretchen: Yes.

Tom: But these are these key measurement metrics that tells us that the building is doing what it’s supposed to do.

Gretchen: Yeah, exactly. We looked across our rating system for buildings, and we said, what are the outcomes that we’re looking for in all of the buildings, all types of buildings—commercial buildings, residential buildings—that go through the rating system? And we were able to condense them down into these five categories.

So the categories are energy, water, waste, transportation and human experience, and we have buildings give us their data: whole building water consumption, whole building energy consumption, waste generated and waste diverted, and a survey of occupants that looks at how those occupants get to the building and translates that into carbon emissions.

And also, we measure the human experience in the building, and that means: How are occupants experiencing the building and what’s their satisfaction level with their space?

And also, we look at indoor air quality, interior carbon dioxide levels and interior volatile organic compound levels. All of that data goes into this plaque and gives you a score from 1 to 100 that tells you how you’re performing, and that’s based on a global database of buildings.

Tom: What’s amazing to me… the human experience piece of this. I think, you know, ultimately, buildings are destinations for work, we live in buildings…

Gretchen: Mm-hm.

Tom: You know, and to know that a building is taking care of us in a way, providing that healthy working or living environment, that’s pretty amazing data to know.

Gretchen: We spend 90 percent of our time inside of buildings, so we want them to be places that are not only pleasant but healthy, and that conserve resources, and you know, just generally contribute to the well-being not only of ourselves but also our communities.

That’s what this helps us understand better. And it not only helps us understand that at the individual building level, but across all the other buildings, so you could have a LEED Dynamic Plaque in a building, say, in your downtown, and you can compare that building to a building in Tokyo or a building somewhere else in the United States. So that’s really exciting.

Tom: If you determine based on this information, that there’s a problem…

Gretchen: Mm-hm.

Tom: You can fix it.

Gretchen: Yeah, this is the hardware, but behind it, there’s a software platform that’s cloud-based, and in that you can see different trends, so you can drill down into the energy section or the water section, and you can see:

  • How are we performing today?
  • How were we performing last month?
  • How were we performing last year?

And then there’s some trendline information, so you can see how your energy use has gone up and down and how your score has gone up and down. And if you’re somebody managing a building, or even if you’re just an occupant wondering, you know, what are the building managers doing in my building to make it a better place? You can look at that information and target improvements.

Tom: As they say, if you can’t measure it, right?

Gretchen: You can’t manage it. Exactly. You need to know what’s happening in your space in order to do something about it. This gives you a tool not only for a facilities manager or building engineer to do something about the building, but to communicate about what’s happening in the building to people who may not always care or know that they can care: to visitors in the building, to occupants, and also to the building’s owners and to the community at large.

Tom: Ultimately, after the building is created…

Gretchen: Mm-hm.

Tom: It’s up to the people in it to run it.

Gretchen: That’s so true. Facilities teams, they know what they’re doing, they have a lot of tools at their disposal, but the occupants in the building, they have a big impact on performance. What they’re plugging in to use energy, how they use the water in the building, how they’re running different equipment in the building, all of that matters for the ultimate performance of the building.

You can do a lot of great stuff during the design and construction of the building, but that building’s gonna last for, you know, 50, 100 years; if it’s well-built, it’ll last for even longer than that, and if you’re not paying attention to your behaviour in the building as well as all the systems that are running it, over the lifetime of your building, you’re not really reaching your goals.

Tom: So having that feedback…

Gretchen: Mm-hm.

Tom: For the building manager but also for the occupants…

Gretchen: Mm-hm.

Tom: Really valuable, and that’s how we change, right, where our behaviour change is based on feedback we’re getting from our environment…

Gretchen: Yep.

Tom: And the systems around us…

Gretchen: Exactly.

Tom: Great tool for doing that.

Gretchen: Yes.

Tom: Managing your building’s performance with a Dynamic Plaque, that’s just another easy way to be green. [Gretchen nods]

At Green Shortz, we tell these stories because we believe that we all have to work together toward a greener future. Our mission is to help you see green so you can be green and save a little green.

For more information on LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) in Canada, have a look at LEED Canada and taking the LEED exam»

video: Tom Mills ; image: Pexels

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