Sunday, October 28, 2012

Green energy waste: LEED's a loser

Last week USA Today ran a series on green energy. There was a lot of wading through the reeds in the paper's thorough investigation. One reed was LEED, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a green building certification program that has been adopted by 13 federal agencies and most of the states.

Has LEED made a difference in saving energy? No. But it has been a boon for consultants and self-anointed green experts.

From USA Today:
LEED's growth has been driven partly by the building council itself, a 13,000-member non-profit chiefly run by architects, builders and building suppliers. Many specialize in — and profit from — the type of design the council certifies and promotes. The council collects up to $35,000 in fees for each LEED certification.
The most popular LEED option — earned in 99.7% of the buildings — has no direct environmental benefit but generates millions of dollars for the building council by giving one point if a design team has a LEED expert. People become experts by passing a LEED course and paying $550 to $800 to a non-profit that the building council created in 2007.

The building council gets 5% of those fees — $3.3 million from 2008 through 2010, council tax records show. The council rewards the inclusion of LEED experts to encourage building designers to learn about LEED.

More than 90% of the buildings got points for using indoor paints, adhesives and flooring that aim to protect occupants' health by emitting fewer contaminants. Widely used, the materials add little cost or effort and have no impact outside the building.
What else? Well, 26 percent of the LEED buildings are federally-owned--so you are paying for this largess and transfer of wealth to the hardly-impoverished consulting class.

Here's another dead reed from LEED. A recent study of Navy buildings found that four of its eleven buildings reviewed used more energy than their non-LEED counterparts. Of the rest, another four were better energy-wise by only nine percent--not enough to earn LEED points.

The whole thing seems, well, pointless. Unless you are a consultant in need of cash.

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