What do you think about LEED?
LEED began as a voluntary system used to assess energy conservation through accumulation of points. It has become a mandate of political correctness in corporate practice, and it promises to become a requirement of licensure. Thereafter it could become a model for the first energy conservation building code, involving a massive expansion of the already massive regulatory bureaucracy governing the building industry.
Even if this future does not befall us, LEED is already beginning to have the effect of other building codes. Architects used to be experts in fire safety; now they are experts in the application of building codes. They often have no idea what a code means or why it was invented. (Even Building Inspectors and other code officials often do not know why a code was invented, since the code does not contain its own history and justification.) Architects only know that they must comply, so the question of the relationship between the code and fire safety is irrelevant. The same effect of regulation can be seen in the government-run high schools, which now predominately teach to standardized tests. Instead of conveying real knowledge to students in a way that prepares them for life, they convey statistically probable test information in a way that prepares them for the SAT.
Architects, currently compelled by social pressure and in the future compelled by the government, learn the rules and regulations of LEED to become certified, rather than the principles of energy efficiency. In this case too, compliance with a regulatory bureaucracy replaces real understanding. This is the pattern of government bureaucracy: it poses as the protector of some aspect of life, be it education, fire safety or energy conservation, and then promptly displaces this aspect of life, pushing regulatory rules into the foreground of our minds, and pushing life to the periphery. Wisdom in the nature of childhood learning, combustibility, and energy consumption is replaced by wisdom in compliance to an ever-expanding tapestry of rules. This gradual substitution of government for life is the inevitable result of regulatory bureaucracy, since a mind cannot be regulated. Government cannot force a person to understand. Government cannot force a person to master the principles of energy conservation, only to conform to a point system, and these are far from equivalent. Because LEED plays a growing role in this process of dumbing-down our profession, I do not support it. Or put another way, I do not support LEED because I believe architects need to understand the principles of energy efficiency.
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