LEED Takes Hit For Underdelivering on Federal Building

by | Sep 3, 2009

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youngstownCritics are coming out of the woodwork after the General Services Administration found that the LEED-certified Federal Building in Youngstown, Ohio, was lacking on the energy efficiency front.

In fact, the building was unable to attain the Energy Star label, reports the New York Times.

The U.S. Green Building Council, which devised the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification process in 1998, counters that the building, which was constructed in 2002, would not qualify for LEED designation today, under more stringent standards.

Indeed, in a study last year, the council found that 53 percent of 121 new buildings certified through 2006 were not energy efficient enough to qualify for the Energy Star rating. In fact, 15 percent scored below 30 in the Energy Star program, which means they consumed more energy per square foot than 70 percent of comparable buildings nationally.

Some buildings, such as the one in Youngstown, earned their LEED stripes based on aspects such as adding native landscaping, recycling graywater for irrigation and other features that don’t directly affect energy consumption.

An executive at the U.S. Green Building Council indicated that the LEED certification system may eventually move to a model like that of the Energy Star program, wherein buildings earn certification for showing energy savings over a set period, and must be recertified every year, the Times reports.

Rob Watson, executive editor of GreenerBuildings and a board member at U.S. Green Building Council, took umbrage at the criticism, in an editors’ note in a GreenerBuildings e-newsletter.

“People need to stop pretending they are providing any insight on issues LEED needs to deal with,” Watson wrote. “Honestly, anyone who thinks that the issues of energy use per square foot, how to get at operations energy though a design standard, how to make energy modeling more representative of what actually happens in a building, etc. haven’t been discussed at LEED since 1995, needs to stop sniffing whatever it is they’re sniffing. Really . . . it’s bad for you.”

“For every LEED building that doesn’t meet expectations, there are three that do and better,” Watson continued.

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