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The Gap between Perception and Reality in Sustainable Community Developments

Evaluating Sustainable Communities

Marcella Whitfield

on 20 July 2015

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Transcript of The Gap between Perception and Reality in Sustainable Community Developments

Do they work?
Many implementing without feedback
Is there room for improvement?
How accurate is modeling?
Design intent does not equal actual post occupancy performance
community developments
Sustainable Community Developments
The Gap between Perception and Reality

Marcella Whitfield
Electric Utility Sponsored Rebates
Evaluating Sustainable Development (SD)
Types of Programs
Small Business Retrofit
C&I Retrofit
Prescriptive and Custom
C&I New Construction
Commercial and Industrial (C&I)
Larger % Covered
Limited Measures
Smaller Projects (Scope, Rebates)
Direct Install with Contractor
Business Retrofits

Don’t have $$ or time
Lack of knowledge
Skeptical (too good to be true)
Hardest Sell – Small Business
Remove Barriers for Retrofits
No Money
Lack of Knowledge
No Time
Food Service Equipment
Compressed Air
Lighting Retrofits
Typical Retrofits

Fixed incentives for common measures
Pre-determined energy efficient measures and incentives
No detailed engineering analysis required, simpler applications
Lighting and New Construction Lighting, HVAC, other High Efficiency Equipment
Traditional Retrofits
Retrofit: replacing equipment with new more efficient equipment
Site-specific, cost-effective measures not included in Prescriptive
Requires site-specific energy analysis and costs (kWh reduced)
Pays a percentage of project cost based on overall project details and kwh savings
Typical measures include energy management systems, compressed air and whole building systems
Based on implementing low cost measures that change the way a building operates rather than installing new equipment
Includes measures not in prescriptive program
energy management systems, compressed air, process, and whole building systems, building envelope improvements

Site-specific engineering and cost analysis required to determine kWh and kW saved from baseline
Look at synergistic effects of SYSTEMS

Incentives typically pay…
up to 50-100% of ENTIRE project cost for retrofit
up to 50-75% of Δ cost between baseline and efficient equipment on new construction projects
Typically won’t incentivize projects that are too good (< 1 year payback) or not economically sound (> 7-10 year payback)


Design and Develop Sustainable Buildings and Communities

Communities are not yet sure how to develop sustainably...
Are they performing?
Communities need to know if a framework
"You can't manage what you don't measure"
- Deming
Rating Systems for New Sustainable Communities
Every Sustainable Rating System
Communities need a
- Distills the information
- Easily digestible format
- Reports performance of rating systems
- "Angie's List" for Sustainable Developments
Sustainable Community
"Guide to Rating Systems"
Sustainable Community Development
Evolution of Sustainable Development
Evaluating Performance
Why is Measurement Important?
Monitoring in Sustainable Development
Research Methodology
Research Data
Barriers to Monitoring Sustainable Developments
The Road Ahead – Closing the Gap
Evolution of Sustainable Development
...so they turn to frameworks as a guide

Guidelines and Criteria
Prescriptive (checklists) and Performance (predicted)
Certification based on design intent (modeling)
Many not based on actual performance or final condition
Different frameworks = different goals
There is no one size fits all solution...yet this seems to be our approach

Green Building Frameworks
Real World Application
Good Intentions
Developer builds sustainable community based on framework
Certification based on good intentions
Development is certified sustainable based on design and plans
Performance Assessment after completion
Developer is aware that no one will assess the performance post occupancy
Occupants assume community will perform as advertised

How Would We Perform?

The road to success is

paved with good intentions…

Actual Performance
“Measuring sustainability
means we are getting serious about sustainability."
-Newman, 2006

How effective are current
strategies and frameworks?

How do we know?
Need for Evaluation
Plan, Check, Do, Act Cycle
Emphasizes need to evaluate performance to continuously improve process
Outcomes of Evaluation
Assess effectiveness and performance
Measure progress against goals
Identify best practices
Continuous improvement
Compare performance against others

Original Research Intent
Initial data revealed...
There was very little data on how communities were performing...
Identify and analyze current monitoring efforts in Community Developments touted as "Sustainable."
Revised Research Intent
What do they monitor?
Why do they monitor?
How do they monitor?
Does not evaluate HOW they are performing
Encouraging Trends in Monitoring
One Planet Living Framework
Endorsement requires monitoring post occupancy
Responsible Care in Chemical Company
Carbon Buzz
Self reported monitoring for buildings

Research Methods
Contacted 25 Sustainable Communities
Contacted both Municipality and Developer
Completed and Construction in Progress
Survey utilized to standardize data collection
Survey sent/collected via 145 emails
September to November 2013
Interviews utilized when offered
Research Reports
when supplied by developer/municipality
Google Translate utilized
Increased response

Communities Contacted
Communities Responded
Identify what works
Developments cite attributes based on design intent
Actual performance is rarely evaluated post occupancy
Perception is reality
Good intention does not translate to good performance.

