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In the years that I've been reporting for Environmental Building News, I can't think of another news story that has drawn as much immediate and widespread interest as our recent coverage of the filing of a $100 million class-action suit against USGBC for allegedly defrauding the building industry based on misrepresentations of the performance of LEED-certified buildings. I interviewed several of the parties involved, including the lead plaintiff, Henry Gifford.
The merits of the lawsuit itself aside (and it's got problems, as noted in the EBN article), I have found it particularly striking how many people have used the news as a flashpoint for complaining about LEED and USGBC. Following are some of the more reasoned opinions from around the Web that are generally anti-USGBC and anti-LEED:
Can we agree that USGBC through LEED has gotten too big for it's own (and architects') good? We have an outside party telling the public that they, and not architects, are the primary source of eco-build data and techniques. Architects have been quick to buy into the program, seeing that LEED AP is quickly added to their credentials. I hope the expansion of LEED under v. 3 (finally) makes people in the profession reassess their wholesale adoption of the program. (Anonymous, at GreenSource.com)
The suit is on point, I have been involved with two many LEED AP's that were interior designers in their life before they took the AP Certification and they are telling the MEP Team that we do not know anything about thermal transfer, building shell performance, and proper design for an efficient system. It is time to make this work across all certifications. If you are receiving a professional certification. (Anonymous, at GreenSource.com)
Most LEED buildings have energy performance no better than most new and old buildings, and in too many cases, it is worse. Between compliance with ASHRAE 90.1 and the measures to get more LEED energy points, buildings become so complex that they cannot be operated efficiently, and too often they waste energy efficiently. (Larry Spielvogel, at the Green Real Estate Law Journal)
I've also been impressed by many people taking a more sympathetic view of USGBC, and their own measured view of the situation. Following are some notable comments.
I would only say to Gifford that this discussion is not going to be effective in court. The question is a scientific and social one: How do we create a better built environment and reduce dependence on fossil fuels? Law professionals may not know to answer this question, which is more fitted as the subject of a green building conference. (Gahl, at BuildingGreen.com)
Having been with LEED from the beginning, I have my share of frustrations w/ it. But that's mostly from various blinkered applications of LEED on the part of clients, design professionals, and contractors. We are all learning this stuff together. If LEED was any more stringent than it is, even more building owners would just ignore it altogether. (Julie, at BuildingGreen.com)
To sue the USGBC because LEED buildings don't always save energy is like suing an apple tree because it doesn't deliver oranges. LEED rewards energy savings, along with dozens of other optional strategies like reducing toxics or saving water.... Sustainability is organic and comprehensive, not limited only to energy. (Scott, at BuildingGreen.com)
If Gifford's, or anyone else's foundational belief is that LEED is imperfect, I agree. I have also seen LEED-Certified buildings that were not very impressive once up and running either because of poor operations and maintenance or inacurrate submissions by the engineering & construction team during the process. However, it is still the best prescriptive guideline to incorporate sustainability into a building. (Anonymous, at GreenSource.com)
I don't know of anyone who would claim LEED is perfect- the USGBC itself has acknowledged and tried to correct its shortfalls-- and I don't think it's "sold" as a guarantee of energy savings. It's also entirely optional, run by a non-profit with open participation by members. (Anonymous, at GreenSource.com)
If you're in one of these camps, which I've characterized as anti-LEED versus sympathetic to USGBC, what practical experience have you had in the industry that helped form your viewpoint? Please comment below--no prognosticating without sharing a specific experience that happened to you (such as work on a LEED project), that shaped your viewpoint.
Innovation point: based on your experience how should LEED, USGBC, GBCI, or the green building movement change to better advance sustainability?
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