Thursday, October 21, 2010

monopolies are never good... right?

the treehugger article is about this class action lawsuit against LEED [leadership in energy and environmental design] - the main point being that: LEED isn't all it's cracked up to be. the whole point of leed is to get people to design/build something using sustainable knowledge and products: 'energy star' appliances, south facing large windows, hardwood floors, low flow toilets, natural materials, etc etc etc. and the end result being a healthy space that isn't as bad for the environment as conventional building practices. now this lawsuit is basically debunking this whole leed certification process [it's a point systems that evaluates each element in a building, the sum being the leed-level that is award, i.e. silver, gold] and saying ::actually leed buildings use more energy, some 20% more and the whole thing is a form of 'green-washing' and it's monopolizing the entire environmental design sector::
now i'm a big fan of whatever the hell is good for the environment, honestly i'm a bit radical and although sometimes i do things that mother nature would frown upon for the most part i'm trying to do my part. so leed is one of those things i've always thought was so cool [not as cool as passive buildings or zero-carbon buildings, but hey, still cool] - and for the most part the designs coming out of the green architecture movement are beyond beautiful - with that said, i'm gonna give Henry Gifford [the man behind the lawsuit] some major love for a moment. 

During my undergrad my university decided our campus was in need of a student center, despite the fact that we had a nice small student center that was WARM and had comfy chairs and was quiet and made for nice naps during LONG days. so they torn down our bookstore, knocked down some historic buildings, relocated an entire building and then built the Davis Center - and it looks just like it sounds... an f'ing convention center.

the building is the size of a wal-mart [and this is not an exaggeration, it is actually the size of the average wal-mart found in the state of vermont, i've written about this subject for a piece back in my younger years] and the building is leed certified. i've always been a sceptic about the whole 'it cost more to restore than it does to knock it down and start over', that's a bit too much le corbusier for me. however there are definitely situations where it might be more expensive [and less environmentally sound] to restore but i'd like to see the good old cost-benefit analysis done out just to make sure. so back to the davis center.. it's the first green student center in the country and let me tell you, it sucks. it was terrible being in that place [save for the small all-vermont store that is tucked away in some dead-end corner that no one knows about], it was open but lacked proper function, it was big but with nothing in it... and for a student center there wasn't much for students to actually do. the building had 6 computers total.. and yeah UVM is a school of just over 11k [ungrad/grad/fac/profs.] but 6 computers ain't gonna do shit when everyone's cramming at once. what i'm trying to get at [TRYING] is that this building was pushed onto the students because it was green and sustainable and LEED certified... yet it sucked and lacked any creative originality.. and it took away from the natural beauty of the entire campus. multiple buildings were removed from the landscape in order to put everything into one mega center. uvm's got it going on with their composting, kick ass trash recovery programs, owning a farm down the road from my old dorm.. honestly it's amazing but i feel like it too was wearing emerald-tinted glasses.
Building a new or remodeling via LEED still means CONSUMING and especially with remodeling it means taking seemingly less energy efficient appliances out of buildings and replacing them with 'energy star' goodies.. but what happens to the old stuff? is it recycled? if so, where? how did those energy star ones get to their final destination? where were they made? is that factory itself a 'green' factory? there's a lot more that goes into building something than just the final product. what happens after the fact, how much time/energy is spent building a leed building? this isn't to say that building conventionally is less time/energy consuming but really it just makes me think [as if i don't do that enough] and makes me question what is being sold to consumers. just putting the stamp of LEED [or organic] on something doesn't mean that it necessarily the best. people have to question things, weigh the options, truly do a cost-benefit analysis [and no, not the one that i'm doing in urban econ. but your own, what makes sense FOR YOU!]. i want to save the world but it's hard work when there's no way of knowing who is truly on my side and who's just looking to make a quick buck.

one other thing... this guy Henry Gifford is a professor at my grad school... yeah my life just got that good.

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