A response to the Annapolis need for LEED

I began to write this as a comment to Brian Gill’s post regarding Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer’s push to have new buildings LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) accredited. But after writing for awhile I decided to make it a stand-alone post in response.

Red Maryland readers probably wouldn’t know this, but as part of my “real” job I’m a LEED Accredited Professional. So I know a little bit about the subject. LEED is overseen by a group called the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and the rating system has been around in various forms for a decade or so – it’s only in the last few years that they’ve come into prominence because of the global warming scheme.

First of all, unless they’ve done so in the very recent past, LEED for Homes hasn’t been released yet. There is a pilot version that’s still being evaluated so those regulations are subject to change. Of course, most new and existing construction types other than homes have a LEED program set up for them. Thus, I’m not sure if Annapolis would adopt the pilot home standard or wait until the official one comes out. My guess is LEED for Homes will become official in 2008.

As an architect, I can appreciate the idea of energy efficiency that is part of the LEED aim. There’s a lot of common-sense approaches that the USGBC folds in as part of the rating system, ones that have a relatively short payback time for the added expense.

On the other hand, they do get a little wacky with some of the provisions. To be Certified as a LEED-compliant building, a building must achieve 26 of a possible 69 points (that’s for the LEED for New Construction rating system, the one I passed my exam in) along with about 10 or so prerequisites, including among others construction site recycling, commissioning of the building’s energy systems, environmental tobacco smoke control (in other words, no smoking) and an erosion and sediment control plan (generally the state of Maryland requires this anyway for sites of a certain size.)

I heartily agree with Gill’s assessment of global warming as a whole, and the push for “green” buildings is part and parcel of allowing federal and global regulation on those things that should be controlled locally. Insofar as the specific idea that the city of Annapolis should dictate construction in such a way, while it is the right of a locality to enforce building codes as they see fit, I don’t agree with this idea. Unfortunately, I also belong to a group (the American Institute of Architects) who supports a mandate that federal buildings be LEED compliant now and carbon-neutral by 2030. (Note to AIA: you make excellent contract documents and advocate for good design. Stay away from kowtowing to the purveyors of junk science, it’s not your area of expertise. And I could do without the continuing education crap, too.)

One last point as I return to the subject at hand. For several years the state had a tax credit program for LEED compliance. While it’s not something I would have spent state tax money on, at least they understood that there was a need for some sort of incentive for developers to take a chance and spend a little more to achieve the increased energy efficiency and other generally positive aspects that go with it. Obviously Ellen Moyer has pulled the carrot away and just wants the stick to remain.

Crossposted on monoblogue.

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