Today, we run Part II of the Eric Corey Freed interview. I divided up the interview into two posts because the interview was long and Eric does a great job illuminating green building legal issues in Part II: "Architects would not be able to guarantee LEED certification because the architect is not the one providing the LEED certification. . . . I also don’t think given the science of building technology that we can guarantee anything about energy usage." Eric’s thoughts on green building blogs are also very interesting. A few weeks ago, Eric got in a dust up with a blogger over an interview he gave to the New York Times. Below, Eric provides some thoughts and lessons from the controversy. Finally, Eric concludes with one of my favorite interview quotes: "I find myself being more hopeful now than ever." Read on to find out why Eric is so hopeful.
Chris: When architect’s are designing green building projects and they are going through the contract process, do you think architects should be guaranteeing energy usage reductions or LEED certification?
Eric: Architects would not be able to guarantee LEED certification because the architect is not the one providing the LEED certification. The certification is provided by the United States Green Building Council and they have been quite slow at fulfilling the demand that has occurred. In my own office, on most of our LEED projects, we have received a letter saying we will have to wait another four weeks because the USGBC is backlogged. So the idea of guaranteeing LEED certification is a slippery slope. Especially, given that we have some clients who go pretty far in the LEED certification process, but when they find they have to wait another four to six weeks because of the USGBC backlog, the client says forget it and they walk away, because they can’t wait.
I think what a design team can provide is a guarantee that the building will be built safely and meet building codes. I don’t think they can guarantee anything subjective. I also don’t think given the science of building technology that we can guarantee anything about energy usage. If you really think about it, we are not making the computer models detailed enough so that we can analyze them and say you are going to get 43.2% above the minimum energy standard. We could but that has not been what is happening the world. I think what we can provide is more of an anecdotal idea that you will get around 40% of the baseline. Maybe that is fine. At this point we are in the adolescent stage of building truly sustainable buildings.
Chris: Have you been tracking the stimulus and the opportunities for the green building industry?
Eric: I think it is a great thing to set aside billions of dollars for improving the efficiency of our existing buildings. I am an old school, green building guy in that I believe the conservation and inefficiencies of our existing buildings are the low hanging fruit. The trouble is they are not that sexy to anybody. It is not that glamorous to say we are going to go into these thousand homes and add insulation to the attic. Those things don’t usually get into papers or the cover of architectural magazines. I am excited the stimulus is drawing peoples’ attention to our existing building infrastructure. I don’t know how the stimulus is going to trickle down to my clients, or our firm, or anything we are doing. I know there are a lot of people clamoring to get a piece of the action. So far I have been sitting on the sideline, and I am excited to finally see that we are talking about these things after nearly a decade of being in the dark ages.
Chris: Last question, you were recently interviewed for a New York Times article. Afterwards, I saw you commented on a blog post that criticized your interview and the five steps you gave for greening a home. Do you think blogs are helpful to the green building community or are they proving a problem?
Eric: I love blogs. I am an avid reader of blogs. I find blogs can be timely and responsive and if you look in the last five years, blogs have been responsible for breaking some of the more interesting stories that occurred, politically and otherwise. But I also think that because blogs don’t fall within the journalistic standard, it comes with a great responsibility that some people might not be paying attention to. In the case of Joseph Romm’s blog that is read by so many people, my initial comment was why didn’t you just call me, why didn’t you just email me, I am a pretty easy guy to find and you could have gotten the whole story. He was very nice and handled it quite well. He apologized and wrote a follow up on his blog and on Grist. In the New York Time article we only had room for five items and in truth we went through twenty one. Joe was nice enough to post all twenty one so that way everybody could learn. In my mind, there is so much information out there that it is hard to know what to listen to and what to trust. If you start to contradict good information simply because you don’t feel it was the best information, then you start to really confuse people. As I said to Joe, in that situation, I think we both lost because if people read my article and your article, they are going to say "forget both of them." By doing that follow up that we did together, at least people can now walk away saying well now I know even more than I did before, I know why Joe and Eric were arguing. Plus, look at the responsiveness of it: the New York Times article came out, the very next day Joseph’s article came out, the following day my rebuttal came out. So we have this wonderful quick response to everything. People can go back and look at the entire exchange.
Chris: Final thoughts?
Eric: I get to travel all over the country and speak about green building and what I have discovered is that everyone shares the same concerns, more or less. Everyone wants healthy buildings, energy efficient buildings, and that everyone seems in agreement that we need to find better ways to produce our energy. We might disagree with the politics behind it, or how we go about it, but we have really decided that importing 70 percent of our oil from some, in some instances not so savory countries, is not a good thing. And this idea of red states and blue states, which has been so prevalent for the last eight years now seems to be fading away. I think the recent election helped that along, but even before that, what we had were people that fell at the mercy of building developers, that didn’t realize there were other options. Now people are realizing they can get an energy efficient building, a healthy building, and it doesn’t cost anymore and in a certain sense they are entitled to getting that. That to me is exciting. I find myself being more hopeful now than ever.