Although the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Rating System is the most popular green building rating system in the world, it has faced a bit of backlash over the past several months. There has been some concern about stated energy use vs. actually energy use for quite some time and the USGBC addressed this concern with the mandated energy use requirement of LEED v3. However, this new requirement is not retroactive and some LEED certified buildings are turning out to be energy hogs.

An article in Fast Company touches on the concerns about energy-hogging LEED certified buildings. Last year, Bruce Henderson with the Charlotte Observer decided to look into the energy usage of the LEED certified ImaginOn building. During the LEED certification process, it was estimated that the building would use approximately one-third less energy than comparable buildings.

Unfortunately the actually figure was significantly higher – ImaginOn actually used twice as much energy as they originally predicted. The building was in use for many more hours than originally stated – seven hours of theater use daily instead of two hours and office use on the weekends. When a building is used more frequently than expected, it is going to use more power and there’s no way around that. Since the building was certified prior to the LEED v3 certification system was released, it will maintain its LEED certification despite its poor energy use record.

There is also concern about new municipal laws that mandate LEED certification for new construction process. These laws are popping up in communities across the nation. The primary concern, per the Fast Company article, is that the U.S. Green Building Council is a private organization and has no governmental oversight but these mandates are actually laws that must be followed.

These issues and others led to the filing of a class action lawsuit against the USGBC by Henry Gifford, a long time critic of the LEED rating system. In the lawsuit, Gifford claims that the USGBC has engaged in deceptive trade practices, false advertising and anti-trust in promoting the LEED certification program.

Despite the recent controversy surrounding the LEED Rating System, USGBC CEO Rick Fedrizzi welcomes the feedback:

“The CEO of the United States Green Building Council, Rick Fedrizzi, tells Fast Company that he welcomes scrutiny--and agrees that governments need to enforce their own green building codes. Once a point-based standard exists, argues Fedrizzi, the government should set it as a minimum. “Over time, there will be buildings that are not performing, from which we get no revenue,” he says. “Our goal is to put the best buildings in the marketplace.” Source: Fast Company

I do feel that looking at the LEED Rating System with a more critical eye will be beneficial to both the USGBC but also to the green building industry as a whole.