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Is the USGBC Heading Down the Wrong Road?

Posted by: Frank Sherman

In what may prove to be a public relations nightmare for the Council, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced four days after the close of its annual Greenbuild Conference that it has extended the date for registering projects under the older LEED 2009 rating system until October 31st 2016. The commentary on sites such as LEED User is growing quickly.

LEED v4 was released with great fanfare a year ago at Greenbuild and had been moving full steam ahead since then. Why is USGBC putting the brakes on now? That is the question a lot of people are asking with not a lot of convincing answers coming from the business side of the Organization. According to the press release; “In a survey conducted at last week’s Greenbuild conference, 61 percent of respondents said they are “not ready” or “unsure” if they are ready to pursue LEED v4 and require additional time to prepare”. A lot of people, including many LEED insiders are asking what survey? Who did they poll? More telling is the statement in the press release: “Our international LEED users, which account for some 50 percent of new LEED registrations, have also indicated they would like to have more time to move onto the new rating system”.

I am a strong advocate for the Mission of the Council, and the work they have done to build a community of passionate practitioners of green building. But as a product developer, USGBC is plagued with missed deadlines, frustrating IT and customer support, and missteps launching their products in the marketplace. This latest misstep may only erode their leadership in the field that attracted so many of us to the council.

I am sure the USGBC executive team has its reasons, whether or not they want to be transparent about those reasons remains to be seen. LEED lives or dies by its market share. USGBC has set its sights on the international market. Meanwhile, more and more of the U.S. market continues to question LEED's relevancy as building codes and standards continue to advance, and other programs push the envelope beyond LEED.

The greater USGBC community may never be privy to the real conversations being had between the Council and the executive team charged with keeping the LEED juggernaut alive, if there is any real conversation being held at all. And that is a worrisome proposition in its own right. So for the moment, LEED is heading down an off-ramp to who knows where, until some GPS tells it to make a U-turn while it recalculates the next direction to head in. This is not how disruptive products such as LEED are meant to operate, this is just disruptive.

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