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Our university is spending $17 million on new student dormitories that students will move into next month. We reported briefly on the dorms back at Christmas-time. I've spent some part of my summer learning about LEED building, the claims made by green building advocates and whether or not those claims ever materialize and in a cost-effective manner. We'll report on those periodically as we continue to study the progress of our very own LEED building on campus.

But here is today's simple question. I am sure it has no answer. Well, I know the answer I'll get, but that is not exactly an answer.  Here goes. The building is certified by the private organization known as the US Green Building Council. The certification comes on the basis of a variety of factors, including where the building materials are sources, how much light gets into the building, how much fresh air gets into the building and more. But here is what used to puzzle me back when I thought we were all doing science: why is the building certification given before a single drop of cement is poured?

Seriously. The LEED Gold certification is granted before the building is completed and in operation. The awards are given with an eye toward whether the materials sourcing and building design are intended to improve outcomes – which does not exactly mean the same thing as actually getting them. Heck, the more I think about it, that certification shouldn't be given until after several years of operation. Why? If the building is being built to improve health outcomes and environmental outcomes then wouldn't it make sense to measure those things as a result of the building itself, and then based on whether those outcomes materialize make the awards to the building?

Now of course it is no surprise that this is not done. I wonder if we have any plans to measure these things so we can at least do our own internal evaluation? And of course I wonder if we have an adequate control building so we can do an apples-to-apples comparison on benefits and costs. Finally, there seems to be a market opportunity for a certification firm to step in and do the analysis like this for folks. In fact, there seems to be an opportunity to do this across a wide swath of environmental and health projects, I wonder why no one has stepped up to fill in the gap.

Anyone want to get in business with me? I am sure we'll make a killing. Sure of it. It would be nice to be evaluated in all of our jobs this way. Imagine going to your vet, "well Mr. Wintercow, I intended only to give your dog a vaccination, sorry I cut her leg off …!" No worries doc, no worries.

7 Responses to “LEED-ing Indeed, Why Not Follow?”

  1. aarmlovi says:

    You can register as a LEED project before construction finishes, but you’re not certified at any level until a the building is physically inspected after completion. Also, the Med Center’s CTSB is the only registered and certified UR building; the Tom Golisano Children’s Hospital is registered but not certified.

    They dorm isn’t registered as yet…but if they’re actually building a rain garden on top they’re probably going to fulfill other less expensive requirements and aim for certification eventually. You’re right about monitoring though; behavior is usually as important as design. Driving a hybrid sedan foolishly will still give you crappy mileage, while compact traditional cars will give you near-average hybrid mileage (40 mpg+)*** when carefully driven. The best is a carefully designed, carefully operated project.

  2. Harry says:


    Humblest apologies for sending you email about my difficulties in accessing your great blog.

    When I try to access theunbrokenwindow from my obsolete iPhone3, it tells me: “Access has been blocked. Your IP [I’m not giving the number out] is found at Spamhaus. if [sic] you feel [sic] this is incorrect please contact them.” “Protected by AVH First Defense Against Spam.”

    Earlier WorldPress told me my access was blocked as spam, accusing my phone of a bad IP address, but I do not remember the precise message. I sent WordPress polite emails telling them of their problems, and my daughter Sara, whom wintercow knows, has told me that this is a big problem for all bloggers everywhere. I would add that it might be a problem for collectivist bloggers.

    Do I need to get a new phone to talk with the good people on the unbrokenwindow?

    I can still get Coyote.

    redhillholsteins was set up just for talking to WordPress, which has been mute. Damn their stupid editor.

    Best wishes to your herd.

  3. blink says:

    “There seems to be a market opportunity for a certification firm…” LOL — Your subtle sarcasm is hilarious! That *no one* is interested in such evaluation is excellent evidence that LEED certification is almost pure signaling. There is more profit to be had hawking auditing services to parents eager to evaluate the gold stars given to their potty-training toddlers.

  4. Harry says:

    Regarding that building, who knows how much money was wasted to serve political correctness, and how much money came from the government; in any case, it was a pittance — maybe a few hundred thousand extra to make the President of the U of R popular to get further money. That is his job, to have his hand out, and I cannot really blame him for playing the system. A disclaimer: these are MY comments and do not reflect any other opinion, particularly of anyone favorable to academic freedom or opposed to academic freedom.

    Meanwhile, our government is contemplating printing an extra $800 billion dollars, just to get us through the next election cycle. Separately, I read a quotation from Steny Hoyer saying that his colleagues believed that food stamps [ another currency not counted as money] and unemployment compensation were the only way to stimulate the economy, because they would spend it right away, as opposed to someone who was “richer” and did not spend it immediately might save it.

    I assume Steny means that those who do not live mouth-to-mouth would stuff it in a can in the back yard, which when savings rates are what they are, might not be a bad idea. Or save up and buy gold, and put it somewhere safe. He has that one figured out, sort of.

  5. A buiding is certified structurally safe based only the plans. The assumption rests on the rationalist validity of mathematics. So, too, here. On the other hand, structural engineering is well established and environmental engineering is not. If you goto a civil engineering statics class and give them a truss to work, they get the same answers (the right one do), and they can then take that to the structures lab and test it to prove their numbers. I am not sure what happens in environmental engineering 101 when they are given a rain garden on a roof to analyze … or test…

    Also, structures being as reliable as they are does not prevent all disasters. Look up the “Hyatt Regency Walkway Collapse” of 1981. (We still call them “dis-asters” to blame the stars, not the engineers.)

  6. […] some attempt was made to make an apples-to-apples energy usage comparison with other buildings. No comments from this peanut gallery on that and the other bullet points today, it’s a Holy […]

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