Beyond LEED

We are at an interesting moment in time. In the last decade the LEED rating system and the USGBC have seen phenomenal growth. LEED was the first really comprehensive look at multiple areas of environmental concern and the checklist, for those who engaged it, was nothing short of eye opening. We eagerly promoted LEED and its broad list of issues for all our projects. For those of us who have been using LEED for more than ten years, the quirks in the system are readily apparent, the LEED rating system has not kept pace with our knowledge, and many of us find the prescriptive nature of LEED confining. We are also troubled with the knowledge that many LEED projects are not performing from an energy perspective as designed. For instance, one friend complains of icicles forming on his LEED Platinum roof!

Many of the points seem almost irrelevant and yet they are scored the same as points that address more meaningful issues for example; the "fuel efficient vehicle parking only" sign that few building owners enforce. A few years ago, I was working on a project that was located on the top of a steep hill that served residents whose average age was 75. The roads were narrow and very unfriendly to bikes, and yet there I was installing an elaborate bicycle storage rack for residents I knew would not use it, to get that precious LEED point. My client's expectations were for a gold rating and this would put us comfortably over the threshold. While I love the fact that bicycle travel has increased and is making a real impact, I did not feel in this case, like I was adding value to the project. Providing covered bicycle parking was an added expense that could have covered other more relevant project amenities. Now I know that all points in LEED do not elicit this kind of false response, but there are enough flaws in the rating to make earning some of the points, a moral dilemma.