Reader’s note:  Two more posts on the LEED certification challenge. 

I recently read the book Greed to Green, by David Gottfried, which describes how the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), and the LEED rating system, were launched.  You can tell that Gottfried is quite proud – and rightfully so – of the USGBC’s accomplishments. 

But with the Northland Pines High School LEED certification challenge, the USGBC faced a difficult question. The LEED rating system has morphed into a green building monster.  In fact, the LEED rating system is now bigger than the organization that tries to manage it.  With the recent LEED challenge, the USGBC had to decide what to do if a project did not comply with LEED certification requirements when it initially received its certification. 

Should the USGBC revoke LEED certification?

Or should the USGBC allow revisions to the original LEED submittals?

The USGBC chose to allow revisions through subsequent submittals, as highlighted in the Taylor Engineering report: "This was corrected in a revision to the energy models starting with the version dated December 10, 2009 that USGBC requested to fix this and other inconsistencies between the model of the proposed design and the actual design."

I can see both sides.  On the one hand, the USGBC was dealing with a "legacy" project.  The Northland Pines High School was the first public high school in the country to receive LEED Gold certification.  The USGBC has focused much of its marketing prowess on schools, and the Northland Pines High School had been highlighted in at least one USGBC publication.  Most importantly, the USGBC’s primary goal is to create more green buildings. 

On the other hand, the LEED certification process must have some teeth.  At some point, the USGBC will have to administer its rating system more stringently or LEED will become a diluted brand.  Rob Watson – the "father of LEED" – made similar comments yesterday regarding the challenge: "As I was helping shape the system in its early days, I believe that LEED’s initial job was to achieve market penetration and to then become increasingly more stringent in its technical and compliance requirements as the market became more capable."

I just hope the USGBC does not wait too long.