Sustainable Solutions

LEED: Friend or Foe?

10:05:00 AM on 10/06/2009


What’s In a Name, Anyway?

I always smile when I see or hear someone misspell or mispronounce the acronym for the US Green Building Council’s green building rating system.  I’m not sure why.  I just got back from the National Glass Association’s 4th Annual Glazing Executive Conference here in Atlanta.  And I know Southerners, including me, are known to have some unique dialects, but I heard LEED constantly referred to in the plural form:  LEEDS, LEEDs, or is it LEED’s?  I don’t know.  The biggest laugh came for me when I saw the sign posted outside my Breakout Session room read:  “LEDD:  The Role of the Contract Glazier”.  I chuckled to myself before thinking that the room might be filled with folks expecting to discuss energy-efficient lighting.  The sign is now proudly on display in my office.  Fortunately, I don’t take myself too seriously.

Anyway, how come people don’t seem to have a problem with other acronyms?  You never hear anyone refer to the National Football League as NFLS…the Federal Bureau of Investigation as FBIS (that would be the Foreign Broadcast Information Service)… or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as OSHAs.  I once heard another frustrated LEED speaker say, “LEEDS is a city in England!”  Turns out there is one in Alabama too.  Me, I just post the logo above whenever I get the chance.  We all find a way to cope.

An Underlying Problem

I suspect the real reason behind this tendency is not related to speech impediments, local dialect, or poor geography.  I reckon it’s hard to pronounce or spell anything correctly until you know what it stands for:  Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.  The USGBC website sums it up this way: “LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system,  providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most:  energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.”  It sounds simple enough, but comprehensive rating systems can seem daunting and burdensome…like the AP Top 25 College Football Poll.

We can’t spell LEED because we really don’t know what it means…or, why it should mean anything to us.  There’s no denying that the LEED building rating system is becoming more and more popular.    McGraw Hill Construction (2009) “Green Outlook 2009:  Trends Driving Change” reports “The overall green building market (both non-residential and residential) is likely to more than double from today’s $36-49 billion to $96-140 billion by 2013.”  And, if you work in the building and construction industry, LEED has surely impacted your business.  But, in what way?  We also read about “green washing” and the higher costs of environmentally-responsible materials.  And, then there are the claims that energy efficient designed buildings are not performing up to their promises.

Blessing or Curse?

So, tell me where you stand.  Is Sustainable Building Design and the LEED green building rating system here to stay?  We’ve heard the negative impacts of poorly designed  buildings.  But, will a new rating system turn this around?  And, what about glass and glazing products?  Energy efficiency level requirements continue to be cranked up to challenging levels (made even more difficult by potential ASHRAE 90.1 changes) that transparent openings will be severely limited in building envelopes.  And, then there’s all the documentation requirements.  So, tell me:  What has LEED done for you lately?


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