While many have argued that the USGBC should simplify its approach and engage a broader segment of the market, LEED’s strategy has instead subtly shifted from market transformation to leadership recognition, in a way that is leaving the industry mostly “LEEDerless.”
Getting a smaller and smaller segment of the population to jump higher and higher is not going to get us where we need to go.
While early adopters, market leaders and the truly committed are embracing the higher thresholds of LEEDv4 and exploring even more demanding standards such as the Living Building Challenge, Passive House and net zero buildings, the overwhelming majority of real estate owners and practitioners are keeping their heads firmly planted in the sand. This is simply unacceptable, since buildings are responsible directly and indirectly for almost 50 percent of global climate emissions.
It is time to take a hard look at what is working and what is not and take a zero-based approach to what we must do next to engage the broader real estate community in the fight against climate change.
This book and its author, Jerry Yudelson, do just that, clearly and succinctly describing not only what is wrong with what we have today but also clarifying why we should feel hopeful. There is a path to a post-carbon world where building energy use has been slashed and renewable energy sources provide the majority of our heating, cooling and electricity, but it’s probably not the path we’re on. The book suggests that we may need to start again or seriously rethink our strategy with the end clearly in mind.
For Yudelson, “begin with the end in mind” dictates a laser-like focus first on carbon reductions and then on water use. If we must de-emphasize other sustainability goals in the short term to create an easier, less daunting path for real estate to reduce carbon emissions, it is a price we must pay.
He also points the way to how we can simplify and automate the process, thereby reducing costs dramatically. Some organizations give lip service to algorithms, “Big Data,” and the “Internet of Things” but no one has really tapped into the power of modern technology and computing to deliver, and more importantly to document, green buildings.
The mind-numbing detail and pencil pushing that is driving practitioners crazy and costs through the roof would be more appropriately addressed by computers with advanced algorithms, using data that is already contained in computer-based design documents or building management tools. The author makes the case that green building certification can be easy, inexpensive and automatic, if it is integrated into the tools we already use for design and operations management.
“Smart, simple and sustainable” sounds like a great design brief to me. There is enormous opportunity for innovation and entrepreneurial efforts to connect existing data to a largely automated system for green building guidance and certification. This book is a must read for anyone who is interested in delivering on that promise.