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Green Building Legislative Compromises Could Help Ease Concerns over LEED Creep

Nassau County on Long Island is on the verge of requiring project teams to adhere to LEED when constructing new county buildings or renovating existing county buildings. However, the proposed legislation will not require the county to apply for any level of LEED certification from USGBC.

According to New York Newsday, Nassau Commissioner of Public Works Ray Ribiero stated that “[t]he certification is just a piece of paper to make you feel good. It requires a certain amount of documentation and fees. None of that stuff saves any energy or helps the environment. I’m not saying we won’t eventually go for certification, but we need to see how this first part works first.”

On the other hand, Neal Lewis, the executive director of an organization called the Neighborhood Network, based in East Farmingdale, disagreed with the county’s extremely pragmatic, “it’s the green building product- and not the process- that matters” approach, and argued before the legislature that “[a] building that lacks the LEED certification is not a green building.”

It seems like Nassau County’s wait-and-see philosophy would be a good model- and a reasonable compromise- for other local governments that are debating the merits of green building legislation, whether applied to either public or private projects. Such an accord might ease concerns- at least in the private sector- over LEED creep, and simultaneously encourage lawmakers to more seriously consider green building carrots rather than blanket mandates. Moreover, it obviates the argument that LEED or any other third-party green certification system is undemocratic when incorporated by reference into local legislation. But, most importantly, policymakers must steer clear of the type of rhetoric offered up by Mr. Lewis and emphasize the delivery of sustainable products that offer superior performance- whether they’re buildings or anything else.

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