Let me preface this post by saying that the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification program is an excellent way to improve energy efficiency in building design and reduce a facility’s carbon footprint. It is an excellent marketing tool for promoting energy efficiency and good building design.
That being said, no matter how environmentally sustainable a building is, if it is built in a location (particularly in urban areas) where most everyone working there must drive a car to reach work, it is illogical for LEED to certify the building. Any building located on an urban/suburban site that does not have public transit access or is not within close walking/cycling proximity to affordable housing should be automatically disqualified from receiving any level of LEED certification, unless it has a STRONG emphasis on hybrids, plug-in electric vehicles including charging stations, and carpools/vanpools. The perceived benefits derived from constructing a sustainable building are too likely to be offset by its poorly chosen location. So, how is such a scenario any better than constructing a non-LEED certifiable building in an urban locale that is easily accessible to transit, bike routes, and sidewalks? Both miss half the equation for good sustainability. So, why honor one and rue the other?
Some may think my posting may be a bit harsh, but if we are going to achieve “real, measurable, perceptible” improvements in terms of our collective environmental impact on the planet, it is rather bogus to hand out awards and certifications to those facilities that are only superficially beneficial to the environment. As has been said, “you cannot judge a book by its cover” – well, that also goes for awards. Just because the bricks and mortar are dazzling and energy-efficient, does not mean the nuts and bolts (including the chosen location) are too.