USGBC and challenges to its LEED point High Performance Buildings Rating System

USGBC and challenges to its LEED point High Performance Buildings Rating System

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has been recently challenged by a third-party to a LEED certification. It involves an appeal of the Gold building certificate awarded to Northland Pines High School in Eagle River, Wis in 2007.

The appellants contend the design and construction of the school did not meet a number of prerequisites for the certification.  The appellants claim, among other things that certain mandatory standards— ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 62.1-1999, Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality, and ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-1999, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings—were not complied with.  They also cited violations of the local code. 

No schadefreude here but USGBC should have seen it coming.  It is an ANSI accredited organization that doesn’t use an ANSI process to create and approve the standard requirements behind its LEED point allocation.  From a somewhat narrow perspective of the electrical manufacturers involved in the building industry I felt USGBC on purpose elected not to seek industry perspective in this process.  As a result, technologies that could impact significantly the energy efficiency and sustainability of a building are to this day not part of the consideration. Not to mention the fact that one of the main requirements of an ANSI process, having a balanced representation in its requirements writing and approving groups, is negated by the exclusion of manufacturers.  The industry would also certainly have insisted from experience that an equally relevant role in ensuring that the true meaning of the rating, delivering promised performance, is verified on a regular basis once the building is fully functional.  Design criteria are great but, as the decertification challenge from Wisconsin showed, ensuring that the overall building energy efficiency for instance is the planned one seems to me way more relevant than placing the already proverbial bike rack in front of the building.  You get LEED points for the latter!

NEMA found a better reception from organizations adhering more stringently to the ANSI process requirements such as ASHRAE some of whose standards are prerequisite in the LEED rating process. 

NEMA is in the process of collecting arguments to try again to convince USGBC to open up their process.  I hope the wake up decertification call would at least open the door for an earnest discussion leading for more collaboration between all interested parties involved in the process. 


Andrei Moldoveanu

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