Beyond waterless toilets and LEED Gold

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy that LEED exists. It is an excellent first shot at trying to make buildings and neighborhoods more environmentally responsible.

But to say that LEED is necessary but not sufficient for sustainable development is no different than saying dentistry is necessary but not sufficient for health care. But my other two dissents from LEED-mania are: 1) LEED only deals with the environmental component of sustainable development, not at all with the other two components — economic responsibility and social/cultural responsibility; and 2) even within the environmental responsibility component of sustainable development the contributions of existing buildings is irresponsibly inadequate on multiple levels.So that’s it. That’s my beef with LEED.

Having said that, recently I’ve been a bit surprised, but more than that extraordinarily pleased to find that there are some within what might be considered the hard core environmental movement who understand that as well.

One is Lloyd Alter a Canadian architect and developer, and now active web journalist for Tree Hugger.com. Here is someone deeply committed to sustainable development, but also sees the irreplaceable role that heritage buildings play in sustainable development. He frequent writes an entry on Tree Hugger entitled “Another One Bites the Dust” that is well worth reading.

Another “green” blog that understands the historic preservation/sustainable development link isGreenRedux.com.

When the discussion of sustainable development moves beyond the techno talk from “green architects” and gizmo salesmen and broadens so that all of the components of sustainable development are part of the discussion, we’ll be making progress. Those who remain stuck on the inane “can I get two extra points toward Leed Gold if we put in a bike rack?” are only demonstrating their absolute ignorance about what sustainable development is.

For those with time to kill you might want to look at the podcast interview I did with Lloyd Atler in Collingwood, Ontario recently.