LEED and Lunacy in Lexington

You all know about LEED, the acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the checklist process where so-called “green architects” and their allies in the building materials, construction and real estate fields can go about getting certified. It’s the equivalent of getting those gold and silver stars in the 4th grade for perfect attendance or sitting quietly at your desk during rest time, or maybe for a perfect spelling text.

Well, LEED certification does have its merits, and when it seems we all need some plaque to hang on the wall, maybe this makes some sense.

But too often I’m reaching the conclusion that the acronym for LEED really means, “Lunatic Environmentalists Enthusiastically Demolishing.” I had written earlier (May 2, 2008) about the outrageous mendacity of the Nature Conservancy saying it wasn’t feasible to renovate a hundred year old warehouse in Indianapolis as an excuse to raze it and build a suburbanesque green-gizmo building instead.

This pattern of using LEED certification as the club to demolish historic buildings is becoming more and more common.
At this writing, in Lexington, Kentucky, a proposal is rapidly moving forward to build a 40-story hotel in the middle of downtown.

And to do this the developers say it will be necessary to tear down 14 historic structures built between 1826 and 1930.

Preservationists have responded that they certainly don’t object to a new hotel downtown, but that there is no reason the historic structures couldn’t be incorporated into the development. “Not possible,” says the developer.

The idea that this development couldn’t be a mix of old and new suffers from a paucity of the imagination.

And their stick to justify the demolition? “Yeah, but we’re going to be LEED certified.”

Oh, and by the way, as a reward for destroying the history of Lexington, the developers are to be rewarded with $80 million of Tax Increment Financing.

The Blue Grass Trust and Preservation Lexington are leading the effort against this idiocy. The National Trust has also noted this project in the online edition of Preservation Magazine.

But it’s a tough battle. Why? Because of an increasingly common formula:

LEED + GREED = Loss of our built cultural heritage.

Tip of the Day – Look at the drawing of the proposed hotel above. Here’s a sure sign that the architect and the developer are either egocentrically oblivious of the context of their proposed development or (more likely) indifferent to it. The elevations show only the building itself, none of its surroundings. ALWAYS be worried when there is no context shown – 99 times out of a hundred it means the building is vastly out of scale and alien to its context.