While scanning various emails recently I came across one from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announcing that the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) has certified the 10,000th LEED commercial project. A very impressive accomplishment and one USGBC should be proud of.

As those of us in the building services market are aware, many professionals are using LEED guidelines to design, build, maintain and operate their buildings. Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, U.S. Green Building Council said in the accompanying article, “Ten thousand commercial certified buildings stand as a powerful example that a strong bottom line translates to real, tangible success.”

But over the past several months, there has been quite a bit of discussion about the relationship between the various building and municipal codes and rating systems like LEED. Some have argued that cities using LEED as a mandatory building code were setting themselves up for problems down the road and that new green building codes entering the market were a better measurement tool. Others say the widespread acceptance of LEED is a good system for all new commercial buildings

Certainly there is a distinction in that codes and rating systems are fundamentally and structurally different, but the question is should they be perceived as complimentary systems? Codes mandate minimum standards and some specific measures, whereas rating systems like LEED define leadership standards, are performance based, and are verified by an independent third party.

From IGCC, to ASHRAE 189.1, to CALGreen — the number of green building codes continues to expand. But will LEED be able to coexist with green building codes? What are the options for municipalities contemplating this question? They could:

  • Use green building codes when mandated but still continue to pursue LEED certification
  • Ignore LEED and follow only green building codes
  • Adopt green building codes as a baseline and create incentives for also pursuing LEED certification

As Dan Geiger, Executive Director of USGBC, Northern California Chapter wrote in a recent blog, “When we consider the potential of the greenest possible building codes combined with the highest private market standards like LEED, it’s clear we need BOTH to be an industry and national leader.”

Both codes and standards have a place in the marketplace and ultimately, they are both meant to strengthen the green building movement.

What are you thoughts on LEED vs. Green Building Codes?