LEED and Green Buildings: A Big Letdown?

Posted by: Mitchell H. Kirsch 0 comments

A LEED certification is a must-have for a green building, a mark of excellence that any environmentally-conscious builder can leverage into tax credits and bragging rights.

LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” – its certifications are overseen by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a non-profit organization that is now the country’s numero uno watchdog for green and sustainable buildings.

But apparently a “gap between design and construction” is becoming apparent, according to the New York Times’ Mireya Navarro:

(read more)

The [USGBC] council’s own research suggests that a quarter of the new buildings that have been certified do not save as much energy as their designs predicted and that most do not track energy consumption once in use. And the program has been under attack from architects, engineers and energy experts who argue that because building performance is not tracked, the certification may be falling short in reducing emissions tied to global warming.

[…] “The plaque should be installed with removable screws,” said Henry Gifford, an energy consultant in New York City. “Once the plaque is glued on, there’s no incentive to do better.”

The problem is that efficient building materials and techniques don’t necessarily translate to more efficient buildings in the long run.

See, a LEED certification for new green buildings will confirm that a building was designed and constructed using green methods… but as the current system stands, LEED doesn’t look at how the building is run afterwards. In fact, many LEED-certified buildings are known to be horribly inefficient once the ribbon has been cut.

A few activists have been crying “I told you so”; LEED-certified buildings are vulnerable to criticism that their new certifications don’t exactly guarantee continuing green performance (see this article: The Four Sins of LEEDwashing)

The USGBC has heard this before, and may act on it soon – the council may change the rules to permit revocation of one’s LEED certification if certain standards aren’t met. Decertification can be a real possibility for underperforming LEED-certified buildings.

LEED-certified buildings may also be obliged to provide information on how the building is run. Energy-use data may be collected from every rated building, and the data may be made public.

USGBC top brass plans to meet with builders, developers, and owners all across the US, hoping to come to a consensus on the needed LEED changes.

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