Is the LEED program a fraud?comments (14) March 13th, 2009 in Blogs
The LEED rating system is “a tragedy,” according to Henry Gifford, resulting in buildings that use more energy, not less, and “a fraud perpetrated on U.S. consumers trying their best to achieve true environmental friendliness.” Henry is a mechanical systems specialist in New York City and, apparently, a vocal critic of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. I heard him make these claims on Tuesday night as he sat next to Brendan Owens, USGBC’s vice president of technical development. The two were part of a public debate that took place in Boston at Building Energy 09, the annual conference of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association.
The source of the debate is a study released a year ago that compared the energy performance of LEED-certified buildings with that of existing, noncertified buildings. The USGBC claims that the study shows LEED buildings to be 25% to 30% more efficient, but Henry says their methodology is flawed. According to him, the LEED buildings actually use 29% more energy than other buildings. Henry also thinks that “green” buildings ought to be certified based on their performance after a year or two of service and that the energy use for buildings ought to be available to the public on utility Web sites. You can read more about Henry’s views on his Web site and in the latest issue of Northeast Sun. Iconoclastic building scientist Joe Lstiburek has weighed in on this debate (pretty much agreeing with Henry), as has Nadav Malin of Building Green.
I should make it clear at this point that the study and the controversy surrounding LEED deal only with commercial buildings, not houses. The USGBC launched the LEED program for commercial buildings more than 10 years ago, while LEED for Homes is brand new. I hesitate to offer an opinion on all of this because I haven't read the study and don't understand the rating system like these other guys do. But I will venture to say that launching LEED and then waiting 10 years before studying the actual performance of certified buildings hardly qualifies as “leadership.” And I certainly hope that the LEED for Homes program learns from this embarrassment.
posted in: Blogs, green building, architecture, hvac
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About this blog
As the editor of Fine Homebuilding, I spend my weekdays trying to produce a magazine that will satisfy 300,000 of the most demanding builders, both professional and amateur. As the owner of a 200-year old Cape in Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills, I spend weekends working on my house.
Each activity invariably informs, and complicates, the other. In this blog, I’ll offer observations from both worlds -- publishing and building -- with the hope of providing some useful or at least entertaining insights.