As a leading state in energy efficiency, rated ninth according to ACEEE, many Minnesota counties, cities, and neighborhoods are interested in finding ways to increase energy savings. On the whole, energy efficiency continues to be the most cost-effective way to do this, making more energy available at a cost of three cents per kWh that would otherwise have to be generated at a median cost of six to seven cents. The most popular way to increase energy efficiency in the last decade has been through voluntary building standards. While Minnesota building professionals have many to pick from, including Minnesota GreenStar, Passive House, LEED®, and the Minnesota B3 Guidelines, the latter provides the most stringent guidelines for energy savings.
The B3 Guidelines provide a broad framework to reduce a building’s environmental impact, and include the Sustainable Buildings 2030 (SB 2030) Energy Standards. Since the SB 2030 Standard implementation was initiated in 2010, updates of the progress and successes of this implementation have been shared at engineering and architectural conferences in Minnesota. However, many building professionals are unaware of what SB 2030 has to offer and how it compares to other guidelines. As one of the most widely recognized building guideline products in the industry, LEED serves as a helpful and appropriate reference to describe aspects of SB 2030 Energy Standard.
At the core, SB2030 and the energy credits from LEED 2009 New Construction (particularly Prerequisite 2 and Credit 1) both address energy conservation. However, unlike LEED 2009, a voluntary standard based on the 2007 version of ASHRAE 90.1, SB 2030 was designed to reflect the goals of the 2030 Challenge, an architectural community initiative to make all newly constructed and renovated buildings carbon neutral (emit no CO2 on or off site) by 2030. The SB 2030 Energy Standards are a mandatory requirement of the B3 program. SB 2030 was designed with the average efficiency of Minnesota's 2003 building stock in mind. With this baseline building efficiency, the guidelines grow more stringent over time, in line with the broad goals of the 2030 challenge. In comparison LEED has a process for vetting incremental guideline development, but it is not driven by an over-arching carbon reduction goal.
Beyond the actual efficiency standard, SB 2030 and LEED have a number of differences. In 2000 and 2008 the Minnesota Legislature passed and amended a bill that set in motion the creation of the broader B3 Guidelines and the requirement that the building standards to be cost-effective. As a result of this intent and the mandatory nature of the standards for state-bonded buildings, SB 2030 includes a cost-effective path to compliance that is not relevant for LEED. The cost-effective process allows a project to be considered compliant if it can demonstrate that it has included all available energy efficiency measures with up to a 15-year payback. The modeled efficiency from this set of strategies becomes the energy standard that the building is expected to meet during operation. Though this cost-effective method does require additional effort on the part of the design team for modeling and cost-estimation, it does allow specific buildings, which install high efficiency equipment, a pathway to cost-effective compliance (e.g. lab buildings that require high air-exchange).
SB 2030 currently requires projects to achieve an increase in efficiency of 60% reduction in energy use from the established 2003 baseline referenced earlier.
As ASHRAE standards grow stricter, particularly since 2010, The frigor of LEED standards will increase, while the SB 2030 Energy Standard will rise to 70% above established 2003 baseline. For LEED projects to meet SB 2030's current level of efficiency, buildings would have to be approximately 25% more efficient than LEED’s current reference standard (ASHRAE 90.1 2007), earning them between seven and eight points under the Optimize Energy Performance credit.
SB 2030 had the luxury of learning from the implementation of guidelines like LEED. Arguably, a number of features of the SB 2030 guidelines are better designed to produce measurable reductions in a building's energy usage intensity. SB 2030 requires a design simluation, but not a baseline, full-building simulation like LEED (alternate methods available). Instead, SB 2030 provides an online Energy Standards Tool that design teams use to enter information about the space types in a building and the operating schedules, which are then used to create the energy performance standard. The earlier and more frequent documentation reviews required by SB 2030 are designed to prevent "surprises" in later design and occupancy stages. Unlike LEED, which only requires documentation to be handed over once it is all assembled, often times after a building is already under construction, SB 2030 offers technical review of design documents during the schematic design phase and again during the construction document phase.
The ongoing review of a building’s energy savings is a noteworthy feature. All of the successes and short-comings of the current review process are not yet well understood, as the guidelines have only been up and running for the last three years. The potential to measure actual energy savings has, however, been established. Buildings are required to track their actual energy consumption by entering utility bill information into the B3 Benchmarking database, which then compares the actual and expected energy consumption. Annually, each building is reassessed to see if it is meeting the Energy Standard (currently at a 60% reduction for buildings designed from 2010 to 2015). This integral feature allows the SB 2030 system to actually measure energy savings over time, so state staff have the opportunity to provide ongoing feedback and to target buildings that need assistance. While this potentially robust framework exists, the success of the enforcement is not yet clear, and currently, not likely strong enough to garner all the potential energy savings.
As Minnesota continues to climb the energy efficiency ladder, could SB2030 be a more broadly utilized tool to help us get there? While some cities require that local government buildings or large commercial buildings meet LEED Certified or Silver standards, LEED is not set up to capture measurable energy savings like the B3 database does with the SB 2030 energy requirements. SB 2030 guidelines and technical assistance are free of charge (unlike other rating systems) but local technical assistance is often an overlooked virtue. These features are reasons that cities and municipalities across the state may want to consider how to engage these features and other SB 2030 resources to help develop a systems that can measure and cost-effectively improve their energy conservation efforts.
*NOTE: SB 2030 launched its new website in June. Check out the site and new case study interface.
Plugload and Minnesota Sustainable Building 2030
Sustainable Design in Minnesota
Image credit: Wonderlane, kell_bell90, McGough