The Sin of LEED Green Buildings that Value Gizmos Over Appropriate Design
This is Canada's first LEED Platinum house. It has ground source heat pumps, lots of insulation and a pile of other tricks that are good for LEED points. It also has a black asphalt roof, double car garage, no shading of its windows and an impermeable driveway. In short, it has almost none of the features that we know can make a better, more energy efficient house. As James Russell wrote in Bloomberg:
Homes designed today can be much more efficient at low cost. Whether they're high-tech or old-fashioned, houses with awnings, porches and carefully placed windows can harvest natural breezes for cooling. Just shifting the primary orientation from east-west to north-south keeps summer's roasting sun off glass and lets windows grab winter heat. It can knock several percentage points off fuel and lighting bills. Backyard windmills, solar panels and planted "green'' roofs are chic, yet walls covered with shading vines offer most of the benefits for much lower cost.
Donovan Rypkema is angry that we are losing so many good existing buildings, with so much history, not to mention embodied energy and real efficiency, to build new buildings that won't last as long and that are covered with expensive green gizmos. He suggests that LEED stands for "Lunatic Environmentalists Enthusiastically Demolishing."
Rypkema points out that architects are using LEED to justify demolition of perfectly good buildings. If one complains, they respond "Yeah, but we're going to be LEED certified."
In fact, the key to building a greener building is not to throw more technology at it, but to use less, like the Terry Thomas Building by Weber Thompson that we go on about. Instead of heat pumps, it has awnings, natural ventilation, courtyards and vines. More: "Smart Architect Builds Dumb Building."
Terry Thomas Building By Weber Thompson
As I learned at Greenbuild in Boston, gizmos rule. When the head of the National Trust for Historic Preservation was the headliner to talk about how green old buildings were, Richard Moe spoke to an empty room while you could not get into the gizmo workshops downstairs. LEED practitioners demonstrated with their feet that they really couldn't care that The Greenest Brick is the One That's Already in the Wall.