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Plastic And Chemicals Can’t Take The LEED On Green Construction

If it’s not power plants fighting carbon pollution reduction, it’s plastic companies fighting against voluntary standards to make buildings less wasteful.  The Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) building certification system, developed in 2000 by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), provides third-party verification for buildings striving to reduce environmental impact.  The system gives credits to builders who eliminate the use of certain plastics and chemicals in building construction, such as PVC and vinyl that are known to be hazardous to workers and occupants.  However, these credits, which once seemed like apple pie, have now been met with opposition from plastic and chemical industries lobbyists.

Recently, these polluting industries have “slipped wording” into the 2014 Financial Services and General Government Appropriation bill, to undermine the federal government’s ability to use the popular and successful LEED standards when building or renovating its office buildings.  The lobbyists claim that LEED standards are not open and transparent, and through a bit of sophistry they have used this appropriation amendment to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the LEED system.

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This Green Building Sets A High Bar For The Rest Of America

Source: Miller Hull Partnership

On Earth Day this year, The Bullitt Center opened its doors in Seattle, Washington.  The six-story building is being hailed as the greenest commercial building in the world.  Its specs are very impressive indeed, including:

  • 56,000-gallon cistern for rainwater collection;
  • Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof that are estimated to generate 230,000 kilowatt-hours per year;
  • Glass panels to showcase the engineering, including quick response codes to allow visitors to use their smartphones to find out more;
  • Real-time measurements of the building’s indoor air quality, energy conservation, PV production and water levels;
  • A mini-weather station that sends data to the building so that it can make adjustments to maximize tenant comfort and energy conservation; and
  • Measurement of energy use down to the individual socket.

The Bullitt Center aims to be certified through the Living Building Challenge, a rigorous set of standards that requires the building to meet complete water and energy self-sufficiency.  The Living Building Challenge has registered nearly 150 projects in 10 countries, but only three buildings have been certified in the US (in Missouri, New York and Hawaii).  It has been endorsed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), originator of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard, and is not meant to be a competition, rather a challenge to architects and engineers to aim even higher in their sustainable design efforts.

The Bullitt Center is a project of the Bullitt Foundation, and its leaders state that if the building is still the highest-performing office building in ten years, then they have failed.  They want to demonstrate that a building can be both self-sustaining and commercially viable and to serve as an example for others to learn and innovate beyond what they’ve done. Read More »

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