The U.S. Green Building Council is fighting back after an article published late last month in USA Today claimed that across the country, the USGBC has helped thousands of developers to win millions of dollars’ worth of tax breaks by awarding certification under a system that rewards minor, low-cost steps that have little or no proven environmental benefit. The 50-story Palazzo Las Vegas Resort Hotel (LEED Silver), the report charges, is set to reap $27 million in tax breaks over 10 years for its LEED Silver certification even though in many cases developers took the easiest and cheapest steps in building design.
USGBC president and chief executive officer Rick Fedrizzi says many of the strategies the article criticized: low-flow toilets, use of recycled building materials, dedicated hybrid parking spaces, proximity to transportation and being situated in densely populated areas are actually important strategies that helped deliver thousands of better buildings across the world. “USGBC is proud that these measures that were once deemed exceptional are now industry standard,” he says. “That is why we keep raising the bar. We may be the only organization that has created a program that when the market really starts to like it, we make it more challenging.”
While widely accepted in the U.S. design and construction industries, LEED has been under fire from many quarters this year. How LEED fares in the court of public opinion, may depend largely on the public response to media stories such as the one published by USA Today.