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kurt
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I sat through a full day intro to "LEED for Homes" Saturday, built some credits......anyone else done similar, and if you have, do you have any thoughts about LEED?

I've never given it much study. But one of the multi-family new construction projects that I'm currently working on will be qualifying for the Platinum label. In fact it exceeds the requirements by several points.(One of last year's projects qualified for Gold.) My impression is that as long as the entire production team is on board, it's not a terribly difficult goal to achieve. The requirements (options?) are, for the most part, practical and sensible. I think it's a good thing.

What was your impression?

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I think LEED is B.S. It is all about the money. It costs a lot to have a building LEED certified. LEED is becoming less relevant because the Energy Code is narrowing the gap between what is voluntary (LEED) and what is required. It is becoming more of a marketing gimmick than a true savings in energy. On top of this, there have been studies to show that some buildings are not performing as advertised when they get LEED certification.

The whole LEED thing reminds me of what happened in our profession. Originally, private associations were the way to show the general public that you were better than the rest. With licensing, the playing field in the eyes of most consumers is equal as long as you are licensed. In the near future the Energy Code requirements and LEED requirements will merge and LEED wil be irrelevant.

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I very recently watched an hour long show on a LEEDS condo project in Boston (South end). Interesting. They ended up getting a gold cert but that was only after having to rip up and replace ALL the bamboo flooring because the low-VOC glues failed. It was also noted that the shipping footprint of a lot of the "green" products exceeded that of the manufacturing, but isn't taken into account.

The intent is good.

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That's basically my take. It's unfortunate that the rating system penalizes rural housing (too far away from transportation), but other than that, it's not all that complicated. If I was building new, all the stuff they want is stuff I'd want.

It's the expense of the 3rd party certifier that is mildly off-putting; it'd be nice to put that money into the house.

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LEED is a joke. Just ridiculous. Their approach is silly and shortsighted. Their results are abominable.

Let's start with Seattle's new City Hall, opened in 2003. LEED Silver. It's smaller and houses fewer employees than the building it replaced, and yet it uses more energy. Regardless of what other traits the building may posses, it is not green by any reasonable standard, and a Silver rating is a joke. Let's move to the Federal Building in Youngstown, OH. LEED certification, but an energy guzzler. The General Services Administration, which owns the building, complains that it got LEED by racking up points for things like native landscaping, while ignoring structural energy-saving features.

LEED's cafeteria approach (pick one trait from column A, two from column B, etc.) allows builders to game the system and get around what really matters - energy usage. After only 30 years of the life of a building the energy used to heat, cool, light, and maintain a building dwarfs by a factor of 9:1 the energy used to build it.

It seems that every new LEED iteration scores energy usage higher. They're trying to catch up, but they missed the boat years ago, and the whole concept is bankrupt.

If you want to build a green building, think energy. There are plenty of systems and organizations to help you do that. Just not LEED.

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Well, I used to think LEED was bullshit, and still do to some extent, but it's not just about energy.

If one studies new urbanist planning and development, there's benefits to the environment if urbanist ideas are implemented; LEED counts that stuff. A lot of the stuff are things that should be reconsidered, i.e., green grass lawns, chemical composition of interior finishes, etc.

Recent studies of autism are now isolating commonly found chemicals of construction materials in those parts of the brain that are thought to be epicenters of autistic behaviors, i.e., we as a society might be poisoning ourselves with our building materials. LEED counts those things.

In a larger view, it's unfortunate that logo-ification of intelligent design has taken over, i.e., LEED, instead of architectural training and emphasis on environmental sustainability. I think LEED will fade away because design emphasis is changing and shifting toward the things LEED considers.

So, contrary to Chairman Joe's vision, it's not just about the energy. It's about the energy and a lot of other things. Folks are allowed to believe or disbelieve whatever they want, but the goals are not bad or misdirected.

It's very useful for modern urban professional and youngsters, those buried in TMI. It's a sound bit way for them to understand sustainability; not many folks outside of us are interested in studying vapor transmission in wall assemblies; buying a logo that says lots of good things happened is a way to engage the process.

Many of these things are contrary to American thinking as it requires folks to consider shared paths and goals. It's upsetting to iconoclastic types (me), until one looks into it a little more. I'm glad I took the course; I'd never pay for LEED certification, but I support the basic vision and goals. Except, I'm never giving up my VOC contact cement.

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If you want to use interior finishes with low off-gassing potential, I'm all for that. But don't tell me that you can use those points to offset your poor energy performance and then pat yourself on the back.

After a couple of years the chemicals are gone, but the energy usage just keeps going and going.

If you want to use native plantings that use less water, I'm all for that. But don't tell me that you can use those points to offset your poor energy performance and then pat yourself on the back.

Over the life of a typical house its lawn and landscaping may be made over dozens of times. But you really only get one chance to build the house to be energy efficient.

LEED's trade-off mentality is warped, and their priorities are not forward thinking.

Seven generations ahead, indeed.

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I'm not championing LEED, certainly; I find it silly on lots of levels.

But, your diatribes indicate you really have no idea what it's about.

On some level, it's an indictment of American design ethic. That bothers me more than anything.

Kurt,

I agree that it is not all about the energy savings and the whole "Green" building concept is a great concept. Unfortunately it has become a big game to get LEED certification and LEED has become a "Good Ole Boys" Club that has set itself up to protect the wallets of the members.

Designing a building that uses environmentally and energy friendly materials and systems should be all of our goals. We have to live on this planet!

It is my experience that unless people are wealthy and don't have a budget (very unusual), we have to show our clients how it makes sense economically to do a "Green" building. Other than that, we have to be forced by building codes to spend the money.

