Rating LEED

LEED sustainable building certification is the most mainstream of sustainable rating systems and Jackson Murphy, of Green Bean Analysis, knows all about sustainable rating systems and the impact they have. There are around fifteen rating systems for sustainable buildings, but the most prominent is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED rating system. LEED certifications, established by the United States Green Building Counsel, are set to give building designs and construction a road map to sustainable practices. After going over a checklist and point rating system of sustainable implementations, a building is awarded a level of LEED certification, depending on how much has been applied to the design.

Jerry Burbridge, an agent of Homeland Security and Customs-Border Patrol for the United States, understands the intricate details of designing buildings and what exactly needs to be considered when pursuing LEED certification. When beginning the design phase of a building, life-cycle costing must be considered to make sure that any design or LEED opportunity is correct for the uses and longevity of the facility. Burbridge has created a theory on building design called the “6-6-6-6” sides approach to design. This method, explained by Burbridge, is the process of acknowledging the six sides of dirt (top, bottom & 4 sides) and can be applied to built environment (4 walls, ceiling & floor), furniture and the surrounding environment. These four, six sided, configurations must be considered before designing a site. Along with “6-6-6-6” considerations, Burbridge argues for Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) to find out the historical use and dirt demographics in order to sure up infrastructure features. Before seeking LEED or even building a home, it is prudent that those involved consider the “6-6-6-6” sides, an ESA and a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to make sure that materials are safe for humans and that functionality of the facility are consistent.

The LEED rating system is a step in the right direction, but there are some negative implications that arise in pursuits of certifications. First of all the certification process is expensive with fees for having a LEED auditor inspect a property and the price of the LEED seal to hang up on the wall. The most unfortunate aspect of the rating system: inconsistencies. Developers seeking LEED certification go through a 100 point scale to find out whether they have reached LEED certified, silver, gold or platinum. The problem is that points are allocated regardless of logistics. If a building in the middle of nowhere were seeking certification, they could essentially add a bicycle rack and gain so many points. Well if the building is too far to bike to, the point and the bike rack are not serving any real purpose, but the point is still awarded. The inconsistencies arise from developers who will put all their effort into one area, such as water efficiency. At the same time energy & atmosphere, materials & resources, indoor quality, and many others are left neglected. Jerry Burbridge also encourages those to consider that certifications and functionality can be lost in a year without proper upkeep and management of a facility. As LEED continues to update its point system it is important that they start incorporating logistics and find what techniques best fit each building. Have we  factored the cost/benefit analysis of going LEED?

References: Jackson Murphy, MBA, LEED AP; Jerry Burbridge, Homeland Security/Customs-Boarder Patrol for the United States of America            http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=124http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/greenbuilding/Design/CostBenefit/Report.pdf

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