Green Building Law Blog
The Importance of Aligning Intent With Outcome
In today's News-Tribune of Tacoma, Washington (admittedly not on my usual roundup of morning papers) there was anop-ed piece by a conservative columnist calling for Washington (state) to roll back "green" requirements for schools because they are not creating the energy savings promised when enacted.
The 2005 law calls for schools to be designed, constructed and certified to LEED Silver standard. At the time, the Governor Gregoire's press release stated:
According to the State Board of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction’s office, use of sustainable building designs result in:
20% annual savings in energy costs
20% reduction in water costs
38% in waste water production
22% reduction in construction waste
A potential reduction in student absenteeism
A potential 5% decrease in teacher turnover rates
A potential 5% to 26% improvements in standardized test scores
In an ideal world, meeting LEED Silver standards would result in the predicted energy, water and other efficiencies. But that is not always the case. Many factors contribute to efficiency, including construction, operations and maintenance. Further, measurement and verification of energy usage is more art than science--which schools are being compared? by what methodology? Finally, what are the overall environmental implications of the building--were fewer new resources used, for example?
Many municpalities and companies are using LEED as a shorthand for high performance building to circumvent the difficulties of determining individual targets for resource efficiency and creating long term verification plans. This is shortsighted. By creating laws which use LEED as a substitute for rigorous environmental standards, well-intentioned municpalities and companies open themselves up to the criticism of the News-Tribune critic--that we shouldn't implement (or we should rescind) green building laws because they don't create environmental efficiency.