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Each of the officers, save one, of the USGBC executive council are affiliates of major construction giants. It seems to me that building science professionals would be a more appropriate choice in staffing a non-profit whose mission statement centers around the development and promotion of green building construction methods.

Marc

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...we as a society might be poisoning ourselves with our building materials.

It pretty damned disturbing that we're just figuring that out. We knew lead was toxic, but it worked so we kept on using it. We knew asbestos caused cancer, but what the hell, we still use it. Hey here's a great idea, let's build park benches and picnic tables and playgrounds out of wood saturated in arsenic. And urea formaldehyde is in everything. Everything.

It's honestly amazing we have the technology to determine these chemicals might be contributing to autism, we sure as hell aren't smart enough to keep them out of our homes, our schools, or even our food and clothing. Christ, even pigs don't shit where they eat.

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Well, you don't. Not a darn thing. Your comments make it abundantly clear. Whadda ya want me to say?

Understanding has nothing to do with liking or not liking. I don't "like" it, but there's underlying fundamentals that are desirable.

Hockstein's comments are astute. His comments indicate he has an understanding of the process.

LEED has managed to fill a void left by design professionals......similar to the the void left by the medical profession that led to HMO's and the misdirected health care process.

I don't view it as a bad thing. It's a direct view into how humans blindness to the realities surrounding them can be subverted in ways not previously imagined. It's the road to oblivion paved with good intentions thing.

So, a year ago I thought it was dumbshit, now I see it as being a very human response to things we, as a society, don't understand very well.

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And another thing.......

I've been studying how humans communicate a lot in the last couple years......there's a sea change/evolutionary shift in perceptions and ability to absorb information because there's just too darn much of it.

We create logos and signifier's to consolidate masses of information into something we can engage. It's a methodology for understanding.

LEED is a methodology for "understanding". It allows some folks to engage, while telegraphing their position to others in a socially acceptable manner.

So, on one level it's pretty fooking stupid, but on several others, it's a coping and communication mechanism that's kinda interesting.

Folks with tunnel view dismiss these things, which is their right, but it's missing a lot of other stuff about how humans think.

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Each of the officers, save one, of the USGBC executive council are affiliates of major construction giants. It seems to me that building science professionals would be a more appropriate choice in staffing a non-profit whose mission statement centers around the development and promotion of green building construction methods.

Marc

That's an important note, a very good point.

On one level it's old boy's feathering their nest, on another it's the folks that build trying to develop a construct for understanding. Arguing against that is somewhere down near the base of arguing against capitalism. It's the face of business.

If it was only building scientists, it'd boil down to a debate of closed cell versus open, or similarly fine tuned argumentativeness, and nothing would happen.

Building scientists (actually, all people) think folks outside their area of expertise should understand, or at least, care. They don't. Sometimes, but not often.

Humans like logos. They're signifiers that allow understanding. Signifiers can be manipulated. The LEED logo process is remarkable in that the board works hard to avoid manipulation into strictly economic terms.

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If you want to use interior finishes with low off-gassing potential, I'm all for that. But don't tell me that you can use those points to offset your poor energy performance and then pat yourself on the back.

After a couple of years the chemicals are gone, but the energy usage just keeps going and going.

If you want to use native plantings that use less water, I'm all for that. But don't tell me that you can use those points to offset your poor energy performance and then pat yourself on the back.

Over the life of a typical house its lawn and landscaping may be made over dozens of times. But you really only get one chance to build the house to be energy efficient.

LEED's trade-off mentality is warped, and their priorities are not forward thinking.

Seven generations ahead, indeed.

If I understand Kurt correctly, that's a characteristic of the LEED approach. If you do it the way of building codes and seek a line-item approach to every facet of home building in an endeavor to create homes that are more environmentally responsible then you'll end up with nothing as all, as Kurt alludes to, because it would be too expensive and politically unpopular.

I can see the LEEDS specs gradually translating into building code requirements as the public warms to the sensibility of it.

Marc

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Great to see some thinking going on in this thread.

I think Kurt has been creeping up on the ideas of LEEDthink at a measured, logical pace.

Which pace is also, IMHO, part of the program's overall intent. The cafeteria approach to adopting design ideas is a way to nudge a great many horses to drink from the same pond, without being heavyhanded.

No one of us has all the right answers anyway. The whole idea of "branding" is to create a recognizable trend of ideas or thinking and to cast those in a desirable light. As Hockstein notes, codes and typical practice might someday merge and assimilate the entirety of LEEDthink, but with all the technical variety of building materials and methods it is likely too early to separate all the chaff from the wheat.

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Which pace is also, IMHO, part of the program's overall intent. The cafeteria approach to adopting design ideas is a way to nudge a great many horses to drink from the same pond, without being heavy-handed.

That's part of what I didn't understand until I took the course. It takes into account a great many approaches and sensibilities, all of them basically desirable design characteristics.

I still wouldn't be inclined to pay for the 3rd party certifier; I'd want to put the money into the house.

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I still wouldn't be inclined to pay for the 3rd party certifier; I'd want to put the money into the house.

I think 3rd party is best. Why let the fox "verify" the hen house so to speak?

And besides, it's another potential income stream for us independent inspecting units. I'm not interested in LEED, though. Other stuff catches my fancy. . .

Local example of LEED skullduggery that yanks my crank: our local town financed and constructed it's own City hall that was completed about 2 years ago. They are proud it has some sort of LEED designation. Cost way too much money. Bought out some business, tore them down, built the new city hall.

Meanwhile, gobs of building and real estate sat vacant around the town waiting to be had. True sustainability and use of existing resources would have been to purchase one of those buildings/parcels and renovate those. Would have cost 1/2 to 1/3 the price in my view.

But folks are glad the new over-priced City hall is LEED something or other. And it's shiny and cool.

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