As many in the architectural profession, I can be conflicted in my opinions about LEED and “green” design in general. These terms are thrown around too often to have any real affect and in my opinion sometimes create problems where previously there were none. Speaking just of what these two principals are trying to accomplish, I often take the approach that “green” design is nothing more than a minimum that architects should be designing to 100% of the time. I even touched on this in a previous post in which I describe a legacy that we are leaving for future generations to deal with.
But, there are also those out there who will tell you flat out that LEED and by extension the USGBC are the most vile and reviled organizations that are after nothing more than your money. They’ll even go so far as to say that “green design” is a total waste of time and effort.
Some people are really friggin nuts. Often the truth of the matter is they simply have no clear understanding of what it is that the whole “green design” movement is trying to accomplish and therefore seek to vilify and destroy that which they have no comprehension of. This is not an uncommon thread in human behavior. Been to D.C. lately? 😛
So, let’s get down to “brass tax”, as it were. Why aren’t LEED and “green design” the enemy? Why should I care? In the words of Eddie Murphy, “what have [they] done for me lately?” Throwing out the “why” questions is really more a matter of laziness and frustration than a legitimate grievance against the systems in place. And I know we’ve all heard about the projects that shuffle points around to get a “rating” without really adding any ecological benefit to the building. The truth there is that any system will never be perfect. And, for better or worse, there are always going to be kinks in that system, places of exploitation. But that’s not what this is about. This is about a holistic approach to building, or building “green”.
LEED is a system that tries to offer a framework within which to do that. And it’s not the only one. There are many other systems out there that are just as good or even better at helping architects and builders accomplish sustainable building and design. And here in lies the moral of our little tale. It is not the system that is the enemy. The tool is never to blame because the worker screws up. The tool is just that – a tool. It has no more malice than a tube of toothpaste. But we’re human and we all want a scape goat, so we go after the easy target not realizing that it’s our own ignorance and fear of a little hard work that keeps us from understanding that real architecture is about responsibility, respect and an understanding of the materials and methods available to create a lasting piece of art. Something that future generations can be proud of, that will work with its environment and perhaps even contribute to it.
So the next time you want to rail at the fences about the evils of LEED and green/sustainable design, instead look in the mirror and ask yourself what you’re really railing against.