Donovan Rypkema: LEED stands for "Lunatic Environmentalists Enthusiastically Demolishing"

Donald Rypkema is a powerful and passionate speaker who had the crowd at the 2008 Heritage Conservation conference on their feet. The President of PlaceEconomics, a Washington D.C. based consulting firm specializing in the economic revitalization of city centers and the development of historic properties, is also deliberately provocative, challenging a wide range of sacred cows in the green design world.

He starts it with an elevator pitch/ "if you can't write it on a business card then you don't have a clear idea" and summarizes it in five points:1. Sustainable development is crucial for economic competitiveness.
2. Sustainable development has more elements than just environmental responsibility.
3. "Green buildings" and sustainable development are not synonyms.
4. Historic preservation is, in and of itself, sustainable development.
5. Development without a historic preservation component is not sustainable.

Perhaps he is such a good speaker because he practices his pitch; I found an almost perfect transcript from a previous presentation here.


In his blog,
he Rypkema is particularly critical of architects and developers using LEED as an excuse to tear down perfectly good buildings; the 40 storey hotel in Lexington, Kentucky shown above is to be built on the bones of 14 historic structures built between 1826 and 1930, all of which could be easily integrated into the structure.

"The idea that this development couldn't be a mix of old and new suffers from a paucity of the imagination. And their stick to justify the demolition? "Yeah, but we're going to be LEED certified."

He suggests that LEED stands for "Lunatic Environmentalists Enthusiastically Demolishing."

We can be provocative too, and I asked him what he thought of TreeHugger Emeritus Ruben Anderson's comment to a previous post:

"Most old buildings merely slow the wind down. They are abysmally hard to heat, as any reading of period novels will tell you. I cannot support using energy to heat sentiment."

WARNING: Strong language.