So a few years later, in 1993, a private organization LEED was underway with a program that had admirable goals. Those goals are still admirable today. However, LEED standards have many critics and most criticism is believed to be well founded by many experts in the very diverse fields of energy and our environment. For many, the highest standard, Platinum, is far from being True Green. Reportedly some facts have come into light depicting failed or disparate rules that award buildings points toward LEED certification.1
One case is the Bank of America Tower that opened for business in 2010. Built in New York City and promptly labeled as: One of the world's most energy and environmentally efficient skyscraper to receive Platinum LEED certification. However, by 2012, the tower is known to use more energy and create more greenhouse gases than any other comparable building found in the Big Apple.2 Several other buildings, such as the Empire State completed in 1931, along with buildings with lower LEED certifications that consume less, only demonstrate an inherited failure incorporated into the "point structure" for receiving LEED certification.
There is difficulty in justifying why a building should receive points toward LEED certification just because they have educational posters and displays throughout the building. What does having bike racks do for a building's energy or environment consumption? Bike racks help the individual person to use and waste less when commuting, this doesn't make the physical building more efficient and yet points are award toward LEED certification. I also was told that if two people built the exact same building, but one had spent time and money to be LEED certified, the certified person would receive more points toward his or her building. So two buildings that are exactly the same receive a different set of points.
The USGBC who operates LEED is correct when they state they have no control over how the buildings are used by the tenants that occupy the office space. Nevertheless, many have asked why not revoke the LEED certification when evidence is presented to show waste. A recently reported answer from Scot Horst, senior vice president for LEED, said, "We are not the government. We can't regulate anything."
While the LEED point systems are in question, LEED's global portfolio does demonstrate a positive effort toward more accountable construction. A close look at Bank of America's Tower shows this with the building using a co-generation power plant on site to produce electricity. The building deviates consumption from peak hours to off peak and reduces the load on the power grid. Thus, the local infrastructure that has aged-out, can provide for other consumers.
Perhaps a better way can be obtained through some team work. A correct balance should be obtained between what the government and private industry operate. In addition, those who build and consume, must realize there is an accountability and consequences to our deeds.
I for one, believe here in the United States, EPA should correct and regulate the LEED point system, while USGBC continues with the implementation. This way we can have a check and balance to LEED certifications and avoid walking forward through smog filled air.
Bill Lauto, at GoingTrueGreen.com
International Sustainability and Energy Consultant
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1 - Testimony before the House in 2012 by John Scofield, professor of physics at Oberlin
2 - According to data released by New York City in fall 2012