You've heard of LEED, and maybe Energy Star and Passive House. But over at the Yale Environment 360 blog, Richard Conniff argues that a process called "commissionining" is actually the single most useful way of making sure we have energy efficient buildings. Commissioning, named after the process a Navy vessel would go through to ensure it was seaworthy, involves an engineer examining an entire building, after it's constructed, for the dumb mistakes that contribute to energy waste: ventilation systems improperly installed and the like.
The process still isn't very popular, though. Under 5 percent of buildings go through commissioning. The reason: It can seem expensive and the company that develops the building generally doesn't end up paying the energy bills.
Commissioning frequently involves no more than a few weeks of testing out systems. But in the most complete form, the commissioning agent works with architects in the design stage, to help save money by specifying properly sized energy systems, then follows the building through construction, trains the operating staff, and tracks energy performance in different seasons through the first year of operation. Older buildings now also go through retro-commissioning, in search of improved efficiency.