We like to show our readers good and bad examples from those who have built before them, so they don't make the same mistake. The fact of the matter is that codes and regulations are constantly changing. Therefore, the plans to any architectural project become paramount. The design process is where it can all start to go right, or wrong. Ensuring that your plans are up to speed may cost a little extra money, but can save you from crippling mistakes.
You cant get any higher profile of a project than Thom Maynes Federal Building. For those who are unaware, many government entities are requiring LEED certification for new buildings. LEED is the nationally recognized benchmark for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and the certification program for new construction is called LEED-NC. There are several certification levels including silver, gold, and platinum calculated on a point system that honors efforts in sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation in design. All new federal buildings, as mandated by the U.S. General Services Administration, must at least attain basic LEED certification. Mayne, his firm Morphosis, and the media were all shocked when the Federal Building did not meet the requirements.
In spite of the surprising news, Morphosis didnt necessarily do a bad job. The Federal Building has won several awards for their innovative energy saving techniques. The building uses 70% less energy than it would through conventional construction. The building is cooled almost entirely by natural ventilation. These arent parlor tricks here. Maynes design is one of the most energy efficient in the world; at least as far as installed systems go. However, only so many points are awarded for energy efficiency, and theyre not enough alone to secure LEED certification. Remember, other considerations include materials and resources, water efficiency, etc. In other words, the LEED program is aimed at embodied energy, or the energy to harvest and produce the materials, the energy to clear the land, even the energy for workers to commute to work. This building mistake has more to do with understanding the purpose of the requirements, and the broad scope of the design necessities. Mayne and Morphosis just didnt think enough about the other considerations.
Unfortunately, the mistake will likely be a costly one. Not meeting the requirements of a federally funded building probably means a breach of contract. Breach of contract definitely means damages paid, lots of damages paid. Luckily the issue isnt settled yet. Arguments for Mayne are that the LEED system isnt sophisticated enough, that it doesnt account for the innovation of Mayne and Morphosis energy efficiency. The United States Green Building Council, operator of the LEED program, says that its willing to reevaluate the project.
To our readers, the moral of the story isnt that the LEED system, or any other governing influence, should be more progressive, or sophisticated. It is that you should understand the rules and adhere to them.