News continues to emerge about the challenge to the LEED Gold certification received by the Northland Pines High School.  Green Building Law Update previously reported on a statement made by United States Green Building Council (USGBC) General Counsel Susan Dorn that the certification challenge had been denied.
There is so much more to this story.
First off, the LEED challengers are not satisfied with the result, and they are not going away quietly.  This past weekend the challengers and their experts released a statement and documentation surrounding the LEED challenge.  The LEED challengers are five individuals from the community surrounding the high school:

  • Mr. Ronald Ritzer, an architectural design professional and local builder of high performance homes
  • Mr. Roderick McKinnon, a commercial property developer
  • Mr. Patrick Smith, a construction professional
  • Dr. Kevin Branham, a Doctor of Chiropractic with a Masters degree in Public Health
  • Mr. Curt Hartwig, a local businessman and community leader

Since I previously published the USGBC’s statement regarding the challenge, here is the other side of the story, as told by the five LEED challengers: 

What is all the ruckus about Northland Pines?
In 2004, the voters of Vilas County Wisconsin voted to approve the sale of $28,535,000 worth of bonds to finance a new High School for the Northland Pines district.

The appellants in this case all served on the Building Committee for the new school and each brought specific talents and experience in design and construction of large buildings. Each was dedicated to the proposition of creating the most efficient structure possible.
The design team and school board discouraged any outside input and set forth to design and construct the school as they saw fit.
As the design developed, the appellants questioned whether the facility would indeed meet the prerequisites for LEED® Certification and were told that it would despite what appeared to be glaring shortfalls with respect to these requirements.
The appellants retained the service of two highly regarded consulting engineers to review the plans. Both of them determined that the facility as designed would not qualify for LEED® Certification.
In December 2008, the appellants filed an appeal with the USGBC challenging the award of the Gold Certification given to Northland Pines. Some 16 months later the appellants were notified that the USGBC had looked into the matter and found everything to be fine. They based this on reports from two more consulting engineers who said that the building did not meet the prerequisites but concluded that “pretty close” is close enough. When the appellants’ engineers asked for the back up data to the USGBC reports, they were told that they were pretty busy and would address that request when they have time. Time has passed and the requested materials have not been forthcoming. Why?
On behalf of the taxpayers of Vilas County who would like to know with certainty whether they got what they paid for or not, we ask the engineering community to look at this file and tell us, did we miss something here? How can it be alright to certify a building that doesn’t fully comply with the rules set forth by the body that is doing the certifications?
We would love to hear what you think. We are only in search of the truth which ultimately will be what is best for Northland Pines.

Following this post are links to the engineering reports, correspondence and opinions that have been made available by the LEED challengers.  If you have a few minutes, I would recommend reviewing these documents.  We will be reviewing discussing these documents in the coming weeks.
Please share your opinion on this LEED challenge.  I would like to put together a post with some of the best responses from you, the readers.

Photo credit: Reway2007
Related Links:

LEED Credibility Destroyed (pdf)
Complete NPHS Appeal (pdf)
Horizon Report (pdf)
Taylor Report (pdf)
USGBC Letter (pdf)
Response to Horizon Engineering Report (pdf)
Response to Taylor Engineering Report (pdf)
Appellants’ Statement (pdf)