Editorial: It's Good to be Green

Oct. 1, 2007

I was somewhat surprised when I recently read an article in the October 2007 issue of Fast Company titled, "The Green Standard?" in which writer Anya Kamenetz takes aim at the success the U.S. Green Building Council has enjoyed over the past several years with the widespread adoption and growth of its LEED® Rating System. Citing critics who say that the standard is not stringent enough and that developers and builders are merely "point mongering" to join the sustainability bandwagon, Kamenetz goes so far as to suggest that the USGBC's financial success may be "standing in the way of cutting-edge green building standards."

While the nonprofit does boast a $50 million annual budget and has seemingly managed to single-handedly corner the green building market, it's hard to believe the USGBC is impeding progress. The Fast Company article correctly reports that two federal agencies, 22 states and 75 localities nationwide have instituted policies to require or encourage LEED; and more than 7,300 projects have registered for certification since 2000. It may not be perfect, but it is progress.

In fact, the USGBC has recognized its shortcomings and, over the past six years, has rolled out new versions of the rating system to address different means of construction, types of buildings, and scope of development. The Council will soon go one step further in improving the system with the development of LEED "Version 3.0," which will harmonize and align the many versions of the LEED Green Building Rating System (New Construction, Existing Buildings, etc.) as well as incorporate recent advances in science and technology.

While LEED may have a long way to go in becoming the "cutting-edge" standard Kamenetz alludes to in her critique, like it or not, it is the most viable system we have today and has been instrumental in the creation of scores of fantastic green projects, a few of which are featured in this month's cover story, "Top 10 LEED Projects."  The projects we have selected are not ranked in any particular order, but each one demonstrates the ability and versatility of the LEED rating system to change the landscape of the built environment.

This month we have a special section titled, "The Green Guide to Greenbuild." Following the success of our annual supplement, The Green Guide to NeoCon—which I am extremely proud to announce won the Eddie Award for Best Annual Supplement at the 2007 Folio: magazine Eddie & Ozzie Awards held in New York City on September 23-this special section builds on the content we developed in partnership with The Green Standard.org to give designers and architects a transparent tool for evaluating and selecting green products, with a focus on the role that Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) will play in the future of sustainable design projects.In this special section, you will find both inspiring and practical articles on topics such as: the state of green building, as reported by USGBC president and CEO Rick Fedrizzi in his introductory letter; LCAs and how they are being used, by Greg Norris, principal of Sylvatica and manager of LCA into LEED for the USGBC; building a coalition to advance the use of product LCAs, from Deborah Dunning, president of The Green Standard.org; and updates to the invaluable EcoLibrary and EcoList, both of which debuted in The Green Guide to NeoCon.

In fact, there is scarcely a page in this issue that doesn't touch on sustainability in one way or another. While the critics may point fingers at the apparent flaws in the system, we intend to show you what is working in the hopes of inspiring design practitioners to keep striving for a more sustainable future. After all, it's good to be green.

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