Politics & Policy

Green Building Certification program LEEDs from Behind

Buildings with green award use MORE energy than those without.

District of Columbia buildings with a special green certification used more energy per square foot than buildings that lacked it, according to new research from the Environmental Policy Alliance.

The report examined energy-usage statistics released by the city’s Department of the Environment, analyzing the data for hundreds of privately owned structures. It compared non-certified buildings with those that participated in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. Created by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED’s goal is to help buildings lower their carbon footprint.

D.C. leads the nation in the number of LEED buildings per capita, and the city has also mandated the use of LEED standards for many of the new public and private buildings being constructed.#ad#

Environmental Policy Alliance research analyst Anastasia Swearingen says, “We found that, on average, LEED-certified buildings actually perform worse than traditional buildings when it comes to energy usage.”

Swearington’s research looks only at energy-use intensity (EUI), a specific metric that measures how much energy is used for each unit of building space. LEED-certified buildings had an average EUI of 205, while non-LEED buildings averaged 199, she reports.

Similar research conducted by the Washington Examiner last year found that “a high rating in the prestigious LEED certification program may bear little relation to actual greenhouse gas emissions of New York office towers.”

But Scot Horst, the senior vice president of LEED at the U.S. Green Buildings Council, says examining EUI alone presents a skewed perspective.

“What it tells you is how much energy is being used,” Horst says. “It doesn’t tell whether the space is being used efficiently. We know that we don’t want to incentivize empty buildings—Detroit would have the best EUI ever. We want buildings that are being used incredibly well that use the smallest amount of energy for the highest amount of use.”#ad#

Horst says that the ENERGY STAR ratings established by the Environmental Protection Agency offer a better way of determining efficiency, factoring in not only EUI but several other metrics, too. When that standard is used, D.C. commercial buildings score in the 77th percentile nationwide for energy efficiency, in large part because of the LEED program, Horst says.

The General Services Administration has reported that high-performance green buildings—a category that includes not only LEED certifications but other energy-efficiency programs—saw lower costs and energy consumption.

Swearington, the researcher for the Environmental Policy Alliance, says LEED certification relies too heavily on a computer-modeled building plan that may not actually reflect real-life energy usage.

Furthermore, not everything that wins a building LEED points actually deals with direct energy use, she says. For example, buildings can get LEED points from installing bike racks or decreasing the number of available parking spaces.

Jillian Kay Melchior writes for National Review as a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center. She is also a senior fellow for the Independent Women’s Forum.



Jillian Kay Melchior — Jillian Kay Melchior writes for National Review as a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center. She is also a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More