What does it mean to be green? Certified, silver- and gold-ranked LEED buildings may be a step in the right direction, but many builders argue that truly sustainable buildings ought to be the ultimate goal, and that LEED standards should be completely overhauled.
Alfa Development, which currently has four condominium buildings aiming for LEED gold certification, is reaching beyond the requirements in terms of green details. Its first building, Village Green, snagged LEED gold with Energy Star appliances, low-water-flow fixtures, recycled content and motion sensor-controlled lights. But its next building, Chelsea Green, will up the ante with an Aaonaire energy-recovery system and a ventilator that uses building exhaust to heat and cool.
The moves are reminiscent of the efforts of the U.S. Green Building Council, which administers LEED, to stretch and change the standards for certification. “Even LEED platinum still costs the planet,” as Abel B’Hahn, a former builder, told the New York Times. “Even if we turned all of our existing buildings to LEED platinum, it’s still not sustainable.”
The Living Building Challenge certification system, developed in Seattle by the International Living Future Institute, has higher bars like net-zero water usage, and monitors how buildings perform instead of just certain fixtures and details.
New York City already has about a dozen so-called “passive houses,” which use less than a quarter of the energy traditionally used to power a home and maintain climate control without active heating or cooling systems. [NYT] — Julie Strickland