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Government Hears Overwhelming Support for LEED

Green Globes may have come out slightly ahead in a recent “alignment” report, but support for LEED is strong in the building industry.
Nadav Malin
July 11, 2012

Atlantic Wharf, a huge mixed-use building on Boston's waterfront, is pre-certified LEED Gold. 

Photo Credit – JC Cannistraro

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), along with the Department of Defense and Department of Energy, today hosted a second “listening session” on which green building rating system it should recommend for federal government use. Public comments almost universally favored a GSA determination to continue with LEED as the government’s rating system of choice.

This rating system review is stipulated by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and supported by a report from Pacific Northwest National Labs that compared LEED, Green Globes, and the Living Building Challenge. As reported in Environmental Building News, that report found that Green Globes aligned with federal guidelines slightly better than LEED for New Construction, while LEED-EBOM bested Green Globes in the contest over existing buildings.

The first listening session took place in Washington, D.C., in late June; today’s happened online, where 25 speakers each got three minutes to speak. What they said was almost universally in support of LEED.

The Tally:

  • Pro LEED: 19
  • Pro Green Globes: 1
  • Pro Living Building Challenge: 1 (but many expressed support for it as stretch goal)
  • Pro random other things: 4

Do we need a green building “moon shot”?

Richard Graves, until recently senior vice president at USGBC and now executive director of the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), kicked off the conversation with a call for a more visionary, “moon landing” approach to the choice of rating system. Several speakers who followed expressed strong support for ILFI’s Living Building Challenge, but suggested that it wasn’t appropriate as standard for all government projects.

Raving about LEED

By the end, the session felt like a LEED pep rally. Speakers from industrial giants UT Carrier and GAF endorsed LEED, as did two people from the real estate investment trust Boston Properties, Inc., who called LEED an “incredibly effective vehicle for training people.” On their recently completed LEED Gold Atlantic Wharf tower, they bragged: “Our innovations were off the charts because of our LEED certification.”

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Vivian Loftness, Ph.D., of Carnegie Mellon University stood out for the way she added breadth and depth to the discussion. She and several others noted that the report comparing rating system “alignment” with federal goals lacked any metrics for the depth of infrastructure and community behind each system, a measure in which LEED is orders of magnitude above the others.

She also pointed out how effective LEED has been at promulgating government projects and standards into the private sector and at establishing the U.S. as a leader in green building standards internationally.

Stuart Kaplow, an attorney with experience in green building law and former chair of the Maryland USGBC chapter pointed out “the federal government is more than just a portfolio holder; it’s driving a larger marketplace.”

And Lois Vitt Sale of Wight & Company said: “LEED is more than just a plaque at the end of the road. We consider it a quality assurance process and use it even when the project is not pursuing LEED.”

Paula Vaughan of Perkins+Will and Jim Newman of Linnean Solutions, among others, made the case that LEED is the better choice because it will drive innovation. Vaughan cited the recent Chicago Tribune series on toxic flame retardants as evidence of the need for more progressive rating systems, while Newman called innovation “The essence of American industrial strength.”

And railing about other things

Of the few comments that were not glowing endorsements of LEED, Michael O’Brien, a mechanical engineer with Heery International expressed a preference for Green Globes for its “lower cost, speed of certification, and lack of prerequisites.”

And the random other votes? One argued that ground-source heat pumps should be considered renewable energy sources, and two—a lawn care labor association and power equipment trade association—complained about the 40% limit on lawn area in ASHRAE Standard 189.1. There are a few in every crowd…

 

 
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