Producing unhealthy air?
Despite being the only way to determine whether a building is environmentally sustainable or not, the LEED certification has had its fair share of controversy in recent months. Firstly legendary American architect Frank Gehry slammed the certification and sustainable design as merely "a political issue", while others have said the costs don't justify the end result. However, the LEED certification controversy looks to be far from over, as there is concern that LEED buildings may not be even safe to live and work in.
According to a report from the Environment & Human Health Inc (EHHI), the US Green Building Council's LEED rating system, which is of course intended to promote energy efficiency, is in fact resulting in buildings filled with "unhealthy" air.
The report states that the LEED certification favors energy efficiency over indoor air quality, and while business may be quick to cut their electricity bills they are less aware about the impact side effects of energy conservation.
By adopting LEED standards and other energy-conservation efforts, building managers often reduce the exchange of indoor and outdoor air, which can cause synthetic chemicals to build up inside.
"EHHI is especially concerned that the LEED programme is now providing the false impression that the buildings it certifies protect human health. LEED's highest rating, Platinum, is attainable without earning any credits for indoor air quality protection," EHHI states in a press release.
John Wargo, lead author of the study, and Professor of Risk Analysis and Environmental Policy at Yale University, has been quoted as saying, "Although LEED has effectively encouraged energy efficiency in buildings, tighter buildings often concentrate chemicals released from building materials, cleaning supplies, fuel combustion, pesticides and other hazardous substances."
These include phthalates, short-chain chlorinated paraffins, and perfluorinated chemicals, all of which are "chemicals of concern" in the eyes of the US Environmental Protection Agency.
"The underlying problem is that thousands of different chemicals, many of them well recognized to be hazardous, are allowed to become components of building materials. Very few of these chemicals have been tested to identify their toxicity, environmental fate or the danger they pose to human health.
"Although the primary stated purposes of the USGBC are to promote both energy efficiency and human health, even its most prestigious Platinum award does little to ensure that hazardous chemicals are kept out of certified buildings," said Wargo.
However, the chemicals mentioned are used in everyday office supplies like carpets and roofing. The only problem is that with LEED buildings, the lack of air circulation builds up, so is it the chemicals that should be address or just a tweaking of LEED air circulation rules?
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