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Yes, the Department of Defense is using ASHRAE 189.1 and other guidelines--but a code is not the same as a rating system, says an Army spokesperson.

Blogger Chris Cheatham of the Green Building Law Update raised alarms about LEED's future earlier this week with this eye-popping headline: "Army Abandons LEED Certification." Citing testimony by Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Dorothy Robyn that discussed the Department of Defense's intention to create its own internal building code based on ASHRAE 189.1, Cheatham concluded that LEED was dead in the military and that this was a "game-changer" for federal contractors, LEED APs, and the very survival of LEED.

Along with some commenters on Chris's post, we suspected this conclusion was a little premature. LEED has a lot of challenges ahead, but we have confirmed that losing the Army is not currently one of them.

As Dave Foster in the Pentagon's Media Relations Division told us, "LEED is a rating system. ASHRAE is a construction code. The two are not the same."

The Army started using 189.1 more than a year ago--and we looked into whether they were abandoning LEED then. Later, the military appropriations bill literally tried to outlaw pursuit of  LEED Gold and Platinum, and again we looked into whether the Army was abandoning LEED. The answer was no both of those times before, and it's still no.

Quoting folks in the office of Katharine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy, and the environment, Foster explained to me that the Army "will continue to seek LEED certification for our buildings built to that standard and expect to get LEED Silver or better at no additional cost."

Why do both LEED and 189.1?

It's becoming clear that the Army (and the military generally) views ASHRAE 189.1 and LEED certification quite differently. So does the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which helped develop both 189.1 and the International Green Construction Code.

Lane Burt, director of technical policy at USGBC, wasn't at all worried when I asked him about the Department of Defense developing its own 189.1-based building code. "The code tells you what to do, and LEED tells you how well you did and communicates that to the rest of the world." For building owners, LEED provides third-party validation that "you got what you paid for."

Clearly the Army values this third-party validation (as Hammack told me both times I spoke with her on this issue--see the two articles linked to above) and plans to continue pursuing it and to continue telling Congress that LEED doesn't cost more.

"They've been working on their platform for green building success for years," Burt said, adding, "We're working to support them."

Photo: U.S. Army. The Army's high green building standards have resulted in projects like the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Fairfax County, Virginia, which is targeting LEED Silver.

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1 I was teaching all of my sust posted by Lloyd Alter on 03/30/2012 at 01:54 pm

I was teaching all of my sustainable design students this morning that "LEED was f**ked." Then I was telling them that Passivhaus is "f**ked. I had already told them that C2C was f**ked. I don't know what to teach anymore. But this is good news to deliver next Friday.

2 Lloyd, your students are cert posted by Paula Melton on 03/30/2012 at 02:07 pm

Lloyd, your students are certainly getting a realistically baffling introduction to the world of green building rating systems and certifications. :-)

3 Teach your students to focus posted by Bill Swanson on 04/02/2012 at 04:24 am

Teach your students to focus on the numbers. What strategies have a proven benefitial effect that doesn't get disabled by frustrated building occupants. Maybe your students can create a system that isn't f**ked.

4 Army should abandoned LEED posted by R.Ambrose on 05/17/2012 at 06:01 pm

I for one was dismayed that the Army is not going to abandoned LEED. LEED is a collection of rules that defines construction practices and elements in terms of an arbitrary point value system determined by a committee. There is no single, definable metric standard (not metric as in the the system but metric as in measurable) by which a justification for any of these values can be determined independantly. The advent of ASHRAE 189.1 will provide sound, proven, quantifiable requirements for building practices and components that actually achieve the green goals that LEED attempts to reach.  I  fervently hope that the Army will make clear that when there is a conflict between LEED and ASHRAE, that ASHRAE governs. The contention that LEED will tell me how well I did (what? am I a grade schooler who needs to be told that I did a good job! I am a professional licensed architect!) and provides for Public Recognition of the 'greeness' of your project is truly irrelevant. This is more like a sycophantic quest for popularity than sound building practice.

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