Eco-friendly construction giant faces attacks

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 5, 2013 at 2:09 pm •  Published: December 5, 2013
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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An eco-friendly building rating system that has powered a green arms race across the nation now faces a challenge from policymakers and an upstart rival.

LEED, the longstanding king of green construction and renovation projects, has become a de facto brand in cities such as Portland, Ore., where sustainable growth has been the rage for years.

But that could change as legislation and executive orders in several states have all but banned Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design from public contracts, and a new system known as Green Globes has emerged and marketed itself as a simpler, less expensive alternative.

"LEED is a good process," said Byron Courts, director of engineering services for Portland's Melvin Mark Companies. But it represents "a huge bureaucracy that's extremely complex and costs quite a bit."

Courts has used both LEED and Green Globes, which has issued about 850 building certifications in the past few years and has recently picked up support from the federal government.

LEED supporters say the emerging opposition comes from lobbyists seeking to damage the industry leader and increase the prominence of Portland-based Green Globes.

The timber, plastics and chemical industries support "Green Globes because it does not represent a threat to them, it's their way of having a green building without having to change their practices," said Scot Horst, a Green Building Council senior vice president who oversees LEED.

From Seattle to Chicago, LEED has certified thousands of buildings and provided a marketing tool, tax breaks and other incentives to contractors eager to cash in on the sustainability craze.

In Portland, LEED adorns everything from the arena where the NBA's Trail Blazers play to condos in a trendy warehouse district.

Administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., LEED aims to reduce the use of energy, water and greenhouse gas emissions in new construction and renovation projects.

Though it's voluntary and market-based, more than 30 states, multiple cities and the federal government either require LEED construction or incentivize its use in public buildings. LEED has 44,270 U.S. projects, many of which are federal, state and local government buildings.

Critics say it's a cumbersome monopoly that doesn't always deliver what it promises. But supporters counter that opponents are pushing the alternative system to redefine the meaning of "green" and skirt LEED's stringent environmental standards, which were updated last month.

As the debate spreads, lobby groups are asking Congress to ban the use of LEED in federal projects. In several states, including Maine, Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama, LEED standards have essentially been banned in public construction. North Carolina, Florida and, most recently, Ohio also have seen anti-LEED legislation.



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