Frank Gehry, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect responsible for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Dancing House in Prague, has slammed the LEED certification, saying it is awarded for ‘bogus stuff’ and that climate change and sustainable design are “political” issues. This will no doubt raise a few eyebrows in the environmental and design sector, as ensuring buildings are as energy efficient as possible has the potential to cut CO2 emissions drastically. Currently, almost a third of greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to the construction and housing sectors.
Speaking to the CEO of the Pritzker Organization during the annual Cindy Pritzker Lecture on Urban Life and Issues at Chicago’s Harold Washington Library Center, Chicago Tribune writer Blair Kamin noted that Gehry did not seem too taken with the environmental concerns surrounding construction. When asked about energy-saving green architecture and global warming, the architect did not exactly warm to the topic. “I think the issue is finally a political one,” Gehry said.
The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system for buildings awards points for energy-saving features, but it has been criticized in the past by those who consider some features (like bike racks) superficial add-ons. Referring to the certification system, Gehry said: “A lot of LEED is given for bogus stuff.” The costs of making a green building are “enormous,” he said, and “they don’t pay back in your lifetime.”
However, Gehry is right in that it can be expensive. It was recently stated that in some countries, making the average family home more energy efficient can cost as much as $12,000. However, with CO2 emissions being cited as the main cause of global warming, we have to disagree that the costs of making buildings more eco-friendly aren’t paid back in our lifetime; not all costs, after all, are financial.
LEED certification is a more complicated issue though; if what Gehry says is true and merely having a bike rack classifies a building as being environmentally friendly then perhaps a rethink of some of the criteria is in order. Encouraging your staff to cycle to work is not the same as reducing the building’s emissions output and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design should address this as soon as possible.
Where do YOU stand on the issue? Is Gehry correct?