Oct 6, 2010

Does LEED need to be strengthened?

 Not sure where we picked this up but we have read the general theme a few other  places that being that LEED is a bit light on defining true energy saving. It is being changed constantly and hopefully strengthened but does it involve a bit of greenwashing, that is claiming results are greener than they truly are? Read on

Four years ago, Seattle architect Jason McLennan introduced the Living Building Challenge, posing the question, “What if every single act of design and construction made the world a better place?” McLennan proposed a building standard that calls for new structures to produce all of their own energy and use only water that falls on-site. Builders must use sustainably sourced materials and avoid a “red list” of toxic materials including asbestos, mercury, and PVC. They must build on previously developed, sites and meet measurements of livability, social equity, and beauty.

The Living Building Challenge’s seven performance standards – which McLennan calls “petals,” evoking the elegance and efficiency of a flower -- are far more demanding than even the highest level of LEED, the most widespread green building certification. McLennan knows that the vast majority of developers will go about their business as usual. Yet 70-some projects are striving to rise to the Living Buildings standard, including the 11-story Oregon Sustainability Center in Portland and the Bullitt Foundation building in Seattle (none have been completed and certified thus far). I chatted recently with McLennan, CEO of the Cascadia Region Green Building Council, about the green building movement he’s working to build.

There was -- and continues to be -- no standard that helps people understand where we ultimately need to head. For the most part, green building standards are all about helping you become a little less bad. Given what we know about environmental issues around the globe, we need to move much quicker.

we require net zero energy for all buildings, which is not a small thing to achieve.

Q. One complaint about LEED is that it doesn’t give enough priority to where a structure is actually sited -- walkable, compact areas versus car-dependent places. How did you approach your location requirement?
A. We don’t allow new sites. You have to build on previously developed places -- either brownfields or grayfields. We’re basically saying if it wasn’t developed by 2007, then it’s off-limits. So all farmland stays farmland, all forest land stays forest land, etc. There are always exceptions in life, so there are exceptions in this system, but for 99 percent of projects this holds true. Our cities are filled with underdeveloped sites and poorly developed buildings. It’s time for them to be properly developed. We have enough land – we don’t need to expand anymore.
We also have another big imperative for car-free living. It’s not saying you can’t have a car, but that every decision on a development has to move us toward the ability to have a car-free society. So the project cannot lower the density of a site. If you tear down a ten-story building, you can’t replace it with a two-story building.

Q. The third area I wanted to talk about is toxics. There’s a tendency to see the climate threat as distinct from environmental health issues, but it sounds like you want to approach them all together.
A. We have to tackle it all together. The point of our whole movement is to create abundance of life, and a healthy ecosystem for all future generations. We have a current industrial system where nobody knows what’s in our materials, and there’s no plan for where they go with those chemicals when their lifespan is over. That’s a pretty bad system. So as long as we need to eat and breathe, toxics should be an important thing to watch for. And our list is not long enough, in any sense.

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