John Corkill AIA
Corkill Cush Reeves Architects
When I was on the National Board and was head of the then-ExComm of the then-PIA's back in the pliestocene era, we blew it on the environment. I hang my head in shame that none of us at the national nor the COTE level set up a system like LEED. While surely many AIA'ers and likely COTE members were involved in the Green Building Council, nevertheless, the main impetus should have come from AIA, where perhaps some of the excesses of the GBC could have been avoided.
First, however, the GBC has accomplished one wonderful thing : Those folks have given architecture some validity back.
Prior to LEED, architecture's Vitruvian motto, "Firmness, Commodity, and Delight" had devolved to "DELIGHT"
and that only. The mags, the schools, our chapter awards programs, all focused on the well-photographed, beautiful artifact - no matter how much energy, or practicality, or livibility was squandered in the headlong worship of beauty, uber alles.
Those who suffered in beautiful but illogical and energy-squandering buildings found it hard to rejoice in the AIA Design Award hanging in the lobby while freezing or sweltering, or facing ruinous energy bills. Our clients might have been forgiven for wondering where the "Firmness" and "Commodity" went.
However, having won that great moral victory for our profession, GBC has lapsed into the eternal human problem of deeply needing to follow yesterday's victories by even new and greater victories today and tomorrow. Thus, the exams get harder and more restrictive, and building codes and local officials are lobbied to fix in stone the LEED system as supreme. The expenditure of effort and scarce resources out of proportion to the increased savings of energy in the new, improved, tightened regulations starts to eat up the savings while bringing down on all of our heads the inevitable backlash from the industry and the community alike.
There seems to be in the newer tightened LEED demands an increasing reliance on electronic gadgetry to control every aspect of a building's performance, regardless of the scale of the structure, or the staffing available to maintain the place. Embarrassments such as early LEED buildings that do not perform as predicted, LEED (sorry) to demands that "Commissioners" be hired- at fees similar to architect's original design fees - to put the building through its predicted paces. When these unregistered "Commissioners" find what seem to them to be design errors during their commissioning, they have a convenient scapegoat, the original architect, whose liability insurance will surely pay for any corrections or improvements.
Then, the owner takes over the building and fails to tune up the computer controls, or lets tenants leave windows open in the winter/summer. Inevitably, that building will burn more energy than was predicted, and if the hapless architect has guaranteed a certain cost level for future energy bills as part of her LEEDs or her marketing to get the job, she might as well bring her liability insurer in early to prepare for the inevitable lawsuit.
Other than those few quibbles, LEED is great.
John F. Corkill, Jr., AIA
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