Sunday, May 16, 2010

Architect Frank Gehry Humbugs LEED

My friend Tom Cain, an architect and staunch environmentalist, sent me a short piece this a.m. from relating that famed architect Frank Gehry (above) has dissed LEED certification and concern for climate change in one fell swoop of the tongue.

Here's the paragraph: "Frank Gehry, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect responsible for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Dancing House in Prague, has slammed the LEED certification, saying it is awarded for ‘bogus stuff’ and that climate change and sustainable design are 'political' issues. This will no doubt raise a few eyebrows in the environmental and design sector, as ensuring buildings are as energy efficient as possible has the potential to cut CO2 emissions drastically. Currently, almost a third of greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to the construction and housing sectors."

I've heard grumbling from architects and engineers for some time that LEED certification has much less value than is apparent, but Gehry's words have more weight than those of most others in the building trades (and frankly, if his design is the reason, I don't see it). Tom says he "stopped attending U.S. Green Building Council [which issues LEED certification] meetings very early on as I saw the group's interest veering toward credentials (as marketing) rather than making real positive change in the world--much less, actual architecture (something for which Roanoke has yet to acquire a taste; civilization takes time)."

The LEED certification has proved beneficial in helping bring attention to design and construction methods and materials that are good for the environment and there's nothing bad about that. If it's used politically, I don't care one bit, so long as the goal is attained. Still, Gehry has a point about climate change being political (what else would it be), and building affects that change as much as anything else.

I would like to see building codes reflect the need for environmentalism in construction so that it's not at the whim of the person paying for the building to do the right thing. Environmentally-friendly building is a bit more expensive than conventional construction, but if it becomes part of the code, the cost drops immediately and dramatically. And we all benefit.

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