Last week Greenwash Action released its answer to critics of the LEED green building certification program, administered by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) and the US Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED has been under attack by proponents of the Green Globes certification program, which is administered by the Green Building Initiative.
“LEED Exposed” claims that LEED certified buildings may not be as “green” as they claim. It states that many certified buildings do not meet their energy and water savings as claimed in their certification documents. It also calls the point system, which is the basis for LEED certification, “arbitrary,” saying that many of the points are for measures that do not contribute to a building’s “green-ness.” It goes on to say that LEED certification adds costs to projects paid for with taxpayer money, and that many states are dropping the requirement for LEED in their buildings.
Greenwash Action, a joint initiative of Greenpeace and Sierra Club, has responded with an expose on who is behind the Green Globes certification program. “Green Globes is a creature of the chemical, plastic and conventional timber industries. It is being peddled as a cheaper and easier alternative to the better-known LEED green building rating system, and claims to deliver the same environmental results.”
The report goes on to criticize the Green Globes program:
- It does not require any prerequisite measures, like LEED does, setting no minimum performance level.
- It allows points for measures that do not contribute to the “green-ness” of a building, for providing conveniently located access panels, for example.
- It uses life cycle assessment (LCA) for building materials, but LCA does not address toxic chemicals in the materials or the environmental effects of logging.
- The existing buildings program offers points for operating a building legally according to local code requirements.
- It allows the use of both the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) lumber certification and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification. The SFI certification is less strenuous and was created and is supported by members of the lumber industry.
- It addresses energy efficiency through prescriptive paths instead of more rigorous solutions, and some points are not measurable until after the building is complete.
- The certification process ends with an on-site inspection that averages about 4 hours. The assessor that approves the project has discretion to decide which points apply to a certain project and whether the points are achieved. This could lead to potential corruption of the inspection process.
It is clear that the battle between the programs is not over. The goal of green building is to lessen the environmental impact of buildings and their construction. How that is measured and who decides how green a building is remains a matter of choice.