Decoding Design

Top pros and cons of LEED

Posting in Architecture

What are the best and worst things about the most recognized green building standard?

In the United States, the gold standard of green building certification is LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED certification verifies that building projects were designed and built to achieve high performance in the areas of sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

Developed by a scientist and a real-estate developer, LEED was a business-savvy strategy to market sustainable building. The numbers and points that LEED is based on connect what used to be nebulous terms like green and eco-friendly to something building owners, managers and developers value: money. LEED showed that building in an environmentally conscientious way would increase efficiency and decrease cost.

In a well researched article for ArchDaily, Vanessa Quirk presents 5 pros and 5 cons of LEED:

Pros

1. LEED's research-backed standards give Green Design credibility

2. LEED's standards focus on the life cycle evaluation of a building and prioritize long term environmental benefits

3. LEED legitimized/mainstreamed Green Design as a business investment, jumping the mental hurdles of high initial cost and green building as a "pseudo-science”

4. LEED’s cachet as a status symbol often ensures follow-through of Green building practices

5. The governing organization of LEED, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC),  is receptive to change

Cons

1. The unweighted (i.e. a point is a point) system encourages project teams to “game the system" by going after easy points at the expense of actual environmental benefits.

2. LEED is difficult and expensive for individual homeowners and smaller non commercial projects.

3. LEED ignores context and performance.

4. The closer LEED gets to becoming a mandate, the more blindly it will be followed

5. LEED does not inspire, encourage, or recognize innovations

The last con is the most interesting and relevant to design. Even though LEED is one of the most recognized and highly regarded certification programs worldwide, its cachet and its point system might be holding back innovations in green building by not rewarding them.

Where is LEED Leading Us?…And Should We Follow? [ArchDaily]

Image: Megan Jett for ArchDaily

Related on SmartPlanet:

The future of LEED

11 biz headquarters that snagged LEED Platinum status

Decoding design eco-buzzwords: green vs. sustainable

Sun Kim

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sun Joo Kim is an architect and creative consultant based in Boston. Her projects include design and master planning of museums, public institutions, hospitals, and university buildings across the U.S. She holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure