Legendary American architect Frank Gehry has raised a few eyebrows by declaring that energy-saving green architecture and sustainable design is "a political issue" and that the LEED certification is often given for "bogus stuff".
Speaking to the CEO of the Pritzker Organization during the annual Cindy Pritzker Lecture on Urban Life and Issues at Chicago’s Harold Washington Library Center, the Chicago Tribune writer Blair Kamin noted that Gehry did not seem too taken with the environmental concerns surrounding construction.
When Pritzker asked Gehry about energy-saving green architecture and global warming, the architect did not exactly warm to the topic.
"I think the issue is finally a political one," Gehry said.
Referring to the LEED (for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system for buildings, which awards points for energy-saving features but has been criticized because some of these features (like bike racks) are superficial add-ons, Gehry said: "A lot of LEED is given for bogus stuff." The costs of making a green building are "enormous," he said, and "they don't pay back in your lifetime."
While Frank Gehry's stance on climate change is unknown to this writer, he does make a point about how politicised the issue has become, but does that mean that he's right about sustainable design? And is the LEED certification really a waste of time?
Enormous costs for a better future?
While the costs for making a building more environmentally friendly can be huge (insulation, dual layer windows and additional upgrades can cost as much as $12,000 to a typical family home), the savings in heating bills can be substantial. As a third of CO2 emissions come from buildings and homes and have been cited as the main cause of global warming, this writer would have to have to disagree that the costs aren't paid back in our lifetime; not all costs, afterall, are financial.
As for the LEED certification issue; this is a bit more complicated.
Construction of an LEED-certified building can be, as Gehry says, an enormous task but I honestly believe that offering a certification incentive makes construction firms and companies alike try harder to make their buildings as efficient as possible.
Too much CO2 is caused by leaving lights on, poor insulation and poor water waste systems; if simply by installing light sensors and a few solar panels, this can be reduced then I think the scheme is a good idea.
However, if what Gehry says is true and merely having a bike rack classifies the building as being environmentally friendly then perhaps a rethink of some of the criteria are in order. Encouraging your staff to cycle to work is not the same as reducing the building's emissions output and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design should address this as soon as possible.
Where do you stand? Is Gehry correct?
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