Is LEED Certification Worthwhile?

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green building certification energy efficiency

Building green is not new. The back-to-the-land movement of the 1960s and the Earth Day era of the 1970s showed that we could build more energy efficient houses to have a lighter impact on the environment. In more recent times, green building has become almost urgent with the hope of reversing climate change.

Are homeowners and businesses happy in their green homes and offices? Phys Org says they are not. In studying LEED certified buildings, researchers found that building occupants were not affected by the energy efficiency or indoor air quality. Those things pretty much went unnoticed, even though they are used as selling and renting points.

What is LEED certification based on?

LEED certification is based on projections and models, not performance. A plaque on the front does not say that the building runs efficiently. It only says it was built to certain standards. If LEED ratings were performance-based, like Energy Star and Passivhaus certifications, it might make a difference to people applying for jobs and wanting to work in these buildings.

I put myself in the shoes of an average employee and wondered why it would be important to have a job in a LEED certified building. There are criteria for taking a job that supersede the actual building, like salary, distance from home, room for advancement and so on.

What would be more helpful to occupants?

I’d be more impressed if there were some sort of incentives for me as a worker to recycle, conserve water, and save electricity. If an office cut their energy bills, employees would get some sort of bonus. That might make a difference to someone applying for a job.

Clean Technica says state and municipal governments are implementing building codes that are getting tighter than LEED. By 2020 and over the coming decades, LEED will become the baseline that other codes rise from, and its importance will be watered down. It is possible to have an extremely efficient and healthy building without any certification.

That is not unlike USDA Organic Certification in agriculture. Many farmers grow organically without certification. They frequently grow beyond the regs of certification, but there is nothing to say that they do. Farmers can’t even use the word ‘organic’ in their marketing if they are not certified. Fines and penalties are high if they do.

Is certification missing the point?

I feel certification of buildings and food are a waste of money. Are they for the elite? Do businesses use them to prove a point or make a statement? I know a Passivhaus architect who did not get certification on a building because he could not get the ‘right’ door. The home uses almost no energy, but how do you market that and be credible without the certification? I am beginning to see these certifications as meaningless, and if Clean Technica is right, LEED will be in the near future.

What are your thoughts?

Do you feel that buildings should be designed with the occupants in mind, rather than the specs of the building?

What other criteria should be considered when it comes to reducing consumption, and increasing efficiency in homes and commercial buildings?

Tell us your thoughts in the comments section.

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.