Carbon Buzz Survey
Survey Questions
Does your community monitor (or plan to) the performance of any sustainable performance indicator?
How far from completion is your community development?
Who is responsible (or will be) for monitoring performance at your community?
What is the motivation to monitor sustainable performance? Help us understand why you monitor.
Is (or will) energy performance monitored?
What are some issues you have run into in trying to monitor Sustainable Performance? 
What methods were used to collect data?
How is performance reported?
How much does it cost to operate the monitoring program and publish the report? 
Are there any lessons learned in monitoring performance that you would like to share?

Sample Data for BedZED

Short Answer Data for BedZED

Short Answer Summary

10 of 16 surveyed communities have finished construction
7 of the 10 completed monitor at least 1 indicator post occupancy
3 of of the 10 completed monitor more than 1 indicator post occupancy (4 of 6 not completed)

Survey Says

People see what they want to see or at least what they expect to see…Who wants to see a “sustainable community” that is failing to operate sustainably?

Green-washing Marketing
Accuracy/Standards of Monitoring
Cost to Monitor and Report
Consumer Demand
Barriers to Measuring Performance

“Given the wide and increasing recognition that human development urgently needs to take a more sustainable path, it is imperative that systems exist to identify related goals and measure, assess, monitor and audit progress towards their achievement.” (Mitchell et al. 1995)

“Given the wide and increasing recognition that human development urgently needs to take a more sustainable path, it is imperative that systems exist to identify related goals and measure, assess, monitor and audit progress towards their achievement.”
-Mitchell et al. 1995

The Path Forward
Suggestions for Developing Communities that Perform Sustainably...
Annual Monitoring Requirements
One Planet Living Endorsement (only for 8 years)
Increase Awareness in Consumers
Demand more Reporting (PROOF) (long term)
Expect more Monitoring (willingness to be part of R&D)
Increase community/developer involvement & responsibility
Creating places involves more than just changes in the built environment...must accompany post occupancy programs and activities (parking example)
Innovative Private/Public Partnerships
FundRise & Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation
Pair Academic Research Needs with Communities
Who monitors post occupancy?
Very little monitoring of SD Communities post occupancy to gauge success of strategies or frameworks
Both developers and municipalities do not feel responsible for monitoring performance of developments post occupancy
European communities monitor more than North American
Communities not interested or aware of need/missing data
Example: Dockside Green discrepancy
Only monitoring critical indicators for area
Messy: Cross-cutting organizations, profit/non-profit
Monitoring methodologies are not well developed/trusted to evaluate sustainable community performance
Monitoring Fatigue and Privacy
Cost to Monitor cited by developer
No demand from consumers
Little long term monitoring
Monitoring stops when development stops
Issues with Monitoring
14 European
11 North American
7 North American
9 European
Source: www.ourbreathingplanet.com
Why monitor post occupancy?
Demonstration - test effectiveness of technology
municipality responsible (European)
mandated by municipality, developer responsible (NA)
Economic (OPL)
Marketing and Economic Viability/Replicable
Of the communities that completed construction...
- Most monitor only during construction phases.
Of the communities that monitor post occupancy
- Typically only 1 indicator monitored of interest to the municipality
- The Municipality is responsible for monitoring costs and admin
- Motivated to monitor for demonstration purposes.
We think its Sustainable
We know its Sustainable
Its time to eliminate this!
North America
Motivated by R&D (but only in energy and TOD)
Low income housing (not representative)
Sponsored/conducted by municipality
No long term monitoring
Developer responsible
Compliance (Zoning/MDA) - during not post
Economic - OPL and marketing - only as required
Municipality not interested/not informed
Not enough resources
More Research
- Public/Private Partnerships for funding
- Matchmaker Site for Academic/Developer Research Needs
- Website ranking SD Community Performance on what they actually monitor NOT marketing claims
- Best Practices in Monitoring

Warning: I overlooked the fact that this time frame happens to coincide with mail delivery in my neighborhood. Please excuse the commotion caused by my dogs during this time, as they are delusional and believe their barks keep our home safe from the evil mailman. I have taken every precaution to muffle their barks during my presentation.
Built Environment Consumes Resources
Communities and buildings are built and certified as sustainable based on design intent NOT post occupancy performance.
The road to success is not paved with good intentions
...actual performance matters!
For full report and data, please see paper in conference proceedings or online at:
Full transcript