From the Fabricator: LEED Under Fire

Over the years, I have been a pretty vocal critic of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating system. Many people have taken shots at me because of that, but it sure seems that as time moves on, I have not been too far off base.

This past week, I was alerted to two situations that cast a negative light on LEED once again. While some of the attacks that this program took on recently may be a little beyond the pale even for my tastes, the fact remains that this system is not what it was cracked up to be, and is really not making the difference most people assumed it would.

Case in point, an article that ran in the New Republic last week. It broke down the absolute folly of the LEED rating system, and how things get off track once the building is occupied. LEED is working to change some of these loopholes with the new version, but it’s still a massive sore point. And even with changes, a lot of the holes will remain.

LEED also has been taking heat from the chemical industry on its lack of inclusion and stigmatizing of their products. This article spells out the latest issues. The rating system plays favorites, and it’s frustrating.

At the end of the day, the reason why anyone cares is simple: LEED is the system that the government uses, and it is most well-known rating program. So, you are stuck with that path, which is amazingly unfair. There are better paths to true sustainability but the LEED machine crushes them. And as we’ve seen in the past, it doesn’t matter; the USGBC machine has too much money and power. But, as more articles get written, maybe some things will begin to change.


  •  Also this week the Wall Street Journal ran an article noting that government construction spending is at a 6-year low. It was probably meant to depress you, but I actually took it differently. We are now matched at 2007 levels. (Remember those days? The GLORY days!) And, we’re way beyond the spending in 2000. In addition, it’s nice to see some spending control at the public level, given the debt load already. Plus a return to private construction spending surely would be nice.
  • Time for another interview. This one serves an extra purpose. With GlassBuild America coming up, I want to introduce you to some of the people and players involved, so you could plan your time at the show accordingly. This week I caught up with marketing guru Rich Porayko of Construction Creative Marketing & Communications, who will be leading a seminar that you cannot miss.

    Here are the details and interview:

    What seminar are you leading?
    It’s titled, Guerrilla Marketing for the Glass & Metal Industry. It will be an information packed, hour long presentation focused on getting solid results using a system of creative yet cost-effective promotions that rely on time, energy and imagination instead of big marketing budgets.

    There’s a lot of excitement surrounding all the GlassBuild America seminars, including yours. What can the attendees expect to take away from your class?
    The session is fun, fast paced and broken into easy takeaways so attendees will literally leave with dozens of easy, cost effective, time tested marketing tips and tricks that have taken me almost twenty years of studying and trial and error to put together. It’s the best deal going in Atlanta! Whether you are a closet marketer or a seasoned pro, there’s something for everyone.

    The world of marketing has evolved quite a bit in the last several years. What do you believe to be the biggest change?
    Hands down, it has to be social media and its integration with email and web marketing. There is something really satisfying about watching a social media campaign go viral live in front of your eyes. Every social media campaign can’t be a homerun but digital marketing can be measured in so many ways that traditional marketing campaigns will never be able to. If you can measure it, it can be improved. Each tweet, post or email gives you more insight on what works and what doesn’t.

    What would you say to any of the folks currently on the fence about attending the show and your seminar?
    What are you waiting for? If you make your living in the glass business, GlassBuild America is the place to be. The economy isn’t out of the woods yet, but it seems like every week you read and hear more positive news. If you miss GBA 2013, you will have to wait until September 2014, and with the pace things are currently moving, a lot can happen in 12 months.

Read on for links and clip of the week...

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.


I can LEED-bash with the best of them, but I don't really find the dialog productive. Is it a flawed system; absolutely. Has it improved over time; yes it has and continues to do so, and yes, it still has a long way to go. Are there better systems available; arguably. The Living Building Challenge is the best, but it is beyond the gumption, if not capability, of most building teams. The effort by the chemical industry is nothing but greenwashing, an industry funded effort to undermine LEED and substitute an alternative that favors their interests. Like virtually everything going on these days, it is all about the protection of vested interests. This has become the greatest barrier to innovation and much needed change in the AEC industry. Innovation and change is the only antidote to a currently unsustainable built environment. Instead of pulling out all the stops to innovate our way to sustainability, we indulge in the protection of vested interests and promotion of the status quo. The problem is not so much LEED as it is us, the users. It may be the very nature of our species at work, but as soon as a system is put in place, we go to work on gaming the system, maybe most especially a point-based system like LEED. It is suddenly not about attaining appropriate sustainability goals, its about racking up the points necessary to achieve the target rating. I believe that buildings are better because of LEED, which is not saying much, agreed (even the USGBC acknowledges that there is no correlation between a LEED rating and true sustainability), but I disagree that there is an obviously better alternative. If all the energy that went into bashing and compromising LEED was channeled into improving the system and realizing appropriate sustainability objectives we would be much further down the road to sustainability in the building sector.