Friday, July 8, 2011

No Exit - buildings living in luxury.

Andy Singer
I recently passed my LEED exam, proud and blind. I am very proud of my work, but I have yet to discover a LEED project to work on here in Indiana. I may only be able to maintain my GA status through CLEs and it looks to be a while before I can advance from a LEED GA to AP. In the meantime, my eyes have developed a special sensitivity to those four funny looking letters: L-E-E-D.

A few days ago I wrote a short piece protesting U2’s Edge wanting to build LEED certified mansions. He had wanted to build five of them on protected hillsides in California and he donated a few million to “green” folks to buy their support.

It seemed odd that Mr. Edge should be allowed to buy his way into sustainability without balancing people and profit; only the planet seem to matter to the rice and privileged. I guess it is the land of the free after all, if we can buy and sell political seats, why not the leisure of green living? Why should the poor live in health and green homes? Why should the poor have access to health food? Why should the poor ever be allowed to hold a political office? They are lazy and are the cause of all of our economic problems, right? What would the world be if we did not have the poor; or even better, if we had a few billion poor people less.

Let Edge build his mansions then. I wouldn’t care about LEED by then. I’d be one of the poor people who just happened to disappear from his planet. Come and take me Mr. Alien, I’m ready for my home planet.

But earth held her breath and blew Edge’s dream, well, right off the edge of those mountains. Some sensible people with the authorities rejected Edge’s charisma and deny his permit to build. Thank you captain planet, there are five LEED certified buildings I won’t miss.

I can’t say the same for the tree-hugger organizations who took Edge’s money and now have nothing to show for. Let them lay in shame of their own pride I guess, but I sure miss their integrity.

Bashing and ranting aside, I had always thought sustainability should be developed from a holistic perspective – people, planet, profit. I see a lot of people passionate about this Green thing because it’s a status symbol to them. They are richer, live in a better neighborhood, have fancier cars and can afford to send their kids to overfunded schools. Living Green is like the new black, every housewife should not leave home without it. Let Green Style reign. But when it comes to people, no one else counts; profit is good only when it’s made by them; and planet, well just don’t try to pollute in their gated community. Let someone else be poor, burden the disease of bad environments and food with empty calories, and let the profit flow.

Don’t get up from your chair in an outrage now; this is nothing new. It’s always the way it should be, as the world turns I guess.

Lauren and I had always dreamed about living somewhere more Green. We don’t particularly care for the status, but we sure like to live in a place where people are more like us. We would make more friends and share more of our thoughts. We would live a little better and our Green ways a bit easier. Our kids can go to those overfunded schools and we can eat healthy without breaking a sweat – home delivery baby.

But the more I thought about the prospect of moving into a greener city, San Francisco for example, the less I am excited about the motivation. If I am moving there because it’s more sustainable and more Green orientated, then I do no better than I had set out to do. I ought to confront the problems rather than run from them.

Then I saw Maggie Beidelman’s interesting question about if LEED is really Green, asking if all this LEED development is really about sustainability or just about creating incentives for more unnecessary developments and bubbling the housing economy in a slightly different way. You should read the post when you get a chance, it’s a good article and it made me think about where I am and why. Maybe it’s a good thing I’m not in San Francisco and working on one of those LEED projects for a rich condo developer selling to Mr. Edge’s cronies.

I am here in Indiana, where the market is still in its infancy. There is still a chance for LEED to stay true to its principles here: focusing on housing developments for the poor, developing healthy food options for the low-income, reducing food deserts, leverage the bulk abandoned communities for urban farms, and contributing to the health of the planet sensibly. But that means I would have to convince the rest of the people here to think the way I see. It’s an uphill battle because I’m working against the economic development current. I would not have LEED’s marketing advantage for the developers because poor people wouldn’t care to pay more for a Green house. But where there is a will, there is a way. I hope Indiana doesn’t just follow trends and catch up to San Francisco’s insanity. I hope we stand on our own and develop a meaningful Indiana LEED development strategy – a regional strategy. I want to part of that movement and put my LEED knowledge to work. Or else I may have to move to somewhere nice with an ocean front view. Either way, I win.

And they say there is no exit.


  1. Your article spoke to me. You must stay where you are and continue to fight. Otherwise you will grow complacent. I am confronted with a similar situation here in Geneva, trying to raise awareness of environmental health issues. People choose not to listen. Economic interests trump our health and that of our planet. There are like-minded persons in the environment groups, but their advocacy doesn't connect the degradation of the environment with worsening health. Stay in Indiana and keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks Meris. I think a lot of times, it takes an extra effort to connect the dots between the health problem, economic problems, and our environmental problems. Most people expect the media to do the work for them, but the media have a incentive to disconnect things.