Retool + Conquer logo

Retool + Conquer logo

LEED may be falling behind

Remember LEED, the U.S. Green Building Council’s “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” program? Of course you do. We all read about LEED from time to time. But it always pays to keep your eyes and ears open, not to mention your mind.

I encourage you to check out an article published last month by USA Today titled “In U.S. building industry, is it too easy to be green?” If you’re high on LEED, you might want to read this article for its nuanced analysis of how the building industry benefits from LEED and how the LEED program might best move forward. Unfortunately, the program in its current form may not be doing what it’s supposed to do. Like making big strides toward saving energy.

The article asserts that LEED classification is driven more by the desire for tax breaks than environmental consciousness. According to a USA TODAY analyst, “the Green Building Council has helped thousands of developers with tax breaks and grants, charge higher rents, exceed local building restrictions and get expedited permitting by certifying them as ‘green’ under a system that often rewards minor, low-cost steps that have little or no proven environmental benefit.” Ouch.

The article discusses how commercial buildings have the ability to stack up points to achieve LEED certification, and how designers will often focus on the cheapest and easiest items instead of those that may take more effort to implement but have a longer, more positive environmental effect. The article quotes Bob Berkebile, a Kansas City, Mo., architect who helped create the LEED program in the 1990s. He is still a proponent for what the program is intended to achieve, but admits that, “People have a tendency to buy points – they buy that bike rack even though there’s no value in it. It’s unfortunate. That’s just where we are at this time.”

USA TODAY supplemented the article with a couple of infographics that outline the 10 most popular and 10 least popular LEED options for making buildings environmentally friendly. Though not on the “bottom 10” list, interestingly, one of the lesser popular options is a point offered for a building that measures actual energy use. Only 23% of LEED-certified buildings have selected that option, which you might think would be a requirement given the intensions of the program.

But there may be a better future for LEED on the horizon. A new version is likely to become mandatory in 2015, and it will require building operators to present a plan for how they will run the building efficiently, and report the building’s energy and water use. And despite many of the shortcomings of LEED and other “green building” programs, there is still general support for what they are intended to achieve. Berkebile offered a great quote: “For the first time, (designers) are starting to consider how a building affects the life and well-being of the occupants and vitality of the system in which it operates.”

Do yourself a favor and check out this interesting article on one of our industry’s most controversial topics. Maybe LEED could use a little retooling of it’s own. What do you think? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Posted in Trends.
Tagged with , , , ,