During the collection of responses for the Opening the Door to Green Building studies, one of the recurring themes from each region was the real confusion in the certification marketplace. Only 30% or less in each region felt that they understood the current landscape of certifications and rating systems. One respondent expressed confusion even for those who are active in the market, “As I am in the green market myself, my understanding today is much better than what I marked (as I did spend hours trying to digest it), however, it is still confusing and not well explained.”
A few weeks ago we discussed “greenwashing” and the mistrust in the green claims of products particularly in the building industry. The lack of transparency at times within the marketing and specification process was another area of contention in the ODGB studies.
I think ultimately these two areas are highly interrelated. Whether it is being driven by proving certification value or expectations for products, the market needs assurances and a stronger trust in what the certification carousel actually means to their project and most importantly to their clients’ financial and perhaps environmental objectives.
I wanted to revisit these issues as the USGBC earlier this week, opened up the second public comment period for LEED 2012…
Yesterday, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) opened the second public comment period for the proposed update to its LEED green building rating system, coined LEED 2012. The comment period, which will close on September 14, 2011, is the next step in the continuous improvement process and on-going development of the LEED program.
In its initial analysis and discussions with the USGBC, Tristan Roberts at buildinggreen.com highlighted one significant change related to transparency and performance in the latest version:
The new draft is rife with changes, but among those surest to draw attention is an overhaul of the Materials & Resources (MR) section (see Tables 1 and 2). Scot Horst, senior vice president for LEED at USGBC, explains that the section puts new emphasis on both life-cycle assessment (LCA) and transparency by manufacturers. “It’s a transition from where we think the market needs to get to be up-to-date with the rest of the world, and where it is right now,” he says. Horst notes worldwide trends in increased reliance on LCA in evaluating relative impacts of products and materials from extraction to manufacture through use and disposal.
The new focus solely on transparency departs from LEED Pilot Credit 43, which was just released in June 2011 to protest from some environmentalists who objected to how it mixed transparency and performance measures (see “LEED Pilot Credit to Promote Product Transparency—Not Performance,” EBN June 2011). “We cut loose all of the eco-label stuff” that caused consternation about the pilot credit, explained Brendan Owens, vice president for LEED technical development at USGBC. “It is now strictly about product transparency.”
I do hope that the intention of the change to focus on transparency does increase the “trustability” factor in the marketplace. It is however difficult for a “performance-obsessed” market viewer, like me, not to worry about continuing to grow trust in the performance attributes of products and services.