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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Is LEED misleading?

Center for Predictive Medicine dedicated

Photo credit = University of Louisville.
Pictured: Center for Predictive Medicine, LEED building

The September/October 2011 Mother Jones has a short article challenging the notion that LEED-certified buildings use less energy. University of Louisville, along with many other institutions, have embraced Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification from the US Green Building Council as a key means by which to achieve sustainability in their operation practices. If LEED is a fraud, then that's a huge story.

You can get electronic access to the MJ piece by providing your email address, but here's a key excerpt for those who want to be saved the trouble:

According to 2008 study commissioned by USGBC, LEED buildings are 25 to 30% more energy-efficient than conventional ones. But when Gifford looked at the study, he found that it had compared the meaning of one group of buildings to the median of another-what seemed to him a classic apples-to-oranges mistake. He got some of the data and calculated that LEED buildings actually used 29% more energy. “Going to so much trouble and expense to end up with buildings that use more energy than comparable buildings is not only a tragedy, it is also a fraud,” he wrote in a trade magazine. The USGBC stood by its numbers.
Henry Gifford is identified in the piece as a NY energy efficiency consultant.

An Oberlin College physicist, John Scofield, is also quoted in the article -- and he does not think much of LEED certification either: "This is like requiring people to wear copper bracelets for arthritis!" Another blogger, Erich Vieth, has poked around at Scofield's website and helpfully provides a link to the academic work by Scofield backing this claim.

When I return to the Sustainability Council after my sabbatical, I'll be asking about this.

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