Over the past few decades, the LEED rating system has been revolutionizing the construction industry. The creators of LEED, Rick Fedrizzi, David Gottfried and Mike Italiano, wanted to design a rating system that would promote sustainability in the building and construction industry. However, the recent focus towards promoting environmental sustainability has opened the door to some critics who claim the rating system is not working as intended.
Sustainability is defined as “the ability to be sustained supported, upheld, or confirmed.” Today, the term is mostly associated with the ecological benefits of responsibly balancing and managing our energy and resource consumption. While environmental sustainability is a major part of what it means to be “sustainable”, ignoring the other aspects of the term detracts from LEED’s triple bottom line mission. When building owners purchase a LEED building design, they are making a long-term investment in a higher quality indoor environment for building occupants, increasing profits for building owners and creating a healthier planet.
Buildings that are seeking LEED certification can earn points from eight different categories- location and transportation, materials and resources, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, sustainable sites, indoor environmental quality, innovation and regional priority credits. Critics note that points from some of these categories actually increase the building’s energy consumption; however, there is usually a good reason behind these decisions. For example, in order to increase indoor environmental quality, the building engineer might use an airflow system that uses more energy to improve air quality. From an environmental standpoint, sacrificing energy consumption for better indoor air is not a responsible decision. However, when you consider that on average people spend 90% of their day inside, it then becomes a design factor worth including.
Although LEED building do not all performs the same, collectively they out-perform standard buildings. In a study conducted by the GSA Public Buildings Service, LEED buildings use 25% less energy and report 19% lower aggregate operational costs, 27% higher occupant satisfaction and 36% fewer carbon dioxide emissions. This well rounded analysis highlights the overall success of the LEED rating system in creating buildings that are better for people, profits and the planet.
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