Friday, November 22, 2013
I LEED A QUESTION
There are three ways of motivating people to think LEED (that I know of). First is the enforcement type, the municipality adopts private standards, like LEED, into their building codes by specific incorporation—“compliance shall be what LEED requires.” There is at least one municipality that I know of adopted this approach, but the problem here is constitutional: the public governance is essentially handing over legislative power to the private sector since the private sector is responsible for updating the standards; but what happened to the voting process and public accountability if this is going to be the LAW?
Second is the not-so-lazy-man approach: adopt some LEED standards in substance into the building codes but no specific incorporation-[of LEED]-by-reference (the paint must meet this low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) level to be in compliance and that level just happen to be the LEED standard. So by complying with the law, you are getting LEED credits, two birds with one stone—that’s if you documented it in the first place). Some places in California adopted this approach if I remember correctly. However, the problem here is that the private sector is then subject to the slow pace of public consensus—if we learn new knowledge about best practices, we have to wait for politicians to come together to get us there in terms of law making. We all know how much politicians like to work together and get things done.
Cincinnati adopted a third approach—tax rebates—the “let’s just give them money” method. If you build a Platinum LEED building, the city of Cincinnati will not collect city property tax from you for up to 15 years with no upper limit on amount. This means you can build a new million dollar home taxed at 2.2% tax on average, but you do not pay a dime for 15 years if your house is LEED Platinum. That's roughly $330,000 you avoid paying the government. (Well, technically if you don't build the home, the government doesn't collect taxes anyway, so it wouldn't make the money regardless.) With it being only a city tax incentive, it controls the urban sprawl problem to a degree. LEED also considers remodeling 50% or more of an existing building a new construction so you can get the tax credit even if you don't build new buildings. This will be added incentive to revitalize old neighborhoods. But as your average consumers consider a somewhat updated home, there is not much incentive to incorporate LEED standards at a higher cost. The tax credit is a good thing in my opinion, but it doesn't go far enough to get people to really look at LEED on a scale.
But these approaches are all about extrinsic motivations.
It is not enough to do, what will make us want to do better?