Buildex Blog: Sustainability keynote: is LEED still relevant in 2016?

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by JOC Digital Media

The continued relevance of LEED was the topic of discussion at the sustainability keynote panel on Feb. 24 at Buildex Vancouver. The participating panelists were Andrée Iffrig of DIRTT Environmental Solutions, Eden Brukman of Concenter Solutions, Sébastien Garon of Sébastien Garon Architecture + Design, as well as Helen Goodland of Brantwood Consulting.
Buildex Blog: Sustainability keynote: is LEED still relevant in 2016?

Graham Twyford-Miles from Stantec and Doug Webber of WSP Canada were also on the panel.

Iffrig began by stressing that the panel isn't meant to bash LEED, but that the environmental standard "isn't wearing short trousers anymore" and is due for a reevaluation.

Iffrig said as someone who works for a manufacturer, lean principles are often implemented, and she recommended applying those principles to LEED.

The benefits would be to start saving money and stop "chasing credits," she said. She also stressed the importance of Measurement instead of prediction, and aid if LEED wants to be relevant it needs to embrace life cycle costing and building modeling.

Garon said LEED isn't perfect, but clients and colleagues expect it to be. It was never meant to be perfect, he stressed, but instead improved over time.

"LEED is not a design guide, it's a rating system," Garon said. He added that some credits get chased not because they are better for the project but because they are cheaper.

Garon said we should consider keeping LEED a little longer as we have no yet achieved our environmental goals.

LEED won't achieve our goals, but it is the carrot while the codes and regulations (which will lead to our goals) are the stick.

LEED should focus more on accomplishment, and overcomplication should be avoided.

LEED should also focus on quantity in order to have the greatest impact, instead of precision, Garon said.

Brukman said almost 20 years ago there was no common reference point, and LEED offered priorities and metrics.

But we have created a conditioned reality with false ceilings for performance, she said. There is a need for simplification and focus.

We have programs like LEED because there is a need for "restorative and regenerative habitats" Brukman said. But to be effective, it has to be approached in a new way.

Twyford-Miles said that buildings have a major role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and that LEED has played a part in that.

LEED has emerged as the planet's leading green building program, and certification has climbed in Canada over the last 10 years.

LEED certified buildings tend to have higher occupancy and higher rents, while consuming less energy.

But LEED is not a code or a standard, and it isn't a substitute for project wide sustainability.

"We need to close the performance gap," Twyford-Miles said. Cloising the gap requires rethinking how project teams are structured, he said. Building performance is a shared responsibility between designers, tenants, developers and regulators.

Twyford-Miles said LEED has made a substantial contribution to sustainability in the green environment, but cannot continue to do so alone.

Goodland said we have reached the limits of what is possible through incremental improvement. New processes have to be adopted from manufacturing, she said.

"Stick by stick is not the way of a passive house," she said.

Construction is based on artisanship, but we'll need to ramp up and use industrial processes to make projects carbon neutral.

"We need to fundamentally re-tool and I don't see a rating system doing that," Goodland said.

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