Washington, D.C. may have the highest number of certified green buildings in the country, but research by Environmental Policy Alliance suggests it might not be doing much good.
The free-market group analyzed the first round of energy usage data released by city officials Friday and found that large, privately-owned buildings that received the green energy certification Leadership in Energy Design (LEED) actually use more energy than buildings that didn’t receive this green stamp of approval.
LEED is the brainchild of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a private environmental group.
Washington, D.C.’s Department of Environment made the capital the first city in the nation to mandate LEED certifications in the construction of public buildings. The standards are now being phased in.
The results are measured in EUI’s, a unit that relates a building’s energy consumption to its size; the higher the number, the more energy is expended by a smaller building.
Take the Green Building Council’s Washington headquarters. Replete with the group’s top green-energy accolade, the platinum LEED certification, the USGBC’s main base comes in at 236 EUI. The average EUI for uncertified buildings in the capital? Just 199.
Certified buildings’ average comes in at 205 EUI, still less efficient than that didn’t take home the ultimate green trophy.
“LEED certification is little more than a fancy plaque displayed by these ‘green’ buildings,” charged Anastasia Swearingen, LEED Exposed’s lead researcher on the project. “Previous analyses of energy use by LEED-certified buildings have consistently shown that LEED ratings have no bearing on actual energy efficiency.”
Swearingen told The Daily Caller News Foundation the system doesn’t take into account any proof of energy efficiency. The LEED model grades buildings on ideal conditions — the certification is based on “if everyone shuts their blinds, turns off their computers at the end of the day, makes sure the lights are off — but it doesn’t factor in how much energy is really used after it’s actually occupied,” Swearingen contended.
In its own report released with the data, even the city’s Department of Environment acknowledged the concerns raised by the “dependence on a third-party organization, over which the government has no oversight, to set the District’s green building standards.” But while it understands the risks, the D.C. government continues to mandate the ratings for public buildings — and get cash from the program.
The city has collected $5.2 million in permit fees from the program since 2010.
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