From the NY Post:
The USGBC claims LEED buildings are 25 percent to 30 percent more energy efficient, a figure based on a 2007 study it commissioned from the New Buildings Institute. But Gifford figured out that USGBC fudged the study by comparing the median energy usage of a LEED sample to the mean (or average) usage of non-LEED buildings. By taking the mean value of both distributions, he found the same data indicated that LEED projects use 29 percent more energy than non-LEED buildings.
No one knows for sure why, but clearly, the group's energy-modeling tools and arcane point system fail to predict how real-life mechanical systems function and tenants behave. For example, Gifford's report showed a picture of the Hearst Tower on 57th Street -- billed as New York's first green skyscraper -- with its lights blazing at night.
Follow-up reviews of the study have confirmed the inaccuracy of the USGBC's claims. "There is no justification for USGBC claims that LEED Certified commercial buildings are using significantly less electricity or have significantly lower greenhouse-gas emission associated with their operations than do conventional buildings," wrote Oberlin College researcher John Scofield in a paper last month.
So why is LEED so popular? Well, it lets politicians cloak themselves in the garb of environmental activism without upsetting real-estate interests. Thus, when city and state lawmakers imposed their sweeping regulations here in New York, they never bothered to check LEED's claims.
For developers, LEED is a source of tax credits, a potent marketing tool and protection from environmental criticism. It has given rise to a whole new industry of "accredited" consultants -- a constituency that's grown to over 100,000 who get paid