by Lloyd Alter, Toronto on 10.25.10
There is a lot of schadenfreude in the air as the lawsuits fly and everyone piles on with everything they have ever hated about LEED, including the bike racks. In New York City, residents of Riverhouse (seen in TreeHugger here) are suing because, according to Stephen Del Percio, "the building's much-heralded 'green' heating system consistently fails to provide adequate heat."
Riverhouse on Green Building Law
Ernest Beck writes in Architect Magazine:
Legal battles over sustainability promises vs. performance are just beginning. But it's not only about design, it's also about contracts, expectations, and (surprise, surprise) money....Now that sustainability is an integral part of design practice and the business and marketing strategies of architecture firms, it's inevitable that legal claims and liability issues concerning green building performance will appear.
On NetGreen News, they describe how a ten year old LEED certified building is being evacuated because it is structurally unsound. The damage has nothing to do with its LEED certification, but their story is entitled "The Lowdown on LEED."
It appears to be a lousy post-tensioning job using sub-par concrete. But Dawn Killough wrote in an article entited Does Salem's Building Disaster Give LEED a Bad Name?
What bothers me most about this situation is that projects like this can give LEED a bad name. Energy efficiency, recycled materials, and green roofs don't do anyone any good unless the building is sound. LEED projects get a lot of press these days, although they are becoming more commonplace, and projects like this can leave the public wondering what designers were thinking. Are they focusing too much attention on being green and not enough on good design?
Meanwhile, the wood wars are getting up to ignition temperature as US Green Building Council members get to vote on changing the rules that currently give FSC certified wood a credit. Big green groups including the Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace have written an open letter supporting the current restriction.
The certified wood credit in LEED has been one of the principal drivers for healthy forests ecosystems in North America and around the world ˆ we believe the standards set by FSC should represent the floor, not the ceiling," [FSC President] Brinkema said.
They pull no punches in their letter:
SFI and its industry supporters often argue that choice and competition between forest certification systems is good for everyone. Choice between forest certification systems can indeed be beneficial to the extent that competition can drive improvement among all systems. However, to the extent that "choice" confuses the marketplace and falsely professes equivalence between standards and practices that do not represent the same level of environmental and social performance, it is far from being beneficial. In fact, it is deceptive and harmful greenwashing.In the New York Times, Sustainable Forestry Initiative president Kathy Abusow appears to not like the new standards much either, and says:
"Man, this is a complicated process," Ms. Abusow said. "There's just way too many hoops to jump through for just one credit."
Finally, Preston at Jetson Green points us to Kevin Pierce of Shaw Sustainable Design Solutions, who gets all Churchillian and writes:
"...democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried..." ~ Winston ChurchillChange a few words and the Prime Minister's commentary on democracy could easily be applied to LEED.
Definitely a literate critic, he then gets Hobbsian calls LEED " clumsy, brutish, long, and expensive."
LEED is not designed to be a good tool for making the goal-seeking process of architecture more efficient or effective. Although certification is dangled in front of us as a reward, the process of dealing with LEED itself is more stick than carrot.....Official LEED reviewers are often uneven, inconsistent, unreachable, and inexperienced, a result no doubt of the incredibly rapid growth the the USGBC and the newly formed Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI). And there seems to be a new fee every time you turn around.Pierce also accuses LEED of rewarding sprawl.
Commercial buildings, the primary LEED beneficiary, created 19% of total US greenhouse gas emissions in 2008. Personal vehicle use -- driving cars to buildings -- accounted for 17%, nearly as much as the buildings themselves. Yet LEED-NC (for example) has only 14 points available to reward reduced driving compared to 42 points directly related to energy reduction.More from Kevin Pierce
It is a good point; we have talked about transportation efficiency before. But as soon as you start talking about reduced driving, you get bike rack bashing. Sometimes, you just can't win; Rick Fedrizzi of the USGBC better be prepared for some rotten tomatoes at Greenbuild this year.