Criticism of LEED Buildings

Last week CBC radio in Toronto interviewed John Straube, professor of building science in the Civil Engineering Department and School of Architecture at the University of Waterloo. The topic was the recent falls of glass from Toronto highrise buildings but Prof. Straube also introduced to radio listeners the concept that LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) buildings do not achieve the energy savings that LEED claims.

Having wondered for some time about the lack of quantifiable energy and environmental standards for LEED buildings, GallonDaily’s editor went looking for documentation to back up Prof. Straube’s claim. It was quite easy to find under the title Mis—LEED—ing on the website http://www.buildingscience.com/documents/insights/mis-leed-ing . Building Science Corporation is a consultancy and information provider focussed on a wide range of building aspects: John Straube is a principal of the Company.

The Mis—LEED—ing article is unsigned but is apparently written by the principals of Building Science Corporation. It provides a detailed examination of data on LEED from the New Buildings Institute and the US Green Building Council. The analysis is too detailed to present here but is well explained in the paper. The conclusion: “LEED buildings did not conclusively save any energy compared to typical buildings built at the same time”.

The Straube critique is not the only criticism of LEED that can be found in the literature but it is a close to home critique. GallonDaily’s advice is that those who commission new buildings might want to ensure that claimed energy and environmental savings are real. At the same time, the Canadian and US Green Building Councils might want to consider making sure that the LEED program achieves real energy savings and real environmental improvements. LEED has arguably been the most succesful sectoral environmental initiative in North America to date. It would be a huge disappointment, as well as a potential legal and financial risk, if ultimately it all turns out to have been a massive greenwash.

There is a response to the criticisms of LEED at http://www.cagbc.org/AM/PDF/110401_Defending_LEED.PDF but in GallonDaily’s opinion it doesn’t go very far in addressing the well-documented criticisms documented by Building Science Corporation.

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