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Ideas on How to Recognize Design Excellence Within LEED

I wanted to respond to the last comment (below in italics) in its own separate post. My thoughts follow. Thanks to O.G. for his insight and starting this dialogue- I encourage others to chime in. I’d like to preface this discussion by saying that I believe in the LEED system but, like anything else, there’s always room for improvement.

The point of LEED certification is to provide the “building industry with consistent, credible standards for what constitutes a green building.” If you start watering down the standards with some fuzzy style points system, you undermine the basic goals of the certification. You are right that Heart Tower is “a piece of great, iconic architecture that attracts attention, independent of its extensive green design elements,”” but it must be recognized that it is no more green because of its architectural appeal.

I’m not sure adding points for design excellence waters down the system. While the vast majority of LEED credit categories are purely objective, in LEED V2.2 for New Construction, you can earn up to four points for innovative use of green design elements. I don’t think that undermines the rest of the credit categories, and I similarly think that including a category for architectural design excellence wouldn’t negate the importance of the others.

I agree that the green building movement needs to create works that are architecturally pleasing, and that efficient boxes do not help the image, but LEED Certification is not the way to go about this. There are many other ways to encourage and recognize architectural achievement in green building- an example would be to start specific architectural awards with entry limited to buildings above a certain certification level. It is very simplistic, but people respond to awards. With a system like this, the objective LEED certification would remain a measurement of green building, but exemplary buildings would receive additional acclaim.

While I do like this idea, LEED is what we have to work with right now, and I think it would be much easier to tie it to existing architectural award programs than launch an entirely new set of green building awards. For example, Lord Foster won the Pritzker architectural prize back in 1999- why not include a provision in future LEED rating systems that, if a building receives an award from a list of specified architectural prizes, it receives ten bonus points? You could even weigh the points based on the perceived prestige of the prize. If it’s some sort of local award- two points. National award? Five points. Something like the Pritzker (considered the world’s premier architectural award)? Ten. I think that would make a lot of sense. You see a lot of state and local initiatives choosing LEED as their objective criteria for evaluating green buildings- why not similarly use LEED to choose existing architectural award programs by which to judge buildings that are seeking certification?

(As a quick aside, one real practical concern about allowing style points in LEED certification is who would decide on what gets the points. There often much disagreement as to what constitutes an iconic design and even more disagreement as to what is pleasing. A system that relies on subjective tastes runs the risk of being fractured by particular tastes or worse becoming dominated by one school of thought. It would be a shame if LEED certification became contingent on buildings being of one particular style, we should be endeavoring to show that any design can incorporate green elements.)

I don’t think providing a handful of bonus points for having your project recognized by a national or international architectural association would lead to some sort of bland uniformity across the green building spectrum. Again, I think the point is merely to recognize green buildings that stand out as great architecture, drawing attention to them for being something more than a regular building with a bunch of green elements slapped on top in order to earn a LEED plaque.

Great buildings should be recognized, but standards should remain standards.

Absolutely. But providing room for maybe 5% of potential LEED points to come from design excellence recognition wouldn’t destroy what might be the system’s greatest strength- its objective evaluation of a building’s performance across the various LEED credit categories.

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