Post 1: Greener Construction
By now everyone is probably familiar with the term “green” – sometimes referred to as sustainable design. The acronym used in the design and construction industry is LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
Here's how it works. There’s an organization based in Washington, DC called the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and they ascribe numerical points to certain amenities and construction techniques or practices employed in the design and construction of a building or development. This organization derives its income from fees paid to “register” projects, and requiring that projects be supervised by, or at minimum be associated with, an Accredited Professional (AP) who has taken the USGBC’s prep classes, passed an examination, and also pays a periodic maintenance fee. The workings of this council, its decisions, and its policies are not regulated by any state government, regulatory body, or any other independent third party organization.
Here's what rubs me the wrong way about this whole sustainable design racket. When first introduce to LEED and its guiding principles, my initial thought was that any good architect or engineer should already be employing these principles as part of their routine practice. The need to pay money to an organization and add unnecessary expense to the overall cost of a project is totally unnecessary. To substantiate my position, the point system derived by the USGBC makes no sense and is completely arbitrary. For example, 1 point is assigned to a bike rack which may cost several hundred dollars, while an equivalent 1 point is assigned to an energy-saving, high efficiency heating and cooling system which costs multiple thousands of dollars. This poor scoring method results in one building owner paying substantially more to obtain the very same LEED certification for his building than another, even though the energy savings realizes by a better performing HVAC system far outweigh the benefits of a bike rack. I heard a firsthand account of an architect that scammed the system and achieved a LEED certification for his project by minimizing the amount of wood construction in his design (easy to do in non-combustible construction by using only metal studs and gypsum board) and satisfied the requirement for 50% recycled wood content by installing a small plaque in the building’s lobby fabricated of FSC-certified wood.
The USGBC should be commended for the tremendous job it has done of hoodwinking the industry and convincing the public and agencies of the U.S. Government that a LEED certified building is a good thing, when in actuality it can add up to 40% to the overall cost of a project and is completely unnecessary. If architects and engineers would get back to basics, and practice good, sound design principles, the need for this organization would simply go away. The USGBC is a leach on society and needs to be eliminated.