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Is There a Loophole in LEED Building Certification?

by Will Wlizlo


Tags: Environment, LEED, Green building certification, In These Times, Will Wlizlo,

gasmask

So your new corporate campus was built with reclaimed lumber and uses 90 percent renewable energy. Too bad on the inside it might be a toxic deathtrap. In These Times reports on a possible loophole in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building-certification criteria that could allow otherwise sustainable buildings to have dangerously substandard ventilation and water quality systems.

The gripe against the LEED-certification system was voiced by the nonprofit Environment and Human Health, Inc. The organization claims LEED's 110-point rating system—which considers building site, construction materials, water efficiency, and other variables—makes it possible "to get the top rating—Platinum—while scoring zero points (out of 15) in 'indoor environmental quality.'"  This includes air quality, water quality, and the presence of pesticides and harmful chemicals.

Many argue, however, that if a building passes LEED inspection, the quality of the indoor environment takes care of itself. Scot Horst, the senior vice president for LEED at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), told In These Times, "In practice it's very hard to earn a Platinum rating without addressing indoor air quality." On the In These Times website, commenter Peter Crownfield also mentioned that LEED certification requires the building to meet the industry standards set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

The complaint seems more theoretical than practical, but Environment and Human Health made some compelling, common sense suggestions, such as "putting more healthy experts on the USGBC board and requiring that builders earn a minimum number of points in each category."

Source: In These Times

Image by Foxtongue, licensed under Creative Commons.

stars_2
8/5/2010 9:18:48 AM

I work in a LEED building and the indoor air quality is so terrible that one person who worked with me took early retirement because of sick building syndrome. Those of us who have offices in the middle of the building have frequent headaches. An energy saving feature is that we do not get fresh air unless the building is heating or cooling. The building goes into unoccupied mode even when occupied as well. I am a treehugger but the LEED system is a threat to building occupant health. If there is a class action suit about this feel free to contact me.


amanda monyak_2
8/5/2010 9:02:31 AM

I found this article to be surprising. I work at the first abortion clinic in the country that has gained LEED-EB silver certification, and it took our clinic years and millions of dollars to gain this certification. I would find it difficult to believe that facilities which gain this certification would possibly be "toxic deathtraps." At the same time, it's also baffling that facilities who gain the platinum certification can get by on zero points for indoor environmental quality. This was useful information, but keep in mind that getting LEED certified is *not* an easy process for facilities.