Utilities can help support LEED ambitions

Utilities can help support LEED ambitions

LEED is guiding design teams to work early in the process to set energy targets and to study optimal system configurations for their designs.

Beyond the prerequisite standard performance needed to achieve LEED certification, the Optimize Energy Performance credit affords one of the most significant opportunities to earn points. 

Below are some tips from the U.S. Green Building Council to leverage utility companies for success in the certification process.

Model an ideal outcome

In seeking certification, the USGBC recommends reaching out to local utility companies early in the design process. Utilities may have programs and incentives available that can lend support to a project. 

One example is Xcel Energy’s Minnesota Energy Design Assistance (EDA) program, which provides energy modeling to customers in its service territory as they begin new construction and major renovation projects. 

"Energy modeling can be a real eye-opener," said Kris Kohls, senior product portfolio manager for Xcel Energy. "We’ve seen projects that reveal hidden savings, which can make a notable difference on the bottom line."

Energy modeling is used to compare how multiple combinations of building systems and components perform to optimize energy efficiency, maximizing the overall investment. Modeling provides options that identify, and allow owners to decide on, the best combination of projected energy cost savings, initial expenditures, incentives, payback duration and energy use per square foot. Also, it’s good to know projects can earn points toward LEED v4 certification (up to 16 for schools, 20 for health care and 18 for all other projects) when efficiency options studied using this type of energy modeling resource are implemented.

A utility may offer rebates and other types of incentives that can help offset the premium costs of high-efficiency equipment or other up-front implementation costs.

Optimize energy use

The EDA program from Xcel Energy, and similar programs from other utilities, can provide assistance to help meet requirements, which can help set building owners on a path to accumulating LEED points. Within the Energy and Atmosphere category, the Energy Optimization credit offers the opportunity to acquire a significant amount of points, with elements such as building orientation and size, examining load reduction possibilities and HVAC and lighting strategies for the facility.

Other Energy Optimization specifics can include passive elements, such as the function of the building design, geometry/shape, building envelope materials, window-to-wall ratio, shading and daylighting.

Use the utility strategically

Since all systems working together in a project can contribute to energy savings and cost implications, it pays to think holistically. Consider other ways to leverage the knowledge and experience of the utility. 

Areas where utilities may be able to offer support:

  • Energy modeling and simulating how energy will be used
  • Assistance identifying and evaluating energy-saving strategies
  • Analysis of energy costs and payback
  • Financial incentives to help offset the cost of implementing energy-saving strategies


Topics: Architectural Firms, Associations / Organizations, Automation and Controls, Building Owners and Managers, Certifications, Energy Saving Products, Sustainable Communities, Technology, Urban Planning and Design, USGBC, Utility and Power Plants

Companies: U.S. Green Building Council

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