Hold onto your green hats and lock down your certificates of green accomplishment: Joseph Lstiburek preached green-building heresy this week at the Green Building Summit — but it was a call for reform.
The sacrilege: LEED isn't all it's cracked up to be, at least not in commercial construction, where the race for certification in Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design is attracting more runners every day.
Green with envy
Everybody wants LEED certification for their new buildings and many developers are getting it, but the energy savings is probably nil, said Lstiburek, Ph.D., an engineer and principal of Boston-based Building Science Corp. He spoke Wednesday and Thursday at the summit, organized by the Oklahoma State Home Builders Association, the Association of Energy Engineers and third-party private consulting firm Guaranteed Watt Saver Systems.
Green homebuilders' claims and work are tested every month when a homeowner pays a utility bill, Lstiburek said, so green residential construction mostly lives up to the green hype.
Commercial and institutional buildings aren't held to such close, regular scrutiny, he said, pointing to a graph showing no statistical difference in energy efficiency and savings between a group of 150 LEED-certified commercial buildings and a group of 350 standard buildings. Lstiburek crunched data from the federal Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey and the New Buildings Institute.
'Feel good' green
The problem? LEED gives "green” points for construction factors and building features that have more to do with "feel good” aesthetics than energy conservation. "A bike rack? You get a green point for a bike rack?” he said incredulously, pointing out that as important as that might be to some people, it has nothing to do with building performance.
Lstiburek said green building programs should focus 80 percent on energy efficiency and indoor air quality, 10 percent on water efficiency and 10 percent on materials. But no green certification programs come close, he said, not even LEED, the most widely known program.
Lstiburek was right to point out the difference in green aesthetics and efficient building performance, said Kelly Parker, president of Guaranteed Watt Saver.