Not April Fool’s: Defense Department to Adopt Green Code and LEED

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In last week’s post, I stated that the Army was abandoning LEED certification in lieu of a green building code based on ASHRAE 189.1. But it is now clear to me that I misinterpreted the testimony of Dr. Dorothy Robyn, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense.

Instead, the Department of Defense is going to simultaneously require compliance with its green building code and with LEED certification.

Confused? So am I!

First here’s the statement from the DoD that suggested to me that LEED was being abandoned:

In the past, all new construction projects were required to meet the LEED Silver or an equivalent standard and/or to comply with the five principles of High Performance Sustainable Buildings. This year my office will issue a new construction code for high-performance, sustainable buildings, which will govern all new construction, major renovations and leased space acquisition. This new code, based heavily on ASHRAE 189.1, will accelerate DoD’s move toward efficient, sustainable facilities that cost less to own and operate, leave a smaller environmental footprint and improve employee productivity.

I assumed that this statement meant LEED certification was “in the past” and the new construction code would be used in the future.

Apparently the DoD intends to use both the green building code and LEED certification simultaneously. According to (Dave) Foster in the Pentagon’s Media Relations Division, the Army “will continue to seek LEED certification for our buildings built to that standard and expect to get LEED Silver or better at no additional cost.”

I Don’t Understand the Difference Between a Code and a Rating System

Before the DoD’s announcement, I thought I understood the difference between a green building code and green building certification. I understood a green building code to be a minimum standard that applied to 100 percent of buildings. Green building certification, to me, was an aspirational standard that was beyond code and only applied to a subset of buildings.

But the DoD’s use of a green building code to achieve LEED certification is different. The code will inform the contractor of how to get LEED certification; the certification then confirms the building was built to code. The USGBC’s Lane Burt explained the distinction like this:

“The code tells you what to do, and LEED tells you how well you did and communicates that to the rest of the world.” For building owners, LEED provides third-party validation that “you got what you paid for.”

Going forward, federal contractors working with the DoD will have to ensure compliance with both a green building code and then apply for LEED certification.

I would like to leave with you with a question. What makes more sense?

A. A federal agency adopting a green building code to ensure that its projects are sustainable.

B. A federal agency adopting a green building code to simplify the process of obtaining a third-party certification to ensure that its projects are sustainable.

I am baffled.

Article by Chris Cheatham, appearing courtesy Green Building Law Update.

Green Building Law Update is published to inform the construction and design industries about green building risks and legal developments. Launched in 2008, the website has served as a forum to discuss green building litigation, regulations, policy and trends.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.