HBA weighs in on the Army’s move away from LEED

Earlier this month we read a blog on the Army’s new strategy toward sustainable buildings, and the part that raised some eyebrows: it doesn’t involve the USGBC’s LEED Rating System. Instead, it seems that the Army is developing its own set of standards based on ASHRAE 189.1 “Standard for the Design of High-Performance, Green Buildings.”

HBA Architect Les Murfin, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, offers this opinion piece about the whole subject of sustainable rating systems and the trend toward codified sustainable design:

Is the end of the USGBC’s growing monopoly near?

What the Army appears to be planning to do and the Navy’s reduced requirements for “Certified Buildings” could be the start of what I have thought would be inevitable: the demise of dominance of the United States Green Building Council.

The intent of the USGBC was to promote green technology and create a healthier environment by how we select sites, construct buildings, and utilize materials and resources. I believe they have accomplished all of this. The USGBC, however, has pushed and continues to push so hard to set the ever increasing standards higher that costs will soon outweigh benefits. Business savvy developers and owners will no longer be willing to pay for a certification letter to verify their building(s) are “Green”.

In my opinion, Green construction is becoming the norm: the bar has been set. Major improvements have been seen even over the last five years, including many government mandates to construct more energy efficient and healthier environments, and to eliminate environmentally hazardous materials. There are many other factors that drive environmental and energy efficient design: the economy, diminishing resources, people’s awareness of working and living in healthier environments, and even large City’s trying to recapture the older dilapidated and unused sections of town through revitalization.

Why then, would owners and investors pay for the privilege of registering their project to get a certificate and a plaque to mount in their building(s) on top of the extra design fees and construction fees to document all the potential “Green Credits”, when all they have to do is ask that their projects be energy efficient and environmentally sound?

Do I think the USGBC should go away? No, absolutely not.

Do I think we should work with what we have and stop pushing, for a while anyway? Yes!

 Les Murfin


Image source: US Army Corps of Engineer Los Angeles District’s Flickr photostream and used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License