Fox Chase SEPTA Station Earns LEED Certification—But is That a Good Thing?
It’s not the best time to be all “Green jobs!” right now, what with Solyndra, that solar energy company in Northern California which had taken a $535 million loan from the Obama Administration going bankrupt (and the right wing fantasy that this will bring down the entire Obama Administration!) but then there’s SEPTA. They’re talking up the recently-renovated Fox Chase Regional Rail Station in the Northeast having gone green and earned a “Silver” LEED certification form the U.S. Green Building Council.
According to a press release put out today by the Authority:
To achieve the LEED Silver status, SEPTA implemented numerous eco-friendly processes throughout planning, design and building phases, including recycling construction waste materials such as drywall; using low-pollutant emitting building materials; and purchasing energy from a local green energy supplier. The completed station has energy efficient Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) and lighting systems; is entirely smoke-free; features receptacles for recycling papers, cans and bottles; and has 15 parking spots designated specifically for energy efficient vehicles,
According to the U.S. Green Building Council, certification is based on a number of points for different types of work, including the sustainability, energy, atmosphere, materials, resources, innovation and design of the buildings. Each aspect of these goals, like “heat island effect” and “stormwater design” give the building a certain number of points, with 40 being the minimum for LEED certification. Silver, which is what Fox Chase is sporting, needs 50-59 points, Gold 60-79 and Platinum 80-110.
Of course, there’s potential problems with this program. According to a 2005 report titled “LEED is broken: Let’s fix it,” the building costs of LEED-certified construction might have added a few extra dollars to SEPTA’s budget. Auden Schendler and Randy Udall, writers of the report, say LEED certification adds anywhere from 1-5 percent more to a building budget. In the examples they used, a builder earned extra points on a $1.3 million heating recovery system (one point) and a $395 bike rack (one point).
UPDATE: See comment below for LEED certification program updates.
According to SEPTA, the project, which did not completely rebuild but renovate the Northeast Philly station, cost $1.1 million, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, of which there is surprisingly still unspent sums.
LEED certification has been criticized by both the left and right, with Fox News often allowing columnists to call it “junk science” and Eugene Weekly’s blog noting that some LEED certifications involve building greener parking lots, whereas many of the rebuilt sites don’t have parking lots in the first place, and, in building one, give patrons the option of driving their cars, and that ain’t green.
Forbes.com has gone even a step further, calling LEED-certified buildings “energy hogging.” Some buildings, they say, often use much more energy than predicted (which economists often call “the rebound effect”) and still keep their LEED certifications. Not to mention the U.S. Green Building Council is a “private organization and has no governmental oversight but these mandates are actually laws that must be followed.”