LEED Certification Challenges and Energy Efficiency

June 4, 2010

In an Op-Ed piece for the New York Times, Alec Appelbaum, questions the efficiency of LEED Program in the United States. Considered the highest standard in sustainable building and Environmentally friendly practices in green design; Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the certification that any business hopes to attain for green certification purposes. According to Appelbaum, “The LEED program, which awards points for incorporating eco-friendly material and practices into buildings’ design and construction, has led to a sea change in the industry, introducing environmental awareness into everything from regulatory processes to rents.”

So what does Appelbaum finds lacking in this standard for Environmentally conscious designs and buildings? Appelbaum feels that LEED program is more like a snapshot rather than the concrete foundation which government awards these certification to sustainable minded businesses and homes. As Appelbaum states:

But while the standard is well-intentioned, it is also greatly misunderstood. Put simply, a building’s LEED rating is more like a snapshot taken at its opening, not a promise of performance. Unless local, state and federal agencies do their part to ensure long-term compliance with the program’s ideals, it could end up putting a shiny green stamp on a generation of unsustainable buildings.

One of the biggest deficiency of LEED standard is that it doesn’t measure the energy performance or can predict how much energy will be required to keep that LEED certified building running. The output of energy required can be much greater than originally predicted. As Appelbaum surmises, “Bike racks merely encourage cycling to work, and operable windows merely offer the opportunity to use less air-conditioning.”

Another drawback to LEED certification is the way it is being used by marketers and developers to upsell their development. Environmentally conscious consumers are usually more than willing to shell out extra money to support environmentally friendly products, so it is with no surprise that LEED certification has become a marketing tool for developers rather than a foundation to truly build a sustainable dwelling. Not to say that all developers are using LEED certifcation for profitable purposes; but without a follow up of how efficiently LEED certified buildings fare; it does not seem to reach the actual potential that it was designated for.

Reading Appelbaum’s op-ed was an eye opener for me. Since LEED has become the leading certification for Eco-concious construction and buildings; there hasn’t been much question of its efficiency and standards. While I do believe LEED certification is the right step; it is obvious that it needs a closer look of its aftermath in terms of energy efficiency.

Source: New York Times


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Susie Kim-Carberry

Susie Kim-Carberry is a professional writer who's been featured in numerous publications, both in print and online. She started as a features writer for The Bayonet Newspaper in 1997 and studied print journalism at the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Media. Kim-Carberry is currently focusing on online media as a freelance writer, content producer and also serves as a site editor for Important Media. A self-confessed travel addict, her other equally important job is being a semi-crunchy mom to her two daughters. She tries to maintain a balanced life through her yoga practice and secretly dreams of being a Parisian one day.
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