LEED building complaints – are they really LEED related?

LEED building complaints – are they really LEED related?
There is a great discussion on LEED apartment building tenant complaints over on the Consilience Blog. The complaints as tenant complaints go are legitimate, but have little or nothing to do with the buildings being LEED certified, rather they have to do with cost cutting and poor design, construction, and facilities maintenance.
In summary the complaints were:
  1. Inability to control Air Conditioning to a point below 73 degrees
  2. Challenged by low flow appliance and water pressure
  3. Common areas have no Air Conditioning
  4. Appear to be too few elevators and without AC and too many solar panels
  5. Time lags in underground parking illumination due to motion sensors create safety concern .
As a landlord and manager of several non-LEED buildings and as a LEED AP, I had to throw my hat into the discussion and this is what I had to say:
Every one of the complaints listed are irrespective of the building being green or LEED certified. These complaints are a result of poor building, design, and facilities management choices of the buildings not because the building is LEED.
  • Heating/Cooling complaints are universal in rental units, period. If the building earned credits for indoor air quality /climate control then these complaints are due to poor installation/design/implementation. More likely the building owner and/or contractor cut corners to cut construction costs or have implemented additional throttle controls to cut operational costs.
  • Low flow plumbing comes in a wide array of quality exceptionally efficient options as well as cheap, poorly crafted, industrial crap. Having grown up in California where drought is perennial, I grew up with the ever changing low flow technology. In 40 years they are now producing superior products, yet the crappy designs still exist because they are cheap (and they are cheap because they are crap).
  • Common areas in apartment buildings often do not have AC – whether or not the buildings are LEED. Many building owners and contractors feel it is an unnecessary expense due to minimal occupancy usage during the day. Now if you are talking office buildings, common areas are in constant usage.
  • Elevators – these complaints look to be budget related. Additional shafts could have been built, regenerative power options could have been used, AC could have been installed (but would also need to also have AC in common areas). Some mights say, depending on the size of the building, that is what stairs were made for. My first apartment was six stories with no AC in the common areas, and one 3-Person occupancy elevator. We all managed just fine with the stairs so stop kibitzing.
  • Lighting in underground parking. This sounds like poor installation and or equipment choices. The system should be able to be tweaked and a sensor could be placed on-approach to resolve the issue.
Again, none of the complaints are LEED related. They only seem to be because it is a LEED building. These are mostly due to poor design, construction, and/or facilities maintenance and general cost clipping outside of the realm of LEED.
As to LEED costing more, that is becoming a myth. Studies are starting to show that LEED construction is becoming, in some areas, at same cost or less expensive than traditional construction. I recently toured a LEED platinum building which came in I believe 1 or 2% less than traditional construction.
Matthew Rochte, LEED AP
CSR/Sustainability Consultant
Opportunity Sustainability
http://www.twitter.com/mrochte – follow me for CSR and sustainability trends

Copyright ©2010 Matthew Rochte, Opportunity Sustainability℠ – Share with attribution
Opportunity Sustainability℠ is a Midwest-based sustainability and corporate responsibility consulting firm specializing in green innovation and seeing opportunities where others see burdens. Matthew Rochte LEED AP, an experienced, operations-based sustainability consultant, works with company management to navigate and realize the opportunities in taking their company green and growing sustainably.