Yesterday's New York Times has a great overview on the the elephant in LEED's room. The story, "Some Buildings Not Living Up to Green Label," by Mireya Navarro, discusses how many buildings aren't as efficient as they were planned to be, or should be.
It's a good overview for those who don't already live the problems and issues discussed in it. Though the article discusses a very valid question, I don't know that it's really fair, considering the
USGBC did not even require a LEED building be more energy efficient than a standard building until June of 2007. Plus, both the main building cited in the article and the study of 121 buildings mentioned in it looked at buildings certified through 2006. (Doing a similar study looking at buildings designed and built since then would be fascinating but I digress.)
Anyhow, what I find most interesting is the last line of the story where Scot Horst of the USGBC says LEED may eventually move towards the EPA's Energy Star Model where buildings must attain the label each year in order to keep it. "Ultimately, where we want to be is, once you're performing at a certain level, you continue to be recertified," he said.
This raises two main questions in my mind. First, if that's where the USGBC wants to be, why isn't it there now? LEED 2009 has some major changes in it, but it will be another couple years until the next version is released. I understand that LEED is still a growing tool (and money-maker) but if this is really the way it will be in the end, why not just bite the bullet and figure out a way to incorporate the goal now? The Living Building Challenge had some pretty audacious goals as a part of its first incarnation. Why can't LEED make these changes now?
Which brings me to my other main question. Is the idea of making LEED something that can be rescinded even realistic? While there is no denying that it would be valuable to require LEED buildings be tested every year to retain their certification, LEED is an investment and an expensive one at that. Would it become a less attractive investment from a business perspective if your pretty little plaque could disappear due to let's say a crummy building manager?... or to a changing system? What if further versions of LEED required changes that you simply couldn't add on to a building. Would you be penalized and lose your certification because you, or the person you bought a building from, didn't make a significantly different decision in design?
Maybe commissioning should become a required part of LEED. But that also adds costs to a project.
What do you think?