LEED: Green Standard or Black Magic?

Is the U.S Green Building Counsel’s coveted LEED Certification full of crap? No not really but it is very far from perfect. All too often green gurus and real-estate agents sing the praises of LEED certifications but when looked at more thoroughly there are many loop holes in the actual report card system so that going green is more about “smart test taking” rather then environmentally sound architecture and design. While the certification system does make important steps in defining what it is to be “green” multiple flaws in their rating system actually diminish the value of green construction.

So how exactly does a building get certified? The LEED rating system is akin to an elementary school style report card. Buildings are graded numerically in various set categories ranging from “Water Efficiency” to “Energy & Atmosphere.” Then, the tallied total declares if the building can be certified, silver certified, gold certified or platinum certified. Easy enough right? The problem however is that buildings often boost points in one category while forgoing others. What that means is a building can get LEED certified by installing a couple of $200 bike racks instead of a multimillion dollar energy heating system.

As the idea of becoming green certified becomes increasingly popular many local governments are even handing out large tax incentives to certified buildings. For example, Cincinnati, OH adopted a measure providing an automatic 100 percent property tax exemption for the assessed property value for new or rehabilitated properties that earn a minimum of LEED Certified. If the government is to through around large dollar incentives, the LEED system needs to be clarified.

With almost 20,000 buildings under the LEED system, going green is more visibly more popular then ever. While the LEED system is not quite at the level of smoke and mirrors, these flaws take money away from where incentives are truly needed. Buildings with bike racks and recycling bins on every other floor is nice but wouldn’t stronger hybrid car incentives be more beneficial?

Planet Forward’s video on the new Nissan Leaf talks about the vast importance of electric automobiles and how it is enormous asset energy conservation. Or what about a weatherization initiative? Planet Forward’s Chris Gregory and Eugenia Finizio latest video on Energy Auditing shed light on the increasingly urgent world of home weatherization. The LEED system makes great progress for global “greenification” but don’t be so quick to applaud that certification just yet.

How do you move the Planet Forward? Tweet us @planet_forward or contribute to the conversation with your own story.