LEED by Example
Your article on LEED ("The Green Standard?" October) asserts that the point of LEED is getting lost, but then misses the point itself. The U.S. Green Building Council's mission is market transformation. Your assertions about LEED's "newfound power" are naive. USGBC, through LEED, is affecting about one-tenth of all new commercial construction and has just begun working with existing buildings and homes. Green building is creating momentum, but the work of transforming the market is far from done.
U.S. Green Building Council
While many of your criticisms of LEED are valid, you seem to be also blaming LEED for problems of our sound-bite media and short-attention-span culture. A building can get points in LEED for an integrated systems approach to energy efficiency and for flashy stuff like photovoltaics. The former is usually more cost effective, but it's the latter that gets press. If project teams are choosing to go for the expensive, sexy stuff, is that LEED's fault?
Last point, on the energy targets: Whether 25% energy savings is remarkable or not depends on the building type and location. Did you ask all those people who have committed to 50% energy savings whether they have actually designed a building that achieves that?
I thought it interesting that your article chose to characterize LEED as a "cabal." Encarta defines "cabal" as a "conspiracy" or an "exclusive group of people." This is an unusual characterization of a process involving millions of volunteer hours selflessly donated by thousands of "fathers and mothers" of LEED. With more than 11,000 member organizations employing millions of people and nearly 100 local chapters existing or in formation, USGBC may be the largest and fastest-growing human wiki in the United States, if not the world.
No one doubts that the LEED engine could move faster if it were decoupled from the market train—but the point is to move the train, not just the engine. Also, for the record, I was not cofounder of the U.S. Green Building Council with David Gottfried—Rick Fedrizzi and Mike Italiano were.
New York, New York
Writer Anya Kamenetz responds: I should have been more precise in characterizing Mr. Watson's role in the USGBC. According to the official Web site for his company, EcoTech International, he is known as the "father of LEED" and the founding chairman (1994-2005) of the LEED Green Building Rating System of the USGBC. The word "cabal" was a quote from a critic who, like everyone I spoke with about the USGBC, offered both praise and blame.
A version of this article appeared in the December 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine.