Stripping the Veneer off LEED-Platinum

Is a new luxury 6,721 square-foot home located in a gated community on the far outskirts of Las Vegas truly “the new face of efficiency"? Kaid Benfield elaborates on how the LEED certification system can be so easily gamed.
January 23, 2013, 9am PST | Erica Gutiérrez
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The new LEED-Platinum state-of-the-art home built by Blue Heron Homes in Henderson, Nevada occupies twice as much land, and is three times the size, of the average new-home in a US metro area. Not only that, but it is 1.2 miles to the nearest transit stop, and scores a meager 38 out of 100 for walkability. And yet, it has earned the the highest level of LEED certification. Despite acknowledging the beauty and wonder of its architectural elements including "extensive 'water features'” and "17,261 square feet of 'outdoor living space'", Benfield points out that something is not quite right with this picture.

He explains that "[t]he Seven Hills development [where the so-called "New American Home” is located] wouldn’t come close to qualifying for a certification under LEED for Neighborhood Development, which takes location and neighborhood design into account as well as building technology." And, though he commends LEED for “put[ting] green buildings on the map and institutionaliz[ing] building performance measures shown to reduce resource consumption and pollution” he also critiques the many “warts in this system” -- from “being insufficiently demanding of its applicants” to “becom[ing] pro forma, more about earning points than achieving actual environmental performance.”

He concludes, "Why should a building qualify for the highest, platinum rating – signifying the greenest of all green buildings – if it is completely dependent on long automobile trips that will collectively emit more carbon than the building’s efficient heating and cooling systems will save? Maybe ten years ago, the green building movement was so new that it would have been counterproductive to have high standards. But we should be better than that now."

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Published on Friday, January 18, 2013 in The National Resources Defense Council
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