Thursday, August 27, 2009

Do we NEED Mainstream LEED?

Do we need LEED® to be mainstream? Inside the Brackets thinks not.

On the previous growth of LEED:
In his email newsletter, Rob Watson, a USGBC Board Member, explores the idea and consequences of LEED pushing into the mainstream:

About five years ago when we were wrestling with the phenomenal growth of
LEED, I came across a book by Geoffrey Moore that changed my life. Entitled
"Crossing the Chasm," Moore's book introduced me to the concept of market
composition and segmentation . . . it also scared me to death.

"Chasm" woke me to the fact that the 100 percent to 200 percent annual
growth we were seeing in LEED at that time was nothing compared to the frenzy
that awaited us if we "got it right." You see, 100 percent growth against a
small number is still a small number, but 50 percent growth against a big number
is a big number indeed.Moore argues that the Innovators and the Early Adopters
are fairly forgiving folks compared to the Early Majority segment of the market.

The titular so-called chasm refers to the performance and expectation gap
between products that succeed in the Early Adopter market compared with products
that exceed in the Early Majority market. Innovators and Early Adopters are
willing to put up with quirks and foibles of products that the Early Majority
will not tolerate.

As green buildings penetrate the Early Majority market, expectations of
performance and cost are becoming quite high.In order for green to succeed, any
gaps or holes in products' and buildings' performance must be plugged...

Consistent with the USGBC's commitment to providing excellent service --
for those smugly snarking, consider for one moment that in the year 2000 only
about 2,000,000 square feet entered the LEED system and in 2008 LEED had 2
BILLION square feet come in, and then ask yourself when was the last time you
handled a thousand-fold increase in anything with grace -- the
organization is beginning an intensive dialogue
with users of the system to
determine how it can be improved from an operational perspective. So, while LEED
is firmly into the Early Majority market in the United States, 2 billion square
feet represents less than 5 percent of the global market.

On the continued growth of LEED:
Inside the Brackets is, on one hand, very glad that LEED is growing so fast it can hardly contain itself. We don't like the idea of Mr. Watson making excuses for the shortcomings of the system during expansion, but we appreciate the dialogue for improvement. We are building an architecture firm around the design ideas that LEED and other green building rating systems espouse, so [1016] has a vested interest in exposure of the USGBC/LEED brand.

On the other hand, we posit that at a certain "tipping point" (to use a buzz word) we don't need LEED. Let us be more specific: we don't need LEED to grow so large as to certify 50% of the built square footage in the global market.

Once upon a time, the ideas, building practices, and materials that LEED sought to call attention to were progressive. The LEED designation meant a building's design and construction were truly "outliers" (another buzz word) and worthy of showcasing. Now, a combination of many factors, including the work that LEED has done, have raised the awareness of green and high-performance building to a much higher level. Municipalities are codifying sections of LEED standards and incentivizing LEED buildings with reduced permit fees or expedited approval... in other words, they get it.

LEED should be focused less on certifying more square feet, and more on progressing the dialogue of green materials and policy. Growing so large as to certify 5% of existing market is quite an accomplishment, though one not without growing pains. Growing larger than that threatens LEED's continued relevance by making a commodity of the designation and rendering the added expense of administering the checklist for any given building a waste of money.

Inside the Brackets is not saying that LEED is dead or pointless. (Full disclosure: Andrew Wilson, [1016] Architecture Principal, is a LEED Accredited Professional, and [1016] Architecture is a USGBC Member Firm.) We are saying that LEED and the USGBC should stick to the cutting edge, progressive green design that brought it to where it is today. In our opinion, this is the spirit of LEED. After all, the "L" stands for "Leadership," right? We think aiming to certify more than 2-3% of the built square footage in the world dilutes the brand and speaks more towards greed than green.

What say you about the explosive growth of the LEED certification? Should LEED stick to the cutting edge? Drop a comment to let us know what you think.

Full article text for the Green Biz newsletter.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a 501(c)(3) non profit that developed the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System.

The LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings.

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