Building new or renovating existing facilities with “green” construction techniques can be both environmentally sustainable and cost efficient in terms of energy savings. However, the results of a green building project are contingent on the standards used. A September 4 Washington Times editorial argues that one of the more common standards, the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, does not always result in reduced energy and greenhouse gas output despite the increased construction costs. From the editorial:
[LEED is] a stamp of approval that can pay off big in tax incentives, without actually doing much for the environment. There’s at least the appearance of self-dealing at the outfit that comes up with these standards. Many of the Green Building Council’s 13,000 members happen to be architects, builders or building suppliers who provide products and services needed to achieve certification. …
The green imprimatur comes at a high cost to taxpayers. Besides the hefty certification fees, The New York Times estimated that meeting LEED requirements adds as much as 20 percent to construction costs.
All that extra cash doesn’t do anything to make the air cleaner. The Green Building Council, for example, bestowed a rare and highly coveted LEED Platinum status on the 55-story Bank of America Tower in New York when it opened in 2010. Lauded as the most “environmentally responsible” office building in the world because of its certification, the billion-dollar skyscraper actually generates more “greenhouse” gases (for those who care about such things) and sucks more energy from the power grid than any other office tower its size in Manhattan, according to a New Republic investigation released in July.
A study of 11 LEED-certified buildings belonging to the Navy revealed that four of the buildings used more energy than non-LEED counterparts, and three were identical to buildings without certification.