A high certification rating on a building means very little if the building doesn't deliver the predicted efficiencies. Day-to-day operations can make or break a building's overall performance, and demonstrating the efficacy of high-performance buildings based on real-life operations—rather than depending on performance predictions based on models—is becoming an area of concern for green building proponents and critics alike. Bridging the gap between predicted performance and actual performance will be crucial to maintaining the integrity and utility of green building certification systems.

To that end, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) recently launched the Building Performance Initiative to establish a comprehensive collection of data from all nonresidential buildings that have achieved certification under the LEED green building certification system. The program complements a new requirement in LEED, implemented this year, for ongoing performance data reporting. It also will establish a method for analyzing the collected data and will provide feedback to building owners to help them address gaps between predicted and actual building performance.

"The initiative is about gathering knowledge about building performance in a way no one has ever done before," Scot Horst, USGBC's LEED senior vice president, said in a statement about the program. "The information that we collected from our certified projects is a workable, holistic approach for achieving better-performing buildings." According to Horst, the USGBC recognizes the issues that affect a building's ability to perform at a high efficiency, including those challenges introduced by building users. In launching the Building Performance Initiative, USGBC aims to "establish a national roadmap to optimize building performance," he adds.

In September and October, the USGBC will hold four Building Performance Initiative summits around the United States; the events will give attendees an opportunity to preview the data-collection agenda and proposed analysis methodology and to provide feedback and share their stories of performance successes and challenges. The results of these summits will be reported at the First Annual Building Performance Summit during the 2009 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, to be held November 11–13 in Phoenix.

"With the right kind of information, it will be much easier to see what areas are really driving performance and what areas need to be addressed," Horst said.