While it has been credited as a driving force behind the green-building movement, the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC's) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System has taken its share of criticism. Expensive, simplistic in some ways and too complicated in others, and just plain illogical are among the most common complaints.
Some of the complaints are justified. For example, a project seeking LEED for New Construction certification can earn a point for installing a bike rack. Certainly, it's a good thing to encourage people to ride a bike to work. It gets cars off the roads, saves gas, and reduces carbon-dioxide emissions. The problem is if you install an energy-efficient HVAC system, you also get a point. So, designing, installing, and operating a complex system that saves energy, reduces costs, minimizes pollution, and makes a building's occupants comfortable and more productive is equivalent to putting in a bike rack.
But let's give the USGBC some credit. It has heard the complaints about its certification process and taken action. It is changing the certification process after conducting a 30-day public-comment period that ended June 22 and plans to unveil a new version called LEED 2009 in January.
According to reports, the USGBC will consolidate the commercial rating systems into one system that is simpler and committed to continuous improvement. Points will be reweighed and allocated differently. The certification process will be made more flexible to account for regional differences, and it will encourage innovation.
Let's hope the changes are meaningful and productive. If LEED is to maintain its position as the premier green-building certification program, it needs to keep itself relevant. A building can be green without being LEED-certified, but there's something special about being able to show proof. That is as long as the proof is a valid, fair, and accurate assessment of a building's total design and performance.
A representative of the USGBC will be on hand to discuss details of LEED 2009 during HPAC Engineering's fifth annual Engineering Green Buildings Conference and Expo, to be held Oct. 21 and 22 at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. For more information or to register, visit www.egbconference.com.
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