Canada is well known for its sustainable practices in institutional design.
LEED in Canada includes a prerequisite to “establish a minimum level of energy efficiency for the base building and systems”. This alone has reduced global energy use by a significant amount. Although a project can be designed to be energy efficient without LEED certification, we would suggest LEED certified buildings are more likely to be energy efficient than most other buildings.
However, the recent article published by Forbes, “LEED-Certified Buildings Are Often Less Energy-Efficient Than Uncertified Ones,” suggests that LEED brings an added cost with little or no added value. The author concludes the article by writing, “A look beyond the rhetoric and into the science exposes many so-called ‘green’ schemes as expensive scams. We all want to show Mother Nature some love, but don’t be fooled by corporate tricks that play on our green sympathies. Instead, ride a bike to work, plant a tree, or do some composting. It’s the difference between being green and simply spending more green.”
We find this article to be biased and misleading. Designing with sustainability in mind has always been a goal of our firm – and we are not alone in this objective. LEED has been adopted by most state, provincial and federal governments in North America as a prerequisite for government-funded buildings.
LEED Requirements in Canada
Every LEED certified building in Canada must demonstrate it can reduce the design energy cost by 18 percent, relative to the reference building designed to ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1-1999 standards. This results in 1 LEED point. Additional LEED points can be achieved for every 5 percent in energy cost reductions, up to a 60 percent reduction (11 possible points). Projects require 26 points to be certified, 33 for Silver, 39 for Gold and 52 for Platinum.
While it is true that LEED makes no requirement to prove the calculated energy savings are realized, the computer modeling required to demonstrate the designed energy reductions is proven technology.
The suggestion that LEED certification adds costs without benefit is questionable. Energy efficient components will be more expensive whether a building is LEED certified or not. Designers, builders and owners routinely conduct cost-benefit analyses to determine the cost-effectiveness of each energy reduction option. Only those with an acceptable payback period are normally incorporated into the design.