Are sustainable building criteria changing the architectural scope for building practices? More and more buildings are receiving the LEED stamp of certification. How is it affecting the process?
Child Development Center at the University of Calgary – LEED Platinum Certified
Let’s start at the beginning, what is LEED, really?
It stands for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). It is a rating system designed to score buildings on their adherence to sustainability practices.
LEED “encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through the creation and implementation of universally understood and accepted tools and performance criteria,” as described by Canada Green Building Council (CGBA).
To obtain a LEED certification, performance is recognized and scored in a number of areas including: sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
In Alberta, alone, 21 certifications took place in 2011, unprecedented numbers.
“LEED is entrenched in Alberta! In only a few short years, the conversation has moved from weighing the merits of LEED certification to maximizing the benefits that certification offers everyone involved with the project,” Tanya Doran, Alberta Chapter Executive Director was quoted saying on the CGBA website.
WestJet Campus Corporate Office Centre Phase 1, Calgary received a Gold certification, SMART Technologies headquarters, Calgary received a Gold certification, Alberta Water & Environmental Science Building, Lethbridge received a Silver, just to name a few.
WestJet Campus Corporate Office Calgary
So what does the architectural community say about LEED?
Some firms have identified sustainability as a core competency, developing their business around that mandate. Bortolotto Architecture and Interior Design is an example. The Toronto-based firm “is committed to design excellence and the integration of sustainable and leading edge technologies,” in their own words.
Companies like Earthship Biotecture are fully embracing the sustainable approach, designing radically sustainable buildings, made of recycled materials. The Biotecture building method is based on the work of principal architect, Michael Reynolds.
Even Frank Gehry has received LEED certification. The Stata Center at MIT has been awarded a LEED silver from the U.S. Green Building Council.
In an article by Michael Arndt, on Bloomberg Businessweek, Gehry acknowledged the importance of LEED initiatives. He did note, however that “It’s become ‘fetishized’ in (his) profession. It’s like if you wear the American flag on your lapel, you’re an American.”
He expanded by noting that although important, there is much to be said about marketing and PR behind architecture and design. While every bit is important for the environment, and architecture can do a lot, perhaps there is a bit of sensationalizing occurring.
There sure is a lot of coverage and information available about LEED. Word on the street appears to be that sustainability and environmental awareness is only increasing. This will most likely continue to affect the architectural process.
What are your thoughts on LEED? Have you come across any interesting LEED certified architecture? Share with us on Twitter.
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