Is LEED Really Leading?

Thu, 2009-09-24 00:57

The New York Times recently published an article discussing whether or not LEED Certification is actually beneficial to the environment. The Times suggested that buildings labeled as LEED certified have not lived up to their "green" expectations. Some LEED-certified buildings, in fact, are not very energy efficient. In the wake of all the changes abounding from the USGBC about LEED, the Times brings up an interesting discussion: Is LEED really leading, or is there a better green model?

The USGBC recently decided to make LEED project teams track energy savings up to five years after receiving LEED certification. This is to ensure that the building is functioning, and saving, the way it was intended to. The USGBC is constantly working on improving the LEED Rating System and admits that buildings that passed under old standards would not qualify for LEED designation under today's more stringent standards.

As one critic states, "Early LEED versions were simply a series of checkboxes. People chose what they wanted and left the rest. If they didn’t choose the energy efficient options, there wasn’t much stopping them."

LEED certification used to measure energy equally with other environmental attributes. If a project met enough of the attributes to achieve certification without the energy component, it could rightfully attain the designation.

Now, as another critic noted, if the owner’s requirements are to achieve a high level of energy efficiency, that is not a failure of LEED but rather of the design and construction team to deliver a project that met those goals.

The New York Times has opened up discussion on this issue, and we're seeing a variety of responses.

Many agree, however, that LEED is the best green standard available now but that it can afford to be revised. One such revision would be joining the 2030 challenge and requiring that all new LEED-certified buildings be carbon neutral. Energy efficiency and carbon neutrality go hand-in-hand. This is where the "green environment" is heading.

As the saying goes, good things take time. It appears as though the USGBC is working to remedy any issues with its LEED Rating System. LEED has rebalanced to add more weight to energy issues, making it much more difficult for future projects to achieve certification without a significant energy reduction strategy.