For the past five years Inhabitat has written about many LEED buildings. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification system has proven to be enormously successful at pushing commercial buildings to reduce their environmental footprint. However the New York Times featured an important story on the under-performance of some of these buildings and has just published an opinion piece by Alec Applebaum in which he suggests that governments add-long term energy management initiatives to a LEED building in order to keep the project from “going gray after its grand opening.” Is the LEED system dropping the ball on energy efficiency?
The USGBC is a consensus-based membership organization and has developed a broad array of certifications for almost any kind of building, including entire neighborhoods. To its credit the USGBC has been very adaptive in its twelve years developing the LEED system. Many oversights, vagaries, and priorities have been addressed by LEED, which is now on version 3.0. One of newest changes is that a building needs to report annual energy use and compare it with the designed energy use. According to a USGBC study, approximately half of all certified buildings would not even make Energy Star. Currently there is no penalty (such as a revocation of the certification) for buildings that miss their projected energy targets. Mr. Applebaum would like to see an aggressive incentive program for buildings to go beyond a basic LEED certification, a baseline that is relatively easy for many projects. We fully agree.