When the U.S. Green Building Council first introduced its LEED program, a lot of Architects “drank the Kool Aid,” myself included. I quickly ran out, attended all of the seminars, took the exam, and became a LEED-Accredited Professional (and still maintain it today). I ignored calls by other Architects that LEED is an expensive, point-chasing system that doesn’t go near far enough in energy conservation.
I still believe that LEED has many stellar qualities, and is one of many reasons why Energy Codes and Green Construction Codes have made tremendous progress in recent years. I commend it for bringing environmentally friendly design into the mainstream. And, in USGBC’s defense, they have made considerable strides in improving the program, acknowledging themselves their many shortcomings, and making it tougher to earn and maintain points.
However, my interest in LEED specifically has waned considerably in recent years due to several reasons:
- The added expense (easily $20,000 as a minimum) of the application and documentation process is frequently cost-prohibitive for small projects (unbeknownst to many, USGBC is not a government agency, but a non-profit, and is doing very well in this down economy).
- Local governments jumped in completely without fully understanding the additional costs borne by tax payers.
- And, many LEED-certified buildings, it turns out, didn’t perform as advertised.
In the end, I still believe LEED is a viable program, but spending 5 figures for the additional paperwork is irresponsible. That money would be much better spent on improving systems further, or adding features, or any number of options.
The costs that local governments are absorbing for LEED are obscene. They were sold a bill of goods years ago without much research and forethought. Between mandatory certification for publicly funded projects and tax breaks given to non-performing privately funded buildings, local municipalities are spending millions unnecessarily and without getting a return on their investment.
Green Building is a moral imperative – there should be no debate about that. Energy conservation, water conservation, and natural resource protection should be mandatory for every building. Much of what LEED advocates is becoming integrated into Green Building Codes, and, when adopted, may make LEED obsolete. Until that time, the expense of LEED is unnecessary, unjustifiable. Just my opinion.