Rating Controversy Heats Up
The U.S. Green Building Council is defending its decision to uphold the highest certification to be granted a public high school under its green-building rating system, called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The engineers who filed the challenge to the LEED-New Construction Gold certification on behalf of a group of taxpayers in Eagle River, Wis., say the decision to uphold the certification damages the credibility of USGBC. The consulting engineers were pro bono technical experts for the five people who filed the 125-page appeal on Dec. 23, 2008, when Northland Pines High School was two years old.
Consulting engineers Lawrence G. Spielvogel, of King of Prussia, Pa., and Mark S. Lentz, of Sheboygan Falls, Wis., charge USGBC has set �a dangerous precedent� by �turning a blind eye to a deliberately deficient submission.� They add, �Their own experts admitted the building does not comply with the mandatory prerequisites of LEED.�
In an April 27 letter to the engineers, USGBC said it and its consultants have �no reasons to believe� the project, designed and built by Hoffman LLC, Appleton, Wis., failed to meet attempted LEED prerequisites and credits.
But in his report on the challenge, USGBC consultant Steve Taylor, Alameda, Calif., says, in �the design as originally documented,� there were several violations of mandatory prerequisites relating to American Society for Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers Standards 62.1-1999 and 90.1-1999. He adds that, based on follow-up documentation from designers, �the project provides a sufficient level of compliance.�
Spielvogel and Lentz say that, as full compliance with both standards is mandatory for any level of LEED certification, even a single instance of noncompliance �is or should be prima facie grounds for denial of certification at any level.�
Brendan Owens, USGBC�s vice president of LEED technical development, says USGBC is using the challenge as a case study for the certification team, noting, �We can do continuous improvement and still have been right in the past.