If you follow the green building world, you most likely have already heard the news from the USA Today. The national paper examined over 7,100 LEED-Certified projects and released an opinion that is likely put a big target on the back of US Green Building Council. The short of their response – green is too easy.
I will not expend too much time restating the study because the USA Today article is extensive – and you need to read it. The publishers released a poor opinion of LEED, pointing to extensive financial benefits given by governmental and other third party sources to push builders and developers to target easily accessible LEED points that have little to do with fostering a sustainable building environment. The opinion is harsh, and may perhaps attract significant lawmaker attention. It comes at a poor time, as the USGBC is trying to finalize its already delayed LEED v4 (formerly LEED 2012) proposal.
We all know that LEED has had its detractors. They have been sued by some, slandered by others, and questioned by many. Some of it is market jealousy (LEED dominates the green building certification market) and some of it carries a valid point. There is clearly no doubt that LEED lacks a way to ensure that performance matches up with planning and projection. Furthermore, as the USA Today report extensively discusses, the LEED credit system has become manipulable in a way that lessens the sustainable value of the building without preventing the building from attaining certification.
But, no organization has done as much for the “greening” of the world’s buildings. For all their faults, the USGBC has improved each of those 7,100 building studied and many more. No process or standard can be perfect – and they did a pretty dang good job of implementing a standard and procedure that has in one way or another improved 13,500 commercial structures. The USGBC deserves some praise for that accomplishment, and they also deserve some trust that they will strive to always improve their standard. Like every law or requirement, it only takes some period of time until the users find a way to circumvent, manipulate or take advantage of it. Everyone deserves some time to react, and I like to think that the USGBC will react appropriately with a better standard.
The biggest fallout might come from legislators. The point that pulls the reader into the story is the vast amount of public financing and incentive provided to developers for attaining LEED certification. I do wonder whether this will hit the “causebook” of a number of congressional candidates looking to cut governmental spending. This has the potential to be an immediate problem, while LEED v4 lays in wait for 2013. We shall see.