20 Years of LEED: Is it Still Worth the Investment?
LEED certification began in 2000 by the US Green Building Council. The LEED point system was established in order to distinguish hierarchies between buildings that meet a certain number of criteria. More points mean more rewards and prestige, encouraging designers and developers to improve a building’s impact on the environment. According to their website, their mission is “to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.” In 2003, the Canada Green Building Council was formed to expand green building initiatives in Canada.
When LEED was established, there was a need to get the word out about the serious impact our buildings have on the environment. The LEED reward system provided an incentive for building owners and developers to buy in to the program. It was a win-win not only for the building owners who were pledged long-term cost savings and revenue through resale and leases, but for USGBC/CAGBC, they also generated money through building certification, membership and education. For the last 20 years, this process has worked like a charm, but do we still need all the plaques and rewards?
Why use LEED?
According to USGBC, these are a few of their reasons for pursuing LEED certification:
- Instant recognition for your building;
- Healthier indoor space;
- Lower use of energy, water and other resources; and
- Better for building occupants, the community and the environment.
For many designers and building owners in the industry, these guiding principals have become standard practice outside of the pursuit of LEED certification. No longer does a plaque on the wall necessarily indicate whether a building is “green”. A blog post on the DNV GL website from 2015 asks if there is still a need to seek LEED certification, noting that their clients in California are required to meet state building codes that nearly match the requirements of LEED.
20 Years of LEED
In Canada, building codes and other standards and regulations outside of LEED are slowly being adapted to accommodate energy savings and green building. On numerous occasions, our clients have preferred not to achieve LEED certification but to focus on products and systems that are beneficial for their buildings long-term.
In response to LEED, manufacturers have gone through the very expensive and extensive process of making modifications to their products over the years to keep up with demand and qualify for LEED points. The cost to re-test their products to meet changing building codes and standards is costly, but almost all manufacturers now have a line of products specifically catered to obtaining LEED points. This has been hugely beneficial for architects and designers. Even if LEED certification becomes a thing of the past, the manufacturer’s time wouldn’t have been wasted as we’ve become accustomed to making the “greener” choice and with building codes and standards adopting these same requirements, green is now the new norm.
Thanks to LEED, green building and good sustainability practices have become the norm. Nowadays, regardless of LEED certification, many of us, building owners included, consider building energy savings and their impact on the environment without the need to go through the rigorous and costly process of certification.
Is it too soon to say, “thank you!” to LEED and move on? Perhaps, but if buildings are so impactful on the environment and codes are being adapted to suit these changes being made over the last 20 years, not only do I question if LEED is still needed, but why shouldn’t all buildings be required to meet a certain standard? I believe this is the direction we are moving toward in the near future.
Brittany graduated from the George Brown College Architectural Technology program in 2008 and has been a Specification Writer for almost 10 years, 5 of which have been at IBI Group’s Toronto West office. She’s active within CSC (Construction Specifications Canada) and obtained her CSP (Certified Specification Practitioner) designation in 2016. Brittany has had the opportunity to work on a multitude of project types across Canada, from commercial to industrial, education to public transit and many in between. She also taught the specifications course to 6th semester students at George Brown College in 2018.