Last Thursday, Bank of America, The Rockefeller Foundation, and The Next American City magazine sponsored an invitation-only conference at the Museum of Natural History as part of the Urban Innovation Symposium Series. Called “From the Ground Up: Making Green Building a Mainstream Practice,” a variety of both market-rate and affordable housing developers, including Douglas Durst, Ara Hovnanian, Carlton Brown of Full Spectrum New York, and Mary Spink, executive director of the Lower East Side People’s Mutual Housing Association, shared their thoughts on the state of green building both in New York City and beyond. According to City Limits, developers in attendance agreed that while interest in green building is growing, “market forces aren’t enough, and more help from government is needed.”
The next question, of course, is whether that help should be in the form of a carrot or stick. Accordingly, of particular interest to me were some quotes from Mary Spink regarding LEED. Apparently, affordable housing developers successfully opposed New York City’s efforts to include such development within the purview of Local Law 86. Why? Because of LEED’s certification costs. In fact, Spink stated that if the City were to require LEED for affordable housing developments, she “couldn’t afford that. . . . Getting LEED-certified is expensive. It takes a lot of paperwork and time. And it sometimes doesn’t even address what really matters.”
Spink was referring to her development at 228 East Third Street (image above), where the project team used conventional building materials and attention to design details in order to reduce energy consumption by one sixth, at the same cost as a structure built to minimum code. The project did not seek any LEED-certification.
The resistance of New York’s affordable housing developers to the City’s LEED mandate is an important example for municipalities considering incorporating LEED into their building codes. Should a project like 228 East Third Street, for example, be denied a fast-track building permit or tax credits because it didn’t, or couldn’t, achieve LEED, despite performing at a high level of efficiency (and at no cost premium to the owner)? Municipalities are of course at liberty to answer that question for themselves, but they would be well-served to consider all of the ramifications that a LEED-driven building code may implicate.
- LEED-ing by Example: Green Building Grows Up (City Limits.org)