Monday, June 18, 2012

LEED's inevitable politicization

The U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for green building is updated every several years to reflect changes in the building industry and green technologies.  This is similar to most other building codes, such as the International Building Code, which forms the backbone of many state and local building codes, and which has historically been updated every three years but will be phased in future years.

In past updates, LEED's changes have been relatively arcane matters left to the green building technocrats.  Perhaps the biggest battle in LEED previously was the battle over whether reduction in use of PVC piping in household plumbing should warrant a credit.  But with LEED's rise to prominence as the most important of the green building rating systems, and in particular its adoption by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) as a building standard for new government buildings and by numerous local governments for both public and private buildings, its standards have become a hot topic in the building industry.  And apparently, now also a hot topic of industry lobbyists on Capitol Hill. 

On May 18, 2012, a group of eight House Democrats and 48 House Republicans sent a letter to GSA expressing concerns about LEED's proposed new standards, and in particular, several standards related to plastics and chemicals.  In response, LEED's new rating system, previously dubbed LEED 2012, has scrapped a vote on the system's adoption.  Instead, the new system, now dubbed LEED v4, will delay balloting on its adoption by its members until June, 2013 (i.e., not an election year).  You can read the letter from the House representatives here.  You can read the letter from LEED's president, Rick Fedrizzi, on the delay here

Stephen R. Miller

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