Is LEED Enough? It is a question that is being asked by a lot in the industry.

My answer is NO.

LEED is only a stepping stone that all need to know.

We are in a time of change just like back in the mid 1980’s when ADA was first introduced by congress. This was not an easy transition for the building industry as we needed to learn to build and design differently; But now any designer, architect, contractor, etc. knows the simple regulation such as main hallways need to be 5’-0” min, doorways need to be 3’-0” min. Without thought we know these have to be done.

Well, LEED provides these same rules that need to be followed and thought of as all aspects of a project is being developed.

The introduction of ADA did not just happen like that. “…The ADA story began a long time ago in cities and towns throughout the United States… It began with the establishment of local groups to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. It began with the establishment of the independent living movement which challenged the notion that people with disabilities needed to be institutionalized, and which fought for and provided services for people with disabilities to live in the community.”

Again our industry is in transition and we are at the beginning of the movement where we have local organizations fighting for change.Credit: Walter Reed via Flickr

Some examples of NYC organizations are USGBC Urban Green Council, NY League of Conservation voters, GrowNYC, Lower East Side Ecology Center, Solar One / Two. There are so many more that are out there that see the need for change and are fighting this battle through education, public awareness and policy.

This is not an easy transition for companies… and it wasn’t easy back in the 1980’s. But it is coming and, in my opinion, it is time to embrace it.

As individuals we need to educate ourselves with the basics, LEED Green Associate is a start.

LEED Credentials

As companies we need to hire individuals that understand the green building process; these individuals would be LEED GA or LEED AP. As organizations we need to make sure that we work with companies that have true knowledge of sustainability with an accredited staff. As consumers we need to purchase green products and organic produce to show the manufactures that this is where they need to be.

Beyond LEED: Living Building Challenge

As I stated before LEED is NOT enough and it is not an easy transition. If it was that simple, all buildings would be LEED Platinum. But we need to start Striving for Living Building and communities with LEED Platinum as a minimum.

The Living Building Challenge strives past LEED to create self a self sustaining building and community, etc. Living Building Challenge has similar performance areas to LEED:

– Site
– Water
– Energy
– Health
– Materials
– Equity
– Beauty

They provide a framework for design, construction and the symbiotic relationship between people and all aspects of the built environment. The latest Version 2.0 challenge may be downloaded here.

As individuals, we need to strive for higher sustainability measures while using LEED as a template for basic understanding. As we do this and collaborating with others to try to achieve these measures, people will start developing products that will make it easier for others to do the same.

An interesting question and conversation on whether LEED should merge with Living Building Challenge is here.

“If not us, who? If not now, when?” – John F. Kennedy


imageJill Bellenger, ASLA, LEED GA, CPH

Jill Bellenger, ASLA, LEED GA, CPH is a founding principal at 3 Design Consulting LLC. She is a Landscape Designer and Certified Professional Horticulturist, with a focus on the principles of the Sustainable Sites Initiative and LEED. She is an experienced Green Business advocate, with core expertise including conservation landscaping, LEED, graphic design, professional development programming and green building practices. She holds a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degree from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, NY and is currently enrolled in the Sustainable MBA program at Green Mountain College. Jill is also an instructor at the Monteverde Institute Sustainable Futures semester in Costa Rica.


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