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LEED as an excuse for cultural destruction?

July 24, 2008

Reports from the recent Ontario, Canada conference Landmarks not Landfill: Heritage Preservation and Environmental Sustainability:

Romas Bubelis, architect for the Ontario Heritage Trust, made a presentation on how design and construction techniques from the 19th and early 20th century were naturally green, given that they didn’t have much affordable artificial lighting or ventilation and had to develop zero-energy techniques. And our good friend Don Rypkema was, again, particularly critical of architects and developers using LEED as an excuse to tear down perfectly good buildings; he talked of a 40-story hotel in Lexington, Kentucky that is proposed on the site of 14 historic structures built between 1826 and 1930, all of which could be easily integrated into the structure. See Don’s blog.

“The idea that this development couldn’t be a mix of old and new suffers from a paucity of the imagination. And their stick to justify the demolition? “Yeah, but we’re going to be LEED certified.”

Rypkema suggests that LEED must stand for “Lunatic Environmentalists Enthusiastically Demolishing.”

As always, Rypkema summarizes his thesis in five succinct points:

1. Sustainable development is crucial for economic competitiveness.
2. Sustainable development has more elements than just environmental responsibility.
3. “Green buildings” and sustainable development are not synonyms.
4. Historic preservation is, in and of itself, sustainable development.
5. Development without a historic preservation component is not sustainable.

A final quote from Canada:   “We think more about recycling beer bottles and tin cans than we do about buildings. This has to change.”

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