Friday, November 22, 2013


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.
So I LEED this question to you:

It is not enough to do, what will make us want to do better?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Forward Compatibility – Talking Pass One Another

(I wrote this one a while ago and felt I should resurface it. It's a companion piece to this one: On Language and Games – the Wittgensteinian Fly From a Bottle. Cheers)


During the final stages of reviewing my article on China, its sustainable urgency, and its formative free speech needs, and until now, I constantly worry about the meaning lost in the linear mindset that people often bring to the analytical table. The story of my life: getting lost on a straight road because I walk in circles, and I am never to be found again.
Here’s the problem: I believe there is an ontological gap between the east and the west and this gap manifests itself in many different ways. The most obvious is in language—the meaning and intent problem—what precisely is meant not well understood, and what is intended are completely incompatible at times. Between China and its western observers, there often exists an animosity precisely because we failed to understand each other and discrepancies are explained as errors. In terms of sustainability, there can be no greater debauchery than stopping progress for the sake of debating who is right and who is wrong and who should correct their errors. But does it really matter that we come from different places? Or is it the “forward compatibility” more important.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Keys to a Sucessful LEED Building: Communication, Documentation, and a Concrete Vision - by Lauren Campbell Kong

After being in Cincinnati a few months, I finally found a group of individuals at Lohre & Associate who shares my passion for green buildings and marketing. Meeting people like this is difficult and when Mr. Lohre offered me an internship and would pay pay for my LEED AP exam, I was even more excited.

The internship involves working on a LEED project, something that I have wanted to do for over a year and something that wasn’t available to me in Indiana. The experience of working on an actual project is needed to take the LEED AP exam and all the nuances I am learning are immensely valuable. The project is hoping to get certified for LEED gold status and with that comes serious documentation of all aspects of construction. The project involves a major renovation and under LEED standards it is labeled as new construction. This means that everything from what type of dry-wall was used to what kind of paint was put on the dry wall, to what kind of grout and caulk was use to seal it tight must be documented. Needless to say, getting deep into the details of a LEED project is similar to delving into a crime mystery looking for clues or searching through a massive academic database for a specific research paper. It is right up my alley.

Friday, November 8, 2013

I Pledge Allegiance to My Trash

Our world is a trash producing culture. We are so embroiled with our sense of entitlement with modern amenities, packaging and wasting that we ignore how precious our resources are and why we throwing away things unnecessarily. We package and consume and we let the trash collectors worry about disposing our shame. After all, out of sight, out of mind is how the general populace approaches the issue of trash and just like everything else, out of mind means there is no problem; or is there?

According to a 2012 World Bank report, the world’s cities generate about 1.3 billion tons of solid waste per year. The World Bank expects this volume to increase to 2.2 billion tons per year by 2025. The cost is even more staggering: collectively the world spends roughly $200 billion per year on waste management but by 2025, that number is expected to reach close to $400 billion per year.