I&S: So what went wrong?
scot horst: There were a number of contributing
factors but primarily I attribute this to lessons learned. We shouldn’t have rushed the release, especially in this economy, and without having fully developed solid supporting tools and infrastructure. Also, we weren’t hearing support for many of the changes. In the past when we’ve updated rating systems, we’d hear complaints and reluctance to change, but people seemed to realize the value of the changes. This time we weren’t hearing very much that was positive.
Essentially you had set up an arbitrary deadline you were rushing to meet when in practice there wasn’t an urgent need.
sh: That’s right. The challenge with any sort of update and improvement comes when people are satisfied with the product, and people are pretty happy right now with [LEED] 2009. It’s a combination of thinking; we need to keep improving and the question is how much and how fast. We clearly heard we did too much too quickly.
Many criticized LEED 2012 for being overly complicated—not in terms of the environmental benefits but in the implementation.
sh: Complication is such a challenging issue. When I look back at LEED v1.0, it is so elegant and had such a huge impact on the market. But over time, a lot of people and committees added more ideas and more credits with increased complexities. So that’s one area.
The other is, again, we rushed credits out too quickly without letting people see how the submittals, reference materials, education and other tools would also be changing. For example, LEED Online has 100,000 people on it every day. It is very stable, but as we’re rebuilding it we’re going to go back and make it simpler, more elegant, quicker and less complicated. The perception of increased complexity is largely because we haven’t communicated the whole picture.
Are there specific credits receiving the most criticism?
sh: The Materials & Resources category received the most comments but it was also most in need of
a significant update. The current MR credits represent
very old thinking from the ‘90s and haven’t changed much since then. Plus, their impact on market transformation is substantial, especially for manufacturers. Some have been pushing back pretty hard on what the environmental benefits are, but we haven’t done a good job of explaining that eventually these changes will be very advantageous for everyone.
How big a role is the American Chemistry Council (ACC) playing in this? I understand they are marshaling their members—27 trade associations—in an attempt to do away with two new credits that reward efforts to remove highly toxic chemicals from buildings.
sh: It’s very interesting to look at the history of those credits and the unique interest of the American Chemistry Council. We heard nothing during LEED 2012’s first and second public comment periods. Just as the third public comment period was about to close, we received a frantic set of emails from the ACC and its members about wanting to submit. So we extended the deadline and got about 16,000 comments.
During the fourth public comment period, ACC insisted we remove the credits in response to their input, and threatened to use their influence to make sure that federal and state governments don’t use LEED. It’s a really remarkable diorama of super re-engagement by a group whose main goal is to make sure as little is known about their industry as possible.