AEC experts blast NAIOP efficiency study; NAIOP responds

April 01, 2009 |

Controversy continues to dog a February report released by NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association. The study, conducted by ConSol, a California-based independent energy-modeling firm, concluded that reaching a 30% to 50% reduction above the ASHRAE standard for new office buildings is not feasible using common design approaches and would exceed a 10-year payback. (BD+C reported on the study in its March 2009 issue.)

Among those voicing concern about the accuracy of the report's conclusions: ASHRAE, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), New Buildings Institute, Architecture 2030, and the U.S. Green Building Council.

Those challenging the NAIOP report aren't mincing words, according to CoStar Group, a Bethesda, Md.-based commercial real estate information firm. Dr. Harvey Sachs, senior fellow with ACEEE, said the study was conducted to satisfy predetermined conclusions: energy efficiency is hard to achieve and isn't cost effective. Dave Hewitt, executive director of New Buildings Institute, labeled it "artificially constrained." Ed Mazria, founder of Architecture 2030, called the study part of a disinformation campaign. The USGBC said that LEED-certified projects prove energy-efficient buildings are feasible with little or no additional first costs.

Among the experts' complaints:

  • The study used average commercial utility prices per state rather than actual rates.

  • The study failed to consider integrated design, and in fact discounted the process.

  • The study disregarded a number of accepted and available low-cost energy-efficient measures, such as chilled-beams, daylighting, and automatic light sensors.

"People who criticize the study, I don't feel they understand what we're trying to show," NAIOP president Tom Bisacquino told BD+C. "The study's objective wasn't to show how you make an energy-efficient, green building, it was to take a conventional design and see how energy efficient you can make it," he says.

Bisacquino said he wasn't promoting the building that was modeled in the study, rather it was used because its design is a conventional type being built throughout the U.S. "It reflects common practice right now," he says. "USGBC's own data indicates only 5–10% of the marketplace is embracing LEED, which means that around 90% of new construction is not."

As for predetermined outcomes, there were none, says Bisacquino. "The baseline we used is ASHRAE 90.1, and there are legislative discussions about mandating efficiencies over that by 2010—and there was no data indicating whether or not that is doable," he says. "We hoped the data would come back and say it's easily attained." However, "The study showed a standard design can go much higher in efficiency, but not the 30–50% being called for by 2010," says Bisacquino.

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