After my post the other day on how new award-winning supposedly environmentally sustainable parks are far more resource intensive than the old parks they were replacing, I have gotten a lot of feedback -- this is obviously a topic that strikes a chord with folks. In particular, a reader (I always forget to ask if I can use their names) sent me this article on the new LEED Platinum-certified building in New York
When the Bank of America Tower opened in 2010, the press praised it as one of the world’s “most environmentally responsible high-rise office building[s].” It wasn’t just the waterless urinals, daylight dimming controls, and rainwater harvesting. And it wasn’t only the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification—the first ever for a skyscraper—and the $947,583 in incentives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. It also had as a tenant the environmental movement’s biggest celebrity. The Bank of America Tower had Al Gore.
The former vice president wanted an office for his company, Generation Investment Management, that “represents the kind of innovation the firm is trying to advance,” his real-estate agent said at the time. The Bank of America Tower, a billion-dollar, 55-story crystal skyscraper on the northwest corner of Manhattan’s Bryant Park, seemed to fit the bill. It would be “the most sustainable in the country,” according to its developer Douglas Durst. At the Tower’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Gore powwowed with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and praised the building as a model for fighting climate change. “I applaud the leadership of the mayor and all of those who helped make this possible,” he said.
Gore’s applause, however, was premature. According to data released by New York City last fall, the Bank of America Tower produces more greenhouse gases and uses more energy per square foot than any comparably sized office building in Manhattan. It uses more than twice as much energy per square foot as the 80-year-old Empire State Building. It also performs worse than the Goldman Sachs headquarters, maybe the most similar building in New York—and one with a lower LEED rating. It’s not just an embarrassment; it symbolizes a flaw at the heart of the effort to combat climate change...
“What LEED designers deliver is what most LEED building owners want—namely, green publicity, not energy savings,” John Scofield, a professor of physics at Oberlin, testified before the House last year.
I will go out and get a picture today of our local Bank of America branch. It is LEED certified at some level, proudly displaying the certificate in the lobby. Out front it has two parking spaces near the door for electric cars - it does not have a charger for them, just reserved preferred parking. I am sure they got their LEED points this way.
Postscript: I am not religious but am fascinated by the comparisons at times between religion and environmentalism. Here is the LEED process applied to religion:
- 1 point: Buy indulgence for $25
- 1 point: Say 10 Our Fathers
- 1 point: Light candle in church
- 3 points: Behave well all the time, act charitably, never lie, etc.
It takes 3 points to get to heaven. Which path do you chose?