The trouble with LEED

The New York Times has noticed that LEED certification is no guarantee of energy efficiency (I posted on the same subject back in March).

Builders covet LEED certification — it stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — as a way to gain tax credits, attract tenants, charge premium rents and project an image of environmental responsibility. But the gap between design and construction, which LEED certifies, and how some buildings actually perform led the program last week to announce that it would begin collecting information about energy use from all the buildings it certifies.

I attended a seminar on LEED certification several years ago when it was first introduced. It’s basically a scoring system: buildings are awarded a certain number of points for each “green” feature, and based on the total number of points achieved, the building is certified at one of four levels. LEED Certified — the lowest level — requires between 26 and 32 points. LEED Silver requires between 33 and 38 points, LEED Gold requires between 39 and 51points, and LEED Platinum requires between 52 and 69 points.

But energy efficiency is not the only feature LEED rewards. For example, a building receives points for being constructed on a brownfield site. Bicycle racks and charging stations for electric vehicles earn additional points. These things are all well and good, but they don’t affect the amount of energy used by the building.

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