The USGBC program was designed to transform the market to encourage greater sustainability. Success sometimes has unintended consequences, as noted in this blog post by Rob Cassidy,& Construction: Rob Cassidy, editor of Building Design interpreting data gathered by Turner Construction:
The most intriguing finding, however, had to do with what seems to be a falloff of interest in LEED certification. In Turner’s 2008 survey, three-fifths of respondents (61%) said they were “very likely” (30%) or “extremely likely” (31%) to seek LEED certification for new or renovated projects. This started falling in 2010, to 53%, and dropped to 48% this year, with 25% “very likely” and 23% “extremely likely” to use LEED.The drop in interest in LEED may continue if the 2013 version adds layers of complexity, as has been suggested by some critics.
Why this apparent decline of interest in LEED? One factor, which was not specifically asked in the survey and is based primarily on anecdotal evidence, is that many AEC firms are building sustainably without asking the client’s permission. There’s also considerable evidence that many owners are demanding fairly high levels of sustainable design and construction (at no fee premium!) while forgoing the USGBC plaque. And a fairly large minority of owners (17%) said they would be extremely likely or very likely to pursue other certifications, notably Energy Star.
In fact, among respondents who said their companies would not be likely to seek LEED certification, four in five cited the cost of LEED certification (82%) or the staff time required (79%) as reasons for not registering their projects with LEED. Three in four respondents gave the “time required for the process” (75%) or “difficulty of the process” (74%) as their reason for not pursuing LEED certification.
These findings are, to some extent, a tribute to the U.S. Green Building Council and its LEED rating system for raising the level of interest in “market transformation” among AEC firms, building owners, developers, and product manufacturers. LEED may have its flaws, but you’ve got to give the USGBC credit for the savvy way in which it has marketed and promoted the program.
Whether they’re using LEED or some other yardstick, most AEC firms—and many of their clients—are building much more sustainably today than they were 10 years ago. That’s progress, even if it has taken a decade to get there.