This weeks Guest Post Friday at Musings is a real treat. Sara Sweeney is a registered architect, LEED AP and GreenFaith Fellow in religious environmental leadership. Her 18-year architectural career reflects her passion and commitment to sustainable building design and stewardship of our natural environment. She is the founder of EcoVision LLC, a solutions-based research and consulting firm, grounded in sustainable design practices, environmental stewardship, and building science.
Every so often I come across a word that drives me nuts. A few years ago it was ‘Dude.’ Lately, it is ‘LEEDigation.’ It’s a new term to “describe green building litigation” coined by Chris Cheatham, a fine person and very knowledgeable attorney in construction law and a LEED AP as well. Per his definition, LEEDigation “could involve disputes arising from green building certification, could arise if a project fails to obtain government incentives or satisfy mandates for green building construction, or could simply result from improperly designed or constructed green building strategies. It all makes sense. So why does it drive me nuts?
Round Peg. Square Hole.
Although I fully understand why the term was coined, such a term keeps us in flat world, that is, the world of conventional design and construction. Designing and building to LEED standards, or rather, just designing and building sustainably in general, whether to meet a third party standard or not, is a different way than what we have been used to. Period. Whereas our conventional way is focused on first costs, and sees the building more as a commodity than the human imprint and legacy on Earth, sustainable design and building is a process which, at its best, considers the economic impacts of NOT building responsibly. It is a more holistic way of building and balances long-term costs and implications with short term costs.
Yet in many ways we as a building industry are trying to fit sustainable building -a round peg, into our current square hole conventional way. It what we’re used to, and generally, we don’t like change. So somehow, if we push hard enough, we’ll make it fit. And USGBC – with all due respect, quite frankly doesn’t help with their consistent messaging that “it doesn’t cost more to build green.” Unless the design team engages in a more integrated design process early on and sets environmental benchmarks early on however, it does.
Fasten you seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Earth is in crises. Really, we are in crises because in reality, Earth will survive without us just fine. Buildings require huge amounts of resources to be built and operated. They are the single biggest source of CO2 emissions into our atmosphere. Focusing on LEEDigation keeps us away from seeing the bigger picture of this crisis, as well as what sustainable building and third-party certification systems, like LEED and Green Globes, can accomplish towards reducing those emissions, and educating us at a holistic level about environmental stewardship. It also has the capacity to steer those who might otherwise build sustainably away from doing so, for fear of LEEDigation. No one said building sustainably was easy.
If LEEDigation does continue to grow however, I predict that 25 years from now, it won’t mean a darn thing. In fact, many of us will look back in hindsight at our collective lack of forethought and wish we had taken the risk into the somewhat greater unknown of building sustainably. We’ll feel we wasted a lot of time in LEEDigation for naught.
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