"Measuring Green" Panel Discussion
posted by John Morris Dixon, FAIA
Kira Gould moderated a panel that included Nadav Malin, writer and editor of Environmental Building News, Susan Maxman, architect and Top Ten winner, and Henry Siegel, architect and Top Ten organizer.
Commenting on the on-going discussion of LEED’s value, Gould credited it with “market transformation,” saying that without it, “We wouldn’t be here.” On the other hand, she said, “quality of life” cannot be quantified.
She listed some of the other tools that exist for measuring sustainability, including the Energy Department’s Energy Star program, which has moved beyond product standards to take in building, and the BRE environmental assessment method from the U.K, then said the Top Ten program is complementary to LEED, not a rival.
Panelist Maxman observed that good design only becomes better as you look into sustainability issues. Clients come to her asking for a LEED certified building. Her approach is to ask them to consider more broadly what they want the building to accomplish, to work out sustainability strategies for it, and let the LEED rating develop however it may. Navad Malin concurred, saying that the client’s interest in a certain LEED rating is an opening to a “deeper level” of conversation about objectives.
Henry Siegel praised LEED as “a good metric,” as far as it goes. But it does not properly recognize measures such as reducing the building’s square footage. He expects LEED criteria to morph into our building codes soon. He advised bringing all consultants on the team in early and listening to them all. He recalled a former employer who didn’t want to work with a certain engineer because “he wants to be an architect.” Siegel welcomes the consultant who wants to be involved in the design process.
Maxman dittoed this thought for the landscape architect, a consultant she always brings in at the beginning of process, gaining critical insights into how the building can work on its site. And clients have to be at the table and heard respectfully. Place is also a crucial determinant, she stressed. Why should a building in Boston look like one in Houston? Why should the four sides look the same? The sustainability issue, she implied, can address these questions.
Mahlin pointed out, in defense of LEED, that the project must meet certain basic standards, before the points (for things like bike racks) can be counted. And some localities are customizing LEED standards in their codes, requiring certain amounts of points in specific areas or adding other qualifications for approval.
Kira Gould pointed out that the a building that doesn’t “move the heart,” to quote Peter Bohlin’s criterion for a good design, will not be cared for or operated well – will be less likely to meet sustainability objectives over the long haul.
A speaker from the floor noted that spec builders are beginning to see economic value in a LEED rating. It is coming to be seen as a prerequisite for Class A office space, hence can override the traditional fixation of first cost.
Siegel provide a final word from the panel on LEED, saying, “We have to lead, not let LEED lead us.”