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Professor John Scofield Testifies in Front of U.S. House of Representatives

May. 18, 2012

EJ Dickson

Scofield Photo
Scofield (center), testifying at a hearing held by the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight in Washington, D.C.
House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

Professor of Physics John Scofield was recently invited to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology at a hearing to examine the criteria green building ratings systems are based upon.

Held on May 8 by the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight in Washington, D.C., the hearing examined the green building rating systems used by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the General Services Administration (GSA), which invest federal resources in the construction and development of green buildings.

Under Section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the DOE and GSA are required to determine every five years which, if any, green building rating system should be used to determine the energy efficiency of federal buildings. Both organizations are working to determine whether they will use a third-party green building rating system, like Green Globes or the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system, or develop their own federal system to measure efficiency.

Although the Department of Energy has developed a number of strategies and technologies aimed at reducing federal building energy consumption, the hearing examined the scientific record that third-party green building rating systems like LEED are based upon, as well as the cost-effectiveness of some of these technologies.

“Adopting standards for federal buildings that truly save the taxpayer money and put Americans to work is a good idea,” Subcommittee Chairman Paul Broun (R-GA) said during the hearing. “In contrast, adopting standards that don’t save taxpayer money or tell American workers that the products they make are not welcome in federal buildings defies common sense.”

To obtain LEED certification, building owners must submit construction plans to the U.S. Green Building Council to earn points for features like reduced water usage and energy efficient heating and cooling equipment. LEED certification costs vary depending on building size, but are limited to no more than $30,000 for new construction projects.

Scofield’s testimony addressed his concerns with the cost-effectiveness of LEED, which is the most commonly used green buildings ratings system. In his testimony before the subcommittee, Scofield argued that the LEED system is “a distraction, tapping our time and financial resources while yielding little documented reduction in the only metrics that matter.”

Scofield has questioned the validity of a 2008 study commissioned by the National Building Institute (NBI), which determined that buildings that employ the LEED system reduce energy use by 25 to 30 percent. His study debunking the methodology used in the NBI study was published in a peer-reviewed paper at the 2009 International Energy Program Evaluation Conference (IEPEC).  

In his testimony before the subcommittee, he said that he did not know of any “comprehensive study that uses credible metered energy data for a large number of buildings to demonstrate the effectiveness of any green building rating system at reducing primary energy consumption.”

For the last 20 years, Scofield has produced an extensive body of research and published peer-reviewed articles on solar cells, photovoltaic arrays, wind energy, energy efficiency, and green buildings. He has served on the staff of the American Physical Society (APS) Energy Efficiency Committee, and has written two peer-reviewed articles on energy consumption by LEED-certified commercial buildings.

The hearing also included testimony from Ward Hubbell, president of the U.S. Green Building Initiative; Roger Platt, the senior vice president of global policy and law on the U.S. Green Building Council; Victor Olgyay, of the Rocky Mountain Institute; and Tom Talbot, the CEO of Glen Oak Lumber and Milling of Wisconsin. 



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