LEED-EBOM vs Energy Star: What's the Difference?

by ‐ Tags: tracking and benchmarking, benchmarking policy, measurement and verification

Owners across the country are considering two prominent energy efficiency certification programs, LEED and Energy Star. So what's the difference? The Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Design (LEED) rating system takes into account water efficiency, innovations in operation, materials and resources, sustainable sites, indoor environmental quality, and energy and atmosphere. While Energy Star gives 1-100 ratings through the Portfolio Manager platform to rate a building's energy performance based on energy use and building attributes such as square footage and number of computers. Both rating systems have spurred a rise in building energy efficiency and a lot of money saved.

These energy rating systems 1) set a high standard, 2) set benchmarks and a standard language, 3) encourage innovation, 4) bring measured energy efficiency to the public eye, and 5) clearly outline ways to improve. In this blog we provide an overview of how the two systems work, and how Energy Star ratings are now used in the LEED Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (aka LEED-EBOM) system. 

What is LEED EB+OM?

Believe it or not, there are 9 different types of LEED rating systems. Each one is targeted towards a particular project type, like schools, health care buildings, new construction, or existing buildings. While there is definitely crossover between the rating systems, qualification for one certification does not necessarily mean qualification for another. Currently, LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance, or LEED-EBOM, is the fastest growing LEED rating system.

LEED-EBOM encourages current property managers, property owners, and operators to improve the sustainability of their existing building while taking into account daily operations. Specifically, LEED-EBOM's "built-in prescriptive and performance strategies are intended to provide operational benefits throughout the life of the building. By sustaining these strategies, the building can maintain and even improve its performance over time". (USGBC,4) 

How LEED-EBOM Has Changed

In 2008, LEED for Existing Buildings was revised to focus on operational performance using real measured data. As put by USGBC, “The new structure and clarity of the LEED for Existing Buildings: O&M Recertification program will help encourage a culture of ongoing performance verification” (USGBC, 4). This verification system is intended to keep track of the continuous growth of energy efficiency the existing buildings are going through.

More so, the “projects that certify under any version of LEED for Existing Buildings must re-certify at least once every five years in order to keep their certification current”. It is important to recertify because in many cases existing buildings can fall out of its sustainable shape anytime. What is great about LEED-EBOM is that it “highly encourages and continuously emphasizes “the importance of ongoing performance verification while still maintaining the connection to daily operations” (USGBC, 4).

LEED Certification uses Energy Star

We all know that if we see the blue “energy star” label on appliances such as a washing machine or a refrigerator; it is going to be above a certain standard of efficiency.  Energy Star also manages a performance rating for buildings, a standard that increasingly is being required by law.  This same rating plays a key role in LEED-EBOM. Energy Star and LEED-EBOM have collaborated together to create a toolkit for existing building owners. In fact, as a prerequisite, all LEED-EBOM certified buildings must go through Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager to get an energy star score. In order to be LEED-EBOM qualified, an existing building must reach an Energy Star score of 69 or higher. A score of 69 signifies that a building is performing 69% better than similar buildings.

The point system for LEED-EBOM incorporates Energy Star’s rating system.  An energy star score of 71 gives 1 point towards LEED-EBOM, a score of 73 gives 2 points, a score of 74 gives 3 points, and so on until a score of 95 that gives a maximum 18 points. The average Energy Star score for all LEED certified buildings is an 85 giving 13 points towards LEED-EBOM certification.  This of course, is only one element of the LEED-EBOM point system.

LEED-EBOM Point System vs. Energy Star

LEED’s rating system cites six important aspects that are involved in a building’s operations. They are: 

There is a LEED-EBOM checklist that serves as a guideline to getting certified. It has a total of 110 possible points, however, as you can see in the point scale below, a mere 40 points will get a building certified. This list is a breakdown of the 7 overarching topics that are taken into account:

LEED 2009 for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance certifications are awarded according to the following scale:

To sum it up, most improvements, like using sustainable cleaning equipment, or reporting emission reductions are worth 1 point each. While a few, like optimizing energy efficiency performance, worth between 1 and 18 points depending on the building's Energy Star score, and "On site and Off-site Renewable Energy", worth between 1 and 6, are worth more, reflecting the impact such improvements can have.

Tracking Energy Key to Energy Efficiency Certifications

The first step to LEED-EBOM and Energy Star is to track energy. Energy Star provides a baseline set of tools. Tools like WegoWise add additional functionality as well as automate many of the most tedious aspects of energy tracking and benchmarking. Individual buildings looking to achieve peak performance also invest in building management systems to optimize their building on a real time basis. Thankfully LEED-EBOM starts with Energy Star, so benchmarking your building should be the first step on the path to any type of commitment to sustainability.

What has your experience been with LEED EBOM vs Energy Star?


Authors: Tammy Bui and David Segan


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