In this guest post, HOK Director of Sustainable Design Mary Ann Lazarus responds to a recent USA Today report by providing her take on the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Green Building Rating Systems.
USA Today just published a pair of articles about green building that are critical of the USGBC and the LEED rating system.
As early adopters of LEED, we are big supporters of this rating system. Since the late 1990s, we have watched it trigger a remarkable transformation toward designing and building more environmentally responsible buildings. This includes contributing to a broad public awareness about the importance of sustainable design.
LEED has sparked the development of completely new industries, market opportunities and products that promote green building. It has aligned commercial and environmental interests, and its contributions to our economy have proven resilient during the recession.
We have seen LEED generate many verifiable positive performance outcomes in existing buildings, new construction, homes, interior fit-outs and neighborhoods. This includes reduced resource consumption, an increased bottom line, and improved health and welfare for occupants. These “triple bottom line” benefits for the environment, economy and people are what sustainability is all about. With the right team and client, we know this can be achieved at very little or no additional first costs and with significant long-term savings.
LEED is an optional rating system. One clear sign of its success is that some entities choose to adopt LEED as a way to set a baseline standard and then incentivize its use. The impact of the system on non-LEED buildings through the creation of best practices in sustainability is undeniable.
With the recent development of high-performance codes and standards such as the new International Green Construction Code, the industry is moving toward a codified approach to driving better performance in buildings. This is all for the good. The 20th-century standard practices for developing our built environment must change to align with the needs of our planet.
LEED can and must be improved of course. That’s what is happening now as part of the consensus-based development process,where the proposed fourth version of the LEED rating system is currently out for its fifth round of public comment.
LEED is a powerful idea that has contributed to a sea change in our approach to the built environment. It has pushed us in the right direction. Let’s recognize that.
For well-informed reactions to the USA Today articles, I encourage you to read Nadav Malin’s post.