The U.S. Green Building Council has just launched a new app service that should help make it easier for builders to get the most bang out of their LEED buck. The new service, called the App Lab, is a catalog of applications created by third parties that are integrated with LEED data. App Lab is intended to steer more project teams into using USGBC’s automated LEED Online system, which will help the organization reach more users. Beyond that, App Lab could also enhance the Obama Administration’s SunShot initiative, which has the goal of reducing the cost of renewable energy partly by streamlining local regulations and administrative procedures.
U.S. Green Building Council’s App Lab
App Lab is designed to give LEED project teams easy access to compatible software, some of which is already in use. The apps are fully integrated with the LEED Online project management system. The Lab launched with eight applications but USGBC anticipates that it will quickly mushroom. USGBC Senior VP Scott Horst explains:
“The LEED App Lab has been highly anticipated as a way to leverage multiple partners to expand the presence of green building. The potential leverage points are so numerous that we really cannot anticipate the full impact of the App Lab. All we are sure of is that we have created a place to ignite the flames of true innovation and growth. LEED already embodied innovation. Now we are pushing LEED toward an entirely new world of possibilities.”
Green Buildings, Red Tape – Hey, There’s an App for That
One obvious time and money saving impact of the App Lab involves enabling LEED teams to organize their projects and lay out strategies for achieving the most certification points within their budget. It’s quite possible that future additions to the App Lab could dig deeper into the nitty gritty and help project teams navigate through local building codes, zoning laws and other administrative obstacles, take advantage of local incentives and local resources, and negotiate with community groups and other stakeholders. App Lab could also help speed other USGBC initiatives such as the Action Plan to Achieve Green Schools, and it could complement tools developed by other organizations like The Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing’s RoofPoint, which is designed to help builders and property owners maximize their roof space for sustainability.
USGBC’s App Lab and the SunShot Initiative
President Obama has taken his knocks on some environmental policy decisions, but his administration has steadily pursued a multilevel approach to transitioning the U.S. away from its outdated approach to energy generation and consumption. The Department of Energy’s SunShot initiative neatly demonstrates how this strategy supports sustainable building services like the App Lab. Though much of the SunShot program is focused on developing new energy technologies, earlier this year the Department of Energy announced a new sustainability funding challenge for SunShot, designed to help local governments digitize their permitting processes for solar installations. The round of funding also included millions for IT innovations and other administrative improvements that could play a significant role in lowering the installed cost of solar energy. That in turn echoes a broader Obama initiative to streamline government regulations across the board, with an emphasis on transitioning to online applications.
Green Buildings at the Tipping Point
When Triple Pundit interviewed Dan Geiger, Executive Director of USGBC – Northern California last January, he noted that “the incredible diversity and constant evolution of green building is astounding.” If the App Lab succeeds in its goal of trimming costs for achieving LEED certification, it could help propel green building’s evolution from the fringe to the mainstream, far more quickly than even he could have imagined.