For many architects, our practice area lies somewhere in between the Living Building Challenge and LEED. We are green enough to want more than LEED offers but the confines of our practice, particularly budgetary constraints, limit the use of the Living Building Challenge. At Thoughtful Balance we feel very strongly about verifying our work and the work of the contractor. We need verification but we wonder if we really need validation. Although validation is a nice thing, it seems to speak to part of what is disturbing about LEED. LEED has become for many, more of a marketing tool than anything else. Striving to get the point despite its relevance for the project is not a good idea, and yet if we seek the validation for our work from outside agencies, we are likely to compromise our choices to meet the standard. Shouldn't a project team with a restricted budget spend the bulk of their money on verification rather than on an award of silver or gold?
PROJECTS ARE UNIQUE
Unfortunately, many environmental rating systems have been designed like building codes. Imagine if accessibility codes were written without strict rules about paths of travel and clearances; and instead were more open ended. The rules for the fit-out for bathrooms and the clearances and grab bars within them would be very different for a bathroom for seniors than one for veterans, and yet we use instead a prescriptive, generic code that really doesn't always work well for the individuals they are intended to protect. Designers would know much more about barrier free design if they were creatively engaged in making the solutions based on the issues. This is particularly the case with green building rating systems. The prescriptive nature of some rating systems will always force us into predefined solutions. If rating systems shift the focus from solution based criteria to performance measured criteria it would allow project teams to focus on and verify the performance of the issues that were most relevant to their projects. Each project bring sits own special set of challenges. Ideally we need to draw from all of the rating systems and focus the project on the areas that produce the largest rewards and are appropriate to that project and budget. We need to stop chasing points that really do not benefit the project and focus instead on doing the best job we can for our specific circumstance. We need to focus on real performance and not design intent.
To reach the goal of buildings that are regenerative, we will always need verification. There are too many instances where even the most committed of teams deviate from performance and installation criteria. In the immediate future we need to look towards architects analyzing their project for the opportunities that fit their situation. Verification of our design and construction are imperative to achieving a great result but perhaps our validation should come from within.