Friday, May 6, 2011
An Open Letter to Andrea Reimer on requiring LEED Certification as a condition of rezoning
Andrea, your somewhat snarky comment on Twitter that if UDI is opposed to LEED CERTIFICATION you are even more committed to requiring it, has prompting me to write this note to you.
The reason UDI and many other knowledgeable professionals are concerned with the City's new proposal to require LEED certification as a condition of rezoning, rather than LEED Equivalency is that it won't work in a practical way. Please don't take my word for it...check this out with Heather Tremain or Robert Brown or the Canada Green Building Council or anyone who has had to get a building LEED certified.
Here's the problem. A rezoning contingent on achieving a LEED Gold Certification will grant extra density. The building can be bigger, or higher. However, the developer and his/her team will not know if the building can be certified until AFTER COMPLETION AND OCCUPANCY...that's right, after completion and occupancy, when all the building systems have been properly commissioned.
Now what happens if the building does not achieve the requisite requirments through no fault of the developer or the LEED advisor or consultant team?
I know that you have never taken a building through the LEED certification process but I have. I have also heard of countless stories of buildings not being certified at the desired level because a contractor used the wrong glues, or the energy performance was not exactly as the engineers calculated and hoped. Yes, you can over-design, (you can design for Platinum and settle for Gold) but this can be extremely costly and not practical in many instances.
In the case of a normal approval process, it doesn't really matter if a Platinum building ends up as Gold, or a Gold Building ends up as Silver.. But if a rezoning is contingent on achieving Gold, what happens if in the final analysis this standard is not met?
DO THE PEOPLE ON THE TOP FEW FLOORS HAVE TO MOVE OUT?
If the building achieves Silver, instead of Gold, do just some of the residents have to move out?
The reason that LEED 'equivalent was workable was that it avoided this possibilty. Please tell me how you address this possibility if the City is requiring certification?
Now, I can hear your Law Department or Sustainability Group say....well, let's get a performance bond or letter of credit that the developer will forfeit if LEED Gold isn't achieved. That's been suggested before.
Well, quite frankly, I and many other developers would rather build in another municipality than risk posting an LC for hundreds of thousands of dollars that may not be returned if our buildings do not comply with the indoor air quality requirements. Especially if the city is also seeking 75% of the rezoning 'lift' as a condition of rezoning. But that's another matter to be discussed.
As a final note, I was one of the original Directors of the Canada Green Building Council...I am a supporter of Green Buildings. But LEED WAS NEVER INTENDED AS A ZONING TOOL. Unless the rules have changed significantly or are going to be changed, I do not see how you can use it as a zoning instrument within the Cambie Corridor
Please review this with your advisors, the sustainability group, and the Deputy City Manager with whom I have shared this concern before. I look forward to your response.