What is the point of green building?

Posted by Brad Kahn on Thu, Jul 10, 2014 at 10:16 PM

(c) John Stamets

(c) John Stamets

When the team set out to design and build the Bullitt Center, we had one goal in mind: push the limits of today’s technologies and knowledge to create the greenest office building in the world. By showing what’s possible today, we wanted to encourage other project teams to go even further. We set this goal because we felt (and feel) a clawing sense of urgency about the direction our planet is headed, and a need to change direction as quickly and dramatically as possible.

I offer this prelude as a reminder of what’s at stake as we design and build around the world. Green building has become big business, but at its core it must remain about transforming the marketplace to ever-higher levels of environmental and social performance. Otherwise it is just window dressing.

Recently, Tristan Roberts and Paula Melton at BuildingGreen.com took a close look at two green building standards, the US Green Building Council’s LEED rating system and the Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes program. Their conclusion: in almost all respects, LEED is more rigorous that Green Globes. In a related article, Roberts and Melton – two respected journalists in the green building field – find that “Green Globes is one or more steps behind LEED in technical rigor, its process is less likely to push projects to new heights, and, organizationally, GBI is allied with the timber and chemical industries, which spend millions each year in Washington lobbying for anti-LEED policies.”

For those of us who feel a sense of urgency about transforming markets and improving environmental performance, it is not clear what value is generated by a standard that is less rigorous than LEED in almost every way. In fact, we already have a lower standard in place called building codes. We certainly can see marketing value from a green stamp of approval, but if it is not tied to environmental performance, it only serves to confuse the marketplace and diminish the demand for true innovation.

In the months and years ahead, society needs more LEED Platinum and Living Buildings. In fact, we should think of LEED Platinum as the baseline going forward, from which we could innovate further. Our planet simply cannot afford any more time wasted on trumpeting about building to code. We already have a term for that: legal. And in every city in the world, legal buildings are far from where we need to be headed.

Learn more here: http://www2.buildinggreen.com/article/three-steps-make-green-globes-part-solution