With the rollout of LEED version 3 came the LEED 2009 Minimum Program Requirements. MPR #6 requires that “all certified project must commit to sharing with USGBC and/or GBCI all available actual whole-project energy and water usage data for a period of at least 5 year.”
This, of course, led to a lot of speculation that USGBC would use the reported performance data to validated (or nullify) LEED certification.
However USGBC has always maintained the clear position that LEED certification would not be affected by discrepancies between modeled project performance and actual performance data. This is a good thing because it has been well publicized that some LEED projects fall far short of the bar set by the rating system (e.g. the NBI report from 2008).
In fact, the LEED 2009 MPR Supplemental Guidance document states that MPR #6 is not meant to “penalize project teams with buildings that do not perform as well as intended” or “create insurmountable technical or legal barriers to registering a LEED project.” In simple terms, USGBC has basically said that they want to build a database of performance data so that LEED can be appropriately refined and improved in the future.
Then, last month, Franklyn Cater published an article on NPR criticizing LEED for not following through on the intended goals of the rating system. The article also contained an ominous quote from USGBC CEO Rick Fedrizzi about the prospect of LEED de-certification in a future version of LEED.
“Once a LEED plaque is assigned to a building, and there is proof that the building is no longer performing the way that it should, there’s a very good chance that that information will then result in the ability for USGBC to remove the certification from the building — most likely on our website,” Fedrizzi states.
The NPR article goes on to make a good point about the tightrope Fedrizzi is walking by retracting certification buy not necessarily going to building projects and taking the plaque off of the wall.
It seems to me that if LEED decertification becomes a reality then litigation – or as it is called, LEED-igation – will soon follow. Litigation could prove to be the Achilles’ heel of a rating system that was conceived as purely voluntary. De-certification would be a public relations nightmare for everyone involved.
As much as I would like to see actual performance match a LEED project’s anticipated energy savings, it seems like the litigious threat of de-certification coupled with the increased performance stringency that every iteration of the rating system offers could make LEED much less palpable to a very large percentage of the prospective market.