Opinions about LEED

This page will carry various sources of opinion about the LEED program. Please bear with us as will develop the page. For now, this…

Proponents of extremely tall buildings have told City Council that their buildings will be “green” and incorporate Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) standards. CityHallWatch takes no position for or against any height of building, but calls for a fair and open public discussion on the topic, and encourages public awareness of the issues and complexities involved.

Wikipedia provides a useful background on LEED.
Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies intended to improve performance in metrics such as energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

Now, below is an interesting link from no lesser authority than the National Research Council of Canada, which investigated energy performance of LEED buildings. What they found is that while LEED buildings overall appeared to perform better, energy performance of LEED buildings had little correlation with certification level of the building, or the number of energy credits achieved by the building at design time. Some LEED buildings actually performed 28%-35% worse than average.

Here are some other articles which provide some scepticism to LEED claims. There is a new a term called “LEEDwashing,” which refers to architects manipulating LEED to present non-energy-efficient buildings as green.


One thought on “Opinions about LEED

  1. Few of LEED’s objectives are opposed to important ecological concerns around the construction of mankind’s “built environment.” Although some call LEED window-dressing on an otherwise destructive human demographic and material growth paradigm, it is important to recognize that LEED itself is not to blame. Others will criticize LEED for displacing investment from more ecological alternatives, and there is certainly truth in this argument.
    Progressive architects and building technologists around the world have taken note of the fact that the operating energy consumption of our “built environment” is responsible for some 49% of our global carbon footprint. Buildings in BC account for over 70% of provincial electricity consumption.
    Driving down the energy needs of both residences and places of business, especially for heating, cooling, and lighting (the most controllable variables), became the mantra of early Passivhaus activists in Europe back in the 1970s. Places where higher energy costs provided real incentives for conservation developed more robust initiatives and code changes to “design in” significant increases in energy efficiency. North America has never been known for its innovation or even commitment in this realm, until very recently.
    The Living Building Challenge and Architecture2030 movements in the United States evolved out of frustration with the “distraction of LEED.” They both commit to radical but achievable reductions both in building construction and operating carbon footprints, in line with and sometimes even more aggressive than Germany’s Passivhaus standard, which for instance set an early maximum limit in residential energy use of 125 kWh per square metre per year (location dependent). An 80 square meter–860 square foot–home would thus be expected to consume 10 megawatt hours (mWh) of total energy per year; According to Natural Resources Canada, the average energy use of a BC home is 14 mWh, or 40% higher. Despite the significantly higher cost of LEED buildings in BC, their energy use shows no statistically-significant improvement.
    The real question is whether the high cost of LEED certification might have been better spent on advances in energy efficiency. In Europe, contractors building to Passivhaus standards now charge no more than a 10-20% premium for as much as halving later building energy costs in operation, and much of this premium has recently also gone into active solar installations to move new developments closer to off grid.
    That none of this is happening in BC has much to do with our incredibly low energy costs due to our role as a significant net energy exporter. It also has to do with a clear lack of resolve or commitment to climate justice. Our region’s recent infatuation with LEED is not much help, and may in fact be bleeding capital away from real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

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