Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Green Construction Police

There is a new sheriff in town when it comes to building new homes and office buildings: the council for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). LEED is responsible for developing green criteria and guidelines for new homes and office buildings. LEED will certify homes that meet their criteria. If a dwelling meets 26 of 69 criteria points (40%) it is LEED certified. If a building meets 33 of 69 criteria it is certified as silver; if it meets 39 criteria points it is certified gold; and if it is meets 52 points it is certified platinum. This all sounds great, but the criteria point system is flagrantly flawed. First, only 17 of the 69 criteria directly relate to energy savings. Thus, any new dwelling can be certified LEED platinum and actually not save on any energy costs. Secondly, LEED certified homes and buildings are expensive. Data indicates that LEED certified dwellings can cost anywhere from 1.5 to 3 times more than conventional homes and buildings. Thirdly, each criteria point is weighted equally. Hence, a business building can install an expensive energy efficient heating and cooling system and receive one point, which is the same score another business would get for installing a 100 dollar bike rack outside its lobby. Fourth, the LEED council brags that the average certified business and home is 25 to 30% more energy efficient than non-LEED certified dwellings. This sounds great, but let’s remember LEED certified buildings are 1.5 to 3 times more expensive to construct. Therefore; the cost to energy savings breakeven point for LEED certified dwellings needs to be 50 to 200% more energy efficient than non-LEED certified buildings and homes. In other words, the return on investment for LEED energy efficient homes is not very good. Fifth, much of the cost to subsidize these expensive buildings, especially government buildings, will be placed on the taxpayer. While liberals in Washington have been unsuccessful, to this point, to make LEED standards the law of the land, it has not stopped states and municipalities from adopting LEED guidelines. To date some 43 states and 400 cities have incorporated LEED standards into their laws. Liberals who favor LEED mandates claim without these LEED guidelines green conscience homes and office buildings will not be constructed. This is nonsense, because all individuals and employers are dollar conscience and do not want to pay high prices for energy. As energy prices go up, so will the need for more energy efficient homes. But these homes will need to be cost efficient as well. What’s worse is many LEED guidelines are theories that have not been proven to save energy. For instance, LEED has published guidelines for not only homes and businesses, but for the design and construction of entire communities. LEED proposes, for instance, to eliminate cul-de-sacs. They believe cul-de-sacs lead to more traffic congestion. Is this true? There is no study or evidence that more cul-de-sacs create more traffic congestion. LEED also proposes having businesses built near mass transit stops. This sounds great, but just because there is a mass transit stop outside a business it doesn’t mean it is easier for people to use mass transit to get to work. LEED communities and neighborhoods will be bike and pedestrian friendly. LEED communities will mix businesses and homes. LEED communities will build homes on small lots close together to save space and the energy costs (and water) to maintain yards. Are all these proposals energy efficient that will cut carbon emissions? No one knows, but people are going to spend millions to find out if this works. At best, the government and citizens will invest billions for a negligible effect on climate change (maybe one billionth of one percent fewer CO2 emissions). This is another example of how the government is using fear mongering (climate change) to force not only unproven theories, but unnecessary and costly changes. My Book: Is America Dying? (, Barnes and Noble)

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