Low-hanging Fruit

USA Today Disparages “Easy” LEED Credits, Which Is Nothing New

In my article titled “LEED and Economic Development,” I discussed USA Today’s criticism of LEED’s connection to economic-development incentives. (Read USA Today’s article.) In this piece, I’d like to address USA Today’s opinion in the same article about it being too easy to achieve a LEED certification. The newspaper’s disparagement focused on several of the “low-hanging fruit” credits that have been slammed for many years.

Yes, we all now know that Sustainable Sites Credit 4.2: Alternative Transportation offers a point for installing bicycle racks and changing rooms. (Why is it the critics always zero in on the bike racks but never mention the changing rooms and showers?) Misconceptions that these credits are easy run rampant.

In more than a dozen LEED-certified projects that I’ve worked on over the years, I can only think of one project where I’ve attempted that credit. Why? Because building owners don’t want to give up precious square footage to accommodate the changing room and shower. The bike rack itself is a bit of a red herring. The idea behind it encourages the use of alternative transportation, the reduction of miles driven in automobiles, and a reduction of our carbon footprint and greenhouse-gas emissions. Is that a green notion worth a LEED point? You bet.

Although USA Today’s credit criticisms go beyond this one credit, I think it’s important to point out there’s something the critics, including USA Today, don’t talk about: LEED is a dynamic and ever-changing tool that goes thorough constant updating. Some of the credits are legacies from earlier versions of the program that were implemented by the USGBC as a starting point. With the current versions of LEED, points simply aren’t worth the same amount as in the early days of the program. Since LEED 2009 was introduced, credits now have relative weighting and certain ideas are worth more in the grand scheme of the certification. Something that’s worth a single point now isn’t as valuable as it once was because other credits are now worth multiple points.

About the Author

Nathan M. Gillette
Nathan M. Gillette, AIA, LEED AP O+M, CEM, is director of Natura Architectural Consulting, Grand Rapids, Mich., and a retrofit editorial advisor. He works with clients to successfully implement and manage energy efficiency and sustainability projects.

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