Monday, July 7, 2008

New Rules Coming for Green Buildings

Starting in January builders hoping to get their homes and offices certified "green" will have new standards to meet after the U.S. Green Building Council changed its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification process.

Washington Business Journal More than 1,500 buildings have received LEED certification since the program was introduced in 2000, and more than 11,000 are seeking it.

In those eight years, the USGBC has changed the way architects, contractors and developers design and construct buildings. Even structures that don't pursue LEED certification are increasingly incorporating sustainable practices. Such steps include increased energy efficiency, daylighting, recycling materials, non-polluting carpet and paint, and low-flow water fixtures and toilets.

"The USGBC's mission is to transform the marketplace, and we've seen a tremendous amount of success in a short time," said Anne Jackson, an associate at architecture firm Perkins+Will.

LEED certifications are available in eight categories: new construction, existing buildings, commercial interiors, core and shell, retail, schools, health care and homes. Another category, for neighborhood developments, is in the pilot stage.

LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. Points are awarded for specific practices in each area and are verified by an independent third party. Depending on the number of points earned, a building is awarded a certified, silver, gold or platinum ranking.

LEED 2009 will reorganize the commercial rating systems by consolidating, aligning and updating them into one system that's "simpler and more elegant and committed to continuous improvement," said USGBC spokeswoman Ashley Katz.

Points will be allocated differently and reweighed, and the entire process will be flexible to adapt to changing technology, account for regional differences and encourage innovation.

"These changes -- giving LEED an umbrella rating system -- will streamline the process and make it less confusing, especially for non-practitioners," Jackson said.

The certification process has been criticized for being too rigid, cumbersome and demanding, for being too costly, and for awarding points illogically. A common example is that installing a bike rack gets one point, as does installing a costly HVAC system.

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