The Scot Center has been awarded LEED Gold certification.
First: Hooray! By obtaining LEED Gold certification for the new Scot Center, the College of Wooster is signaling that it values environmental sustainability and is committed to finding ways to reduce its environmental footprint. As individuals and as institutions, we need to be conscious of the environmental implications of all of our choices, just as we would consider the financial implications, and make those considerations part of our decision process.
Second: What does LEED Gold mean? LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is an internationally recognized set of standards, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2000, to evaluate the way in which a building is designed and constructed. LEED certification depends on assessment by an independent party, so it’s more than just PR by an institution or architect.
LEED standards evaluate such things as site selection, water use, energy use, materials used and disposed of in construction, indoor air quality, and design innovation. How high a rating a construction project gets depends on how many points it accumulates in different categories. LEED Gold is better than Silver, but not as high as Platinum.
Third: What does LEED certification miss? It has aroused its share of controversy. Most importantly, it evaluates a building, for the most part, as an object rather than as a process. If you build a new office building, LEED will say whether the construction of that building was guided by environmental considerations rather than whether or not the building was needed. It also largely ignores the way in which the building is used. So even if you are utilizing a “green” building, you can still do so in an environmentally damaging way. As one critic wrote, “You can drive a Prius in a way that gives you the fuel efficiency of a Hummer.”