A few months ago, legendary American architect Frank Gehry ruffled many green feathers by declaring that green architecture and sustainable design are “political” and that LEED certification is often given for “bogus stuff”. His comments, unsurprisingly, provoked quite a reaction in the world of sustainable design — especially when he told Bloomberg Businessweek that green building had become “fetishized” like “wearing an American flag pin”. This week, Need to Know, a new current affairs show and online news magazine on PBS, sat down with Frank Gehry to speak to him about the LEED controversy and ask what he “really thinks about green building, the LEED certification process and the future of sustainable architecture”.
While the LEED system may have its flaws, there is no doubt that it has led to businesses investing in green design and making companies care more about their carbon footprint — something that is increasingly important to politicians as well as the public. In the interview, Mr Gehry states how surprised he was by the negative reactions to his comments about LEED saying, “I wasn’t saying what they reported I said. I never said I was opposed to the LEED program or to green building — I’m not.”
“I think [global warming] is a crisis, we’re led to believe that by our scientists who seem to have a pretty good idea of what’s going on, so we have to address it if we want to survive on this planet. Of course there are also some people making hay out of it and using the issue for financial gain, but green building is clearly something architects need to be concerned with.” When pressed about how the LEED program was a way to encourage such design, Gehry said, “It is, but it’s one way among many. A lot of our clients don’t apply for the LEED certification because it’s complicated and in their view, they simply don’t need it.”
“There are other ways to encourage green building. For example, we did the Novartis building in Switzerland.” “They don’t use the LEED program over there, the government just says this is what you can and can’t do, and things have to be built in a sustainable way. So really it’s a political thing: People taking responsibility on an individual level combined with government programs that give mandates that say “this is how we’re going to require people to build.”
“Our federal government is trying to take steps in that direction. I just met with someone from the Obama administration, they are trying to enact tougher standards, but they’re having some trouble.” It seems that while Mr Gehry supports the idea of sustainable development and renewable design, he is wary of groups and organizations that use the ‘green brand’ for their own purposes… and that is a legitimate concern that we should all be aware of.