Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Green Building Council


U.S. Green Building Council Makes Revolutionary Change

the Solaire in New York

John Tepper Marlin likes the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Standards, and he enumerates the reasons in a Green Building News article, which also delineates what he sees as a very big problem, and predicts how the problem might be solved. The reason why we listen to Dr. Marlin is clear: he is an expert who has published fifteen books about the complicated economic realities of large cities, chiefly New York. He served in the office of the New York City Comptroller for over thirteen years, as both Chief Economist and Senior Policy Adviser. He knows all about the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and also about the not-so-good aspects of LEED certification, one of which he describes as follows:

If the estimate is accurate that half the cost of LEED certification is USGBC’s fee, this is very high compared with other certification programs, where the bulk of the cost is for meeting higher standards. One can hope that the certification cost will drop by the end of 2009 as more certifiers are accredited.

Before getting into that, however, let’s look at what Marlin likes about LEED: just about everything. The LEED point system is broad-based, transparent, and easy to follow, and the most basic level of approval is not too difficult to attain. There’s flexibility built in, and scalabilty and expandability. Independent third-party certifications are recognized. Builders have gotten on the bandwagon, and are anxious to achieve LEED’s blessing, which is a major selling point. Using green products has become fashionable. Leaders in the construction industry have adopted a LEED-friendly attitude, and willingly aim for the best recognition they can win under the system. It gives them a well-deserved reputation for civic responsibility, which is always a plus.

The downside of LEED is, the process is slow as molasses in January. Marlin cites the numbers for New York City as an example: Four years into the LEED program, only 15 certifications had been issued, out of 294 registered hopefuls. This, obviously, will not do.

So, here is the new procedure, which Marlin feels is not getting the attention due to such a major shift in policy. Starting in 2009, USGBC will continue to set the standards, but will outsource the certification process to the bodies accredited by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), who will then do the certifying. In other words, GBCI will become an Accreditation Agency that will give third-party certification bodies their licenses to issue certificates to individuals, companies, facilities and products.

This is good for two reasons: first, it will bring the U.S. in line with the best practices already adopted by other countries that have been doing things differently and more effectively. This has to do with the “Who’s watching the watchers?” question that always haunts such bureaucracies. Separation is needed between the organization that sets standards, and the organization that decides whether these standards are being met. The offices and officials who are doing the accrediting must maintain the highest degree of credibility themselves. Otherwise, the potential for mischief is enormous and unacceptable.

Second, the new method should clear up the equally unacceptable backlog of buildings awaiting judgment. There could potentially be hundreds of third-party certification bodies, each one holding itself to the most stringent requirements, because it wants to retain its accreditation when it comes up for renewal by the top-level overseers, the GBCI.

In summary, Dr. Marlin says:

USGBC’s move to open up its certification process to outside certification bodies, and to focus on accreditation, is a very good sign that the green-buildings program is going to catch up on its backlog and to be credible, so that the public will know whether or not the claimed standards are actually met.

He will be tracking the success of this far-reaching and much-needed change on his own City Economist website.

Pictured: the Solaire at 20 River Terrace, New York City’s first LEED-certified building (2004).

SOURCE: ” Green Building News – USGBC to Accredit LEED Certifiers” 06/06/08
photo courtesy of Payton Chung , used under this Creative Commons license


STAR Island: Architects Designing Sustainable Communities


Forget about the stereotypical “desert island,” with one lone coconut palm and a ragged beachcomber waiting for a message in a bottle. The tiny, 35-acre Bahamian island formerly known as Cabbage Cay is set to become a stellar example of the art of the possible. Liz Mitchell reports this story in the Bluffton, South Carolina, Island Packet newspaper:

STAR Island, the name of the development, stands for Sustainable Terrain And Resources. It will incorporate everything from environmentally friendly features to organic coffee served at local restaurants. Energy will be generated by solar, wind and hydropower…Solar energy will power the island’s water treatment facility, which processes ocean water into drinking water. To avoid wastefulness, all rainwater will be collected in cisterns and reused. All trash will be recycled and converted into power.

The site of the project is ten sea-minutes from the northern end of Eleuthera. Architect David Sklar and developer Tom Jacoby are sparing no effort to create a community that will include both permanent residents and temporary visitors:

…STAR Island will contain 46 private residences, a hotel, 20 private bungalows and two condominium buildings with 10 units each. All structures are on waterfront property.

Prices for a night’s stay at the resort hotel are expected to range from $600 to $1500, and homes will start at $650,000. But these pioneers have more on their minds than simply selling real estate. They hope visitors will enjoy their STAR Island experience not only for its own sake, but as a living example of the possibilities for self-sustaining communities.

In addition, they seek certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. LEED’s standards for sustainable green building and development practices are expressed in a detailed rating system. LEED certification and accreditation are for professionals whose practices result in conservation of water and energy, reduction of greenhouse gases, less waste, more safety, and lower operating costs. Along with respect and the good feeling that comes from environmental responsibility, LEED-consciousness provides tangible benefits, like more commissions and, in many localities, the ability to qualify for various incentives.

With no existing water supply or power sources, this project defines the concept of starting from scratch. $25 million later, by the end of 2009, it will be what Sklar described to Hotel Interactive as “a showcase for the latest and most innovative technologies, materials and practices,” proving that “uncompromising luxury and Earth-friendly practices are entirely compatible.”

This team has taken on a seemingly impossible task, given the limitations imposed by the environment. In the case of STAR Island, will environmental consciousness and sheer luxury turn out to be a match made in heaven?

SOURCE: “Local developers to build green resort on deserted island” 03/24/08
photo courtesy of tienvijftie , used under this Creative Commons license