LEED Bashing: Government Study Finds "Equivalence" Between LEED and Green Globes

LEED/GBI/Promo image

Paula Melton recently wrote Green Globes Tops LEED in Federal Review, But Barely, in BuildingGreen and Greensource, describing how a new report suggests that "the Green Globes rating system aligns slightly better than LEED with federal requirements for new construction, while LEED remains the most compatible green building rating system for existing buildings."

The differences identified between the two systems are not marked, and the report acknowledges that apples-to-apples comparisons are difficult. The reviewers also claim the report “does not recommend a certification system,” but repercussions remain to be seen; a similar report from 2006 was used to justify GSA’s continued use of LEED.

That is perhaps the understatement of the year; The repercussions could be huge. No doubt Ward Hubbell and the gang at the Green Building Initiative (GBI), the group behind Green Globes, are celebrating, for they are that much closer to being declared an equivalent to LEED. But there are a couple of very fundamental differences between the two organizations.

Department of Energy/Public Domain

The purpose of the study was to assist the GSA " to develop the formal recommendation on how green building certification systems can be used to facilitate high performance in the Federal sector." The study looks at three different rating systems (The living building challenge was also included) but never looks behind the curtains. For instance, the report notes about GBI's organization:

Governance: GBI is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. GBI has 53 Members and Supporters and 9 Industry Affiliates. In addition, GBI has over 10,000 “Friends of GBI,” formerly known as Associate Members who receive the quarterly newsletter and other information from GBI. There is a Board of Directors, Executive Director, executive staff, and Industry Advisory Board. Decisions of the Industry Advisory Board are non-binding.

Hubbell Communications/Screen capture

The President of the Green Building Initiative, and founder, is Ward Hubbell. He is also President of Hubbell Communications, which has the motto: We understand how public policy and perceptions are created and we use the power of communications to shape both."

They proudly display their successes on their website, including a car manufacturer's association who had a "legislative problem in Oregon."-"In just a few days, we had a fresh coalition identity, a campaign website, and a strong social media presence."

With the Green Building Initiative, he has been at it for years. After his former gig as a PR exec at Lousiana Pacific, he got startup capital from the lumber industry for the purpose of establishing a green standard that did not give points to FSC certified lumber. In 2006, the The Forest and Paper Association told the Wall Street Journal that "Green Globes is much more wood-friendly than LEED".

But Ward didn't have to go far from Hubbell to run the GBI; they operate out of the same building.

Then there is the board of directors of the GBI. It includes a couple of residential tract and custom home builders, representatives of Dow Chemical, the Vinyl Institute, the Resilient Floor Covering Institute, Solvay, a chemical company, a communications director for Weyerhaeuser and a member of the SFI communications committee, Trane, a large air conditioning company, a former chairman of the Vinyl Promotion Network and others.

Members and supporters include big lumber, big chemical, our friends at the American Chemistry Council and more.

Two of the most contentious issues facing the green building industry are lumber certification and the safety of products made from PVC and vinyl. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative has done a tremendous job of attacking LEED, and convincing politicians that FSC is somehow foreign and unamerican; The Chemical industry has politicians writing letters to the GSA complaining that LEED will kill jobs. Now the GSA has a report in their hands that claims "the Green Globes rating system aligns slightly better than LEED with federal requirements for new construction."

Form 990/Public Domain

Perhaps. But the Green Building Initiative is perhaps a bit too friendly to SFI certified wood and to plastics. Its board is packed with representatives of those industries, The Form 990 submitted to the IRS pretty much declares that the whole operation is run by Ward Hubbell, a PR flack. It seems to me that you can be running a certification system, or a brilliantly successful PR exercise in astroturfing, or as Hubbell calls it, "Grassroots and Grasstops mobilization". I don't see how you can be both.

I am not going to go into the virtues or problems with LEED; it is certainly not without flaws. But there is no way in this world that the Green Building Initiative can be considered "comparable" to LEED. The former was set up to supplant the latter, and it looks like it might just pull it off. As I said in an earlier post, this may mean the end of consensus-based third party certification, the elevation to equivalence of industry-controlled or completely bogus certification systems, and general confusion all round.

Read more at PortlandAffoot

Tags: Architecture | Green Building