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The world’s first ever Platinum LEED’s certified carbon-neutral building was recently finished in Wisconsin. According to Inhabitat, the building scored a 61 of a possible 69 LEED points, which includes producing 15% more electricity then they consume thanks to a 40KW solar installation. Furthermore, the building was constructed with nearly 100% sustainable timber and is being awarded a design and building honor from the Forrest Stewardship Council. Congratulations to the Aldo Leopold Foundation for this incredible building.
Now what’s the big deal about LEED certification anyways? The system (described in detail on the LEED website) rates buildings based on several “green” characteristics, designating a score out of 69 possible points. Pundits applaud the verifiability and the attempt to govern claims to sustainability and “green.” It’s common knowledge that it can be difficult to discern between genuinely positive environmental claims and those that simply sound eco-friendly. Opponents complain about the bureaucracy, long time costs and pricey certification process.
There is also an issue regarding how the LEED’s points are distributed between the six main categories: siting, water use, energy, materials, indoor air quality, and innovation in design. There is no mixture necessary, just a minimum of 26 points from any of the categories in order to become LEED certified. The cut and dry point system allows for builders to pick and choose from the list of points without ever understanding the ideas behind the LEED.
Yet, even though there are obvious flaws with LEED, the United States Green Building Council that established LEED, was the first organization to successfully identify a system for green building certification, and continues to improve that process. Looking at a parallel sustainability market, like that of renewable energy credits (REC), it is clear that this type of organized verification provides a regulated playing field for products. In the case of REC’s, there is a no clear certification, leading to a marketplace that is largely unsure, with pricing and consumer confidence varying widely.
The United States has become the target of criticism for its lack of federal commitment to climate change. From the Kyoto Protocol failure to federal miles per gallon standards for vehicles, the government has refused to mandate regulatory guidelines. LEED is a good example of a certification body providing a transparent framework for companies and organizations to approach the pivotal issue of sustainability. So, while nothing is perfect, let’s learn from the LEED system and start the regulatory cogs moving.
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