The penchant of some developers to chase easy LEED points that do little to help the environment, and of business interests to dominate how the program is shaped, led USA Today to examine LEED in its series “Green, Inc.”
The newspaper found that developers in some states favor easy points that win tax breaks but do little to help the environment. USA Today also found that some of the people instrumental in bringing LEED to the forefront of the design community also stood to gain personally from the program’s expansion.
“LEED is certainly imperfect,” said Joe Bartmann, a sustainability coach and executive director of the South Dakota chapter of the American Institute of Architects.. “And having been involved in more than one LEED project, there are decisions made about points that I don’t think make much of a difference for protecting the environment or lowering carbon emissions.”
But overall, he said, LEED has been instrumental in shifting the design community toward sustainability. And he’s optimistic the program will adopt tougher standards as it evolves.
“Without LEED, I think we’d be even further behind in adapting design and building practices to what we now know about climate change,” he said.
South Dakota is a relative latecomer to the LEED game.
Although the program dates to the late 1990s, South Dakota didn’t have a LEED-certified building until 2009, and state and local officials could not identify any tax incentives that would encourage certification.
“For (South Dakota developers), the incentive probably would be marketing,” said McMahan of Koch Hazard.
The first LEED property in South Dakota was Cherapa Place in Sioux Falls. Not far behind was Courthouse Square, which was certified LEED Gold in 2009.
Now occupied by four tenants including the U.S. attorney’s office, Courthouse Square has bike racks, waterless urinals and a geothermal heating and cooling system, among other green amenities.
“We really don’t have a heating bill,” said Michael Martin, who manages the property for NAI Sioux Falls. “We don’t have a gas bill.”<< previous 1 2 3 next >>