And Now, A Participation Trophy For Green Buildings

By Scott Kriner, Green Metal Consulting

Our society is accepting of trophies given to children just for participation in a sport, as opposed to winning. We accept teachers awarding students for their rationale for determining an answer to a problem even if the answer is incorrect. We even live in a society where college students feel that they don’t have enough time to study for final exams so those tests should be eliminated out of fairness.

So it does not come as a major surprise to learn that the USGBC has created a new level of LEED Certification.  This new level, the fifth in the program, is below LEED Certified. It is called “LEED Effort”. USGBC announced that the new level of certification was created to appease the concerns about what users had called “excessive rigor” of the LEED version 4 (LEEDv4) rating program. Starting in November of this year, LEEDv4 will be the only LEED program to which projects can be registered.

Spokespeople within USGBC acknowledge the fact that building owners were concerned about LEEDv4 and its more stringent energy, indoor air quality and material requirements. It was scaring off potential LEED certified projects. Some manufacturers were also concerned that USGBC had gone too far too quickly with regard to chemicals of concern, supply chain transparency and other sustainable issues. According to BuildingGreen, Scot Horst, Chief Product Officer at USGBC, was recently quoted as saying, “This is our message to you: we have heard you bad-mouthing us for the last five years. And although your persistent, entitled, and short-sighted demand for a watered-down standard makes us very, very, very sad, we still like you.”

Comments from those that are piloting the LEED Effort certification concept have noted that only two prerequisites exist for certification: 1) register as a LEED project and 2) completing the project. In addition, Exemplary Performance is available for certain levels of documentation during the project construction. Reports suggest that that LEED Effort will be included with the other certification levels on the LEED Dynamic Plaque. That plaque tracks the building performance in real time. In the case of the LEED Effort level of certification, the plaque’s metrics will be based on how hard the team tried to actually measure energy, water, and other systems’ impacts.

But not all is fine within USGBC with regard to this new level of certification. BuildingGreen has reported that the Green Building Initiative (GBI), which oversees the Green Globes green building rating program, will be filing an antitrust complaint, and may also file a lawsuit against USGBC for trademark infringement. That complaint is related to the USGBC’s use of the term “LEED Equivalent” which GBI has used since 2004.

It appears that the USGBC’s efforts to transform the green building community are facing unintended consequences by the mixed reaction from building owners and product manufacturers. Even a green building certification program has succumbed to the societal pressure to take a participation trophy and treat it with pride.

Scott Kriner is the president and founder of Green Metal Consulting Inc. He is a LEED Accredited Professional who began his career in the metal construction industry in 1981. His company is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, the California Association of Building Energy Consultants and the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET).

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