Measuring the Performance of Sustainable Communities

  • Marcella Whitfield CEM, LEED AP
Keywords: Sustainable Communities


Designing a community aligned with a sustainable development framework should theoretically lead to sustainable performance measurable by key performance indicators. These indicators can be qualitative or quantitative and are used to evaluate and measure of progress. However, perception is reality for stakeholders, as they readily accept that green designs will perform sustainably when constructed and occupied. A 2008 study by the New Buildings Institute (NBI) revealed that only 11% of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for New Construction (LEED-NC) rated buildings were performing to their modeled energy use intensity (annual energy consumption per ft2) [1]. This study led many to question the effectiveness of the LEED certification process in creating high performance buildings.

The realization that design intent, modeling and certification did not guarantee sustainable performance, spurred interest in monitoring key performance indicators in buildings. The best building designs can deliver unsustainable performance after occupancy for a number of reasons. Despite this disconnect, few developments are actually measuring and verifying performance to substantiate these claims. As seen with individual sustainable buildings, the development industry claims sustainable neighborhoods perform as designed and consumers do request proof.

This article analyzes current sustainable urban developments in the occupancy stage to determine if monitoring is occurring. The research presented will reveal what is monitored, how it is monitored, and seek underlying motivations for monitoring sustainable performance indicators. Barriers to monitoring development community performance are examined, presenting a set of methodologies to effectively overcome those barriers and motivate stakeholders towards post occupancy monitoring and reporting in sustainable developments.


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Author Biography

Marcella Whitfield, CEM, LEED AP

Marcella Whitfield is a portfolio energy manager with Jones Lang Lasalle in their Energy and Sustainability Services Group. She has 14 years of consulting experience involving institutional sustainability, C&I energy management, life-cycle analysis and resource/energy efficiency. She also serves as an engineering officer in the Air Force Office of Energy Assurance, United States Air Force Reserves, focusing on resilient energy projects throughout the Air Force. She has a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Tulane University and a M.S. in sustainable design from Boston Architectural College. She is a Certified Energy Manager, Association of Energy Engineers (AEE), and a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP). Her email address is


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