NEW YORK — Since its launch in 2000, the LEED building certification system has become a unanimously recognized scale on both the national and international level, for honoring projects that focus on efficiency and green aspects of design and construction.
Companies and government agencies throughout the world submit 1.6 million feet of construction to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for LEED consideration every day. Green building has become the standard and LEED has become the metric organizations use to prove their dedication to designing buildings for a better tomorrow. Despite this trend, LEED has also become known for requiring massive amounts of paperwork and organization, often adding entire new positions or departments to agencies to complete the workload. This has led many to wish for an alternative system, but the vast majority of professionals in the building and design industries don’t have the time or resources to get involved in efforts to replace the system or give it a significant competitor. However, Douglas Durst chairman of the Durst Organization, believes he may be the person to break that trend.
Durst Organization has been a player in the green building industry on a very large scale for a very long time. The company became responsible for the first “green skyscraper” in the United States, when it paid for the construction of the Conde Nast Building at 4 Times Square, which was designed by Fox & Fowles Architects, with Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers serving as construction management.
Now Durst has moved on to a new project, a 750-unit residential building designed by Bjarke Ingels Group, and he feels this is the moment to challenge LEED’s dominance by striving to gain recognition for a green structure that doesn’t go through the LEED certification process. Durst told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) he was pursuing the idea because of the notorious amount of paperwork necessary for LEED certification and his belief that the LEED system was not tailored to recognize all the efficiency accomplishments he expected the new project to achieve.
“We found it to be a little confining. There are things we want to do that don't give us a benefit under LEED,” he explained. The building project is still in the early stages, seeking approval from city officials, but Durst expects it to be completed by 2015.
Meanwhile, the USGBC, which runs the LEED process, is racing to develop a new version of the standards, which it hopes will put up fewer roadblocks for builders and designers. The update was originally intended to go into effect in 2012 but the vote for approval was pushed back to summer of 2013. The USGBC will solicit public comments on the proposed changed from October 2 to December 10 of 2012.
Durst commented that the current LEED system wouldn’t acknowledge many of the aspects of his new project that he felt should be considered positive elements of design. He said LEED wouldn’t recognize the fact that his building would use recycled water from neighboring buildings to flush its toilets. Durst also felt his project should get credit for using a central heating and cooling system, rather than giving each residence its own. Finally, he disagreed with LEED’s judgment that using outside air would be a negative aspect of the project, as it consumed more energy than alternatives. Durst told the WSJ he felt this system should be considered a positive because it enhanced quality of life for the buildings occupants.
The developer emphasized that he wasn’t waging a war on LEED, and would reconsider his decision when the new standards came out. Durst was an early participant in the LEED process, developing the first LEED Platinum skyscraper in the nation when he funded the Bank of America Tower in 2009. That project was designed by Cook+Fox Architects and built by Tishman Construction Corporation.