Is LEED a Monopoly?

Gosh, we sure hope not.  We’ve been a little quiet lately as we launched our completely redesigned and enhanced web site this week (, but the notion of a LEED monopoly is unsettling.   After all, SERF, Green Globes ™ and others have invested significant resources to provide cost-effective, accessible alternative green building certifications.

Still, others make the claim of a LEED monopoly quite forcibly—like the Chattanooga Times Free Press recent editorial.

The Times Free Press’ position has some merit when considering government buildings.  But as to the private sector—the ones who are spending their own money–we find businesses are very open to a market-friendly alternative to LEED.  In fact, we’ve had success with private buildings that are already LEED certified.

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Who really pays for LEED certification?

Obtaining LEED certification costs a lot of time and money.  The resources required are not limitless and are generally diverted from other uses, though that seems impolite to discuss when pursuing sustainability.

But LEED certification does not, of course, add to a property’s sustainability.  Rather it confirms, or certifies, that objective sustainable criteria have been met.   If anything, the high costs of LEED certification divert funds that may be otherwise be spent on sustainable materials or systems.

In the end, the high cost of LEED ultimately comes from somewhere….or someone. 

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Green parking, chicken houses and bankers

Beginning in 2011, parking structures were deemed unworthy of attaining LEED certification owing to the fact that they are, after all, chock full of those pesky cars.

So great the sin of enabling the proliferation of hydro-carbon fueled vehicles that no amount of energy efficient lighting, designated stalls for alternate fuel vehiclesreduction of heat island effect and countless other ways to make a parking structure more sustainable has lowered the upturned nose of the USGBC.

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My kind of (green) town…

Given the warm reception SERF has received and our growing operations here, it comes as no surprise to us that Chicago recently won the Siemens and U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Sustainability Large Community award.  Leaders from business, real estate and, not least, the City government are clearly unified in making Chicago a global leader in sustainability.

There’s a beautiful symmetry in Chicago’s leadership in sustainable buildings given its preeminent role in the creation of an American architectural style and its endless contributions to the world’s built environment ever since.

How fitting, then, that Chicago’s Soldier Field is now the first NFL stadium to have attained LEED status.  Now that’s putting your money where your mouth is.

LEED Eats its Young

LEED 2012 is just around the corner and, as expected, accessibility will plummet. According to a recent blog LEED 2012: Too much change? , by Allison Beer McKenzie many who were previously committed to LEED have decided to abandon it if the proposed changes are implemented.

What really are the proposed changes? Among the many, here are some I found to be most impractical:

The number of prerequisites will increase from 9 to 15.
SERF ‘s policy is that all of our points are fully fungible. Our applicants select which sections they desire to pursue and which ones make little practical sense to them. Prerequisites also make it practically impossible to perform a compliance evaluation post construction. LEED must now (more than ever) be on the agenda right from the conceptual phase of the project, hence increasing design costs.

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Governments Distort Decision Making

We are often asked about government incentives or subsidies associated with SERF certification.  After all, it’s no secret that LEED and others go to great lengths to get written in to the code.

We see at least 3 problems with that, the first of which is hidden cost.  Municipal, county, state and national lobbying to secure favors comes at a stiff price  and is one  of the  many factors behind the  high cost of other certifications.

Moreover, the notion of artificial incentives–all government incentives are artificial,  lest why would they exist–runs counter to our aim of Practical Environmental Stewardship™.   Put another way, common sense solutions do not require subsidies–they work on their own! [Read more…]

It seems like we’re on to something…

When our small group of real estate owners and professionals founded SERF a little over a year ago, none of us expected that we would be accepted so quickly and broadly.   Already we have SERF certified facilities in 10 states!

Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised.  After all, each one of us independently came to the belief that the USGBC’s phenomonal success in bringing sustainability in to the public consciousness through its LEED certification would be enhanced by a certification which is more streamlined, user-friendly and cost-effective.

After all, to endure, sustainability must be affordable.

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