Greenwash Watch: Builders Write Their Own Green Building Standard

LEED is tough. LEED costs money. Builders don't like paying for something that the customer can't see, any more than their customers do, which is why there are more granite kitchens than there are energy star rated houses. LEED penalizes big houses; builders like building them. LEED is developed by a third party non-profit Green Building Council; lots of people are unhappy with how rigorous it is and how long it takes, which means they are probably doing a good job. Builders want speed.

So they took a page out of the lumber industry's book and wrote their own standard. Like Greenglobes, it is better than nothing at all; like SFI compared to FSC, it is easier, cheaper, written by the industry, and perhaps confusing to the public who has to juggle yet another standard on top of LEED and Energy Star.

It also sets a very low bar for hopping onto the green gravy train.

I have not read the entire draft or final document, but the resource efficiency section intrigued me and Iooked at both. The draft, shown above, gave serious points for reducing house size, a terrific idea;

It is conspicuously absent from the section in the final proposal. now you get 9 points for "creating an efficient floor plan that maintains a home's functionality" and other points for doing what every builder does- use as little material as possible and plan room dimensions to minimize waste; wood is expensive. One barely has to show up to add these up to the minimum level; any quality builder could gain enough points just through standard good building practice.

So do we need this? the LEED people don't think so. According to the WSJ, The council's vice president for policy and public affairs, Michelle Moore, disputes the notion that the council's process is too costly or impractical for builders. She says it has rigorous verification standards, with a range of third-party experts who inspect homes and test materials to guard against so-called greenwash -- where any effort that is even nominally environmentally friendly gets painted with a "green" brush.

"In any marketplace, there's inevitably going to be people who do the minimum that they can and call themselves green," she says.

Download the whole thing from the NAHB here or the drafts by section here. ::Wall Street Journal