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In a long-awaited cost report, the National Research Council recommends LEED Silver or its equivalent as the preferred green building standard for the military.

This BBL-designed Air Force Reserve center at camp Withycombe was certified LEED Gold in September 2011, just weeks before the congressional ban on LEED spending took effect.
Photo Credit: BBL Architects

In the ongoing battle between industry lobbyists and LEED, chalk one up for LEED.

A long-awaited report from the National Research Council gives the nod to LEED Silver ratings "or equivalent" for military buildings. The report looked at a variety of methods of comparing costs and benefits and ultimately confirmed that LEED Silver certification is the preferred model for limiting costs and maximizing benefits.

Why this is important

The timber and plastics industries have been pressuring legislators and agency policymakers to shun LEED for years. (Lloyd Alter's fabulous ongoing coverage of that over at Treehugger is a must-read.)

What's new is that they've started succeeding at both the state and federal levels—most recently with a renewed congressional moratium on military LEED spending above the Siver level. (See Title XXVIII, Subtitle C—Energy Security.)

Takeaways from today's report

The LEED Gold ban may come to an end now that the Department of Defense (DoD) has provided Congress with the required cost-benefit analysis on green building rating systems and codes. Made public this morning, the report recommends continued certification to the LEED Silver level "or equivalent" as the baseline, according to a National Academy of Sciences press release:

The committee that wrote the report found that DOD's current policy is sound, although not every high-performance or green building will have significant energy and water savings -- even if it is certified at a LEED-Silver or equivalent rating. The research studies did not provide sufficient evidence to draw generalizations as to why, but building type as well as the specific technologies employed to reduce energy or water use were factors.

It is not yet clear, though, whether LEED Gold or LEED Platinum ratings will be encouraged or even allowed. It's also unclear what might constitute an "equivalent" to LEED Silver.

Other highlights:

  • Flexibility to modify building standards should remain in place.
  • There should be DoD policies related to measuring actual building performance.
  • The report methodology should continue to be used by DoD to prioritize green building goals in terms of cost-effectiveness (using a cost-effectiveness analysis supported as needed by cost-benefit analysis).
  • Facility managers need to be trained to ensure effective operation of high-performance buildings.

Initial reactions

"LEED has played a significant role in reducing energy and water bills in public-sector buildings across the country, saving taxpayers money and contributing to the nation's security," said Roger Platt of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), developer of the LEED rating systems, in a press release. "By using LEED, the Department of Defense is able to cut costs responsibly without endangering our nation's military readiness."

We'll update this post with more reactions as the day goes on.

Also read

We're just starting to dig into the report and have reached out to building experts at DoD and each of the armed services for comment. Watch here for more soon!

Meanwhile, get quickly up to speed on all the details in our prior coverage.

Two New Laws Restrict Use of LEED

Army to Congress: LEED Doesn't Cost More

Army: No, We're Not Abandoning LEED

Taxpayers' Group Targets Federal Government's Use of LEED

GSA May Abandon LEED Endorsement

Also stay tuned for our three-part investigative series, starting next week, on what's really up with the federal government and green building.

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