Back in August I came close to posting a blog “Enough of the Empire State Building Already” but that one faded away. In case you never read anything about energy savings and sustainability, the building is undergoing a $20 million renovation to improve energy efficiency. The project would shave the facility’s $11 million energy bill (a cool $4 per square foot) by 38%. Johnson Control ran ads in every trade magazine I get and various publications, including major newspapers, ran articles by the dozens.
Coming in a close second to the Empire State Building was the Northland Pines High School in Eagle River, WI. Apparently it was the first LEED Gold certified High School for New Construction Version 2.1. Ok. It seems everybody associated with the project ran an ad for their greatness: manufacturers and vendors of stuff used for construction, contractors, service providers, congress people, the governor, priests, rabbis, dog catcher, and the feral animals themselves. This went on for months.
Well it all hit the fan. As I was flipping through my stack of trade magazines this long holiday weekend, I saw in HPAC (short for Heating Plumbing and Air Conditioning but they actually go by HPAC – HPAC.com) in their August issue that a group of stakeholders including the building committee, a couple licensed professional engineers, and other taxpayers are appealing the certification with the USGBC. They claim the design does not and cannot meet indoor air quality standard ASHRAE 62, minimum energy performance, ASHRAE Standard 90.1, OR the minimum commissioning requirements. Ouch! What do you feral animals have to say for yourselves now?
I’m not going to do a ton of investigating of this crime but I have no reason at all to believe the appellants are not standing on firm ground. What is interesting is the firestorm of HPAC reader comments, which read like blog comments of far left and far right cutting each others’ livers out. Jeezo, the comments are still swirling three issues AFTER the first mention of it in August. Comments include the following, each of which I respond to:
- One of the points I raised concerned legal liabilities and the USGBC’s refusal to accept responsibility for advice about guideline compliance.
o The USGBC shouldn’t have responsibility for advice it gives. It’s up to the design and construction teams. The guidelines are available. If they can’t read, find new firms to do the job.
- The USGBC seems to prey on undereducated, uninformed owners and the public.
o Nice. There are certainly uninformed folks, but I’m sure the USGBC is a deceitful money grubbing outfit headed by Gordon Gekko’s offspring. The guy would probably dump a five gallon bucket of used motor oil in the lake if you paid him $100.
- LEED is a standard of relative greenness, not a contract for overpaid lawyers and underemployed engineers to litigate. …the LEED process has been a powerful force bringing green design mainstream.
- LEED is bogus. Let common sense prevail. Why can’t you simply tell the architect/engineer firm(s) to design the most EE building you can without a third party intervening?
o Because cheap and crappy always wins the bid and the average firm doesn’t really know squat about REALLY producing an efficient, comfortable, and code-compliant facility.
- I agree [not me – the next guy reader/commenter]. USGBC does not check if equipment is installed per drawings.
o If it did, it would cost a fortune and no one would do it.
- [in response to the previous statement the next guy says] Get a life. LEED is a standard of relative greenness… blah blah. [The exact same statement as above by the same guy, published two months in a row]
- [in response to the previous] Mr. Perkins just doesn’t get it. Building green just to get LEED points, rather than building a building that will improve the health of occupants[with minimal] lifetime costs, is total BS… Too many folks just care about LEED certification, not if a building really works.
o In my opinion, LEED actually improves the odds that a building “really works”. It requires somebody to at least fake their way through commissioning and at least think about designing for efficiency and healthy environments. To say LEED diverts designers and contractors away from these things is irresponsible.
I mentioned before in this blog that our MO is to fix immediate problems first and take corrective action later. Too frequently building owners/stakeholders go after the party they think is responsible and meanwhile the building festers away. The second too-frequent approach is to hire the same fools responsible for the kludge to fix it.
Owners and stakeholders should first fix the problem by hiring somebody who knows what they are doing. This does two things, both of which they want to fix a screwed up building: (1) gets the building working optimally as soon as possible and (2) by doing so gives them leverage with the responsible parties for some sort of settlement.
Attacking USGBC for establishing green building methods and metrics but not enforcing them with an iron fist is ridiculous. Why not go after ASHRAE for not coming down on people like a ton of bricks for not following ASHRAE’s standards? Energy codes that are state law in many states aren’t even enforced in some of them. I’m not sure about the rest of the parties involved with LEED projects but engineers have codes of ethics. I would say blowing off owner desires, cutting corners and lying about what was or was not done probably violates these ethics. How about attacking these losers and scoundrels and running their underwear up the flagpole instead?
I would guess you haven’t heard but the Chicago Climate Exchange is shutting down. At one point in this blog I explained I think that trading something that has no value in and of itself is unprecedented. Currency is only thing I can think of that has no intrinsic value but currency is actually a means to put value on things. I can buy groceries with currency. I can’t buy anything with a carbon credit.
Numerous corporations were buying carbon credits and even “supporting” the legislation in the event some sort of cap and trade passed. The legislation disintegrated and there remain only a few ashes of political will to even whisper the phrase. The carbon value that existed was 100% speculation. The value that remains is 100% nothing.
As I mentioned in a recent post, if cap and trade didn’t pass during last congress with unstoppable majorities in both houses and the White House, I don’t see it happening. This does not rule out the EPA creating their own laws to put a price on carbon dioxide.
In “The Nebulous Green Job” I ranted about Green Jobs, of all things. As it turns out the green jobs stimulus portion of the stimulus has not been too stimulating. The Washington Post reports that the recently green-educated graduates are having difficulty finding work in solar energy installation, green landscaping, recycling, and green building demolition. Well, heeeyeah! Electricians and plumbers are on the prowl for PV and solar water heating systems. There is already a live and well recycling and building demo industry. I just burned up “the tube” in my microwave oven this weekend and the nice local do-everything, small but mighty superman store otherwise known as Coon Valley Dairy Supply replaced it. I asked what they did with the old ones. A local guy picks them up and strips them down into piles of materials to be sold to buyers – no government green-job intervention included. Cool! If there is a market people will find it and fill it.
written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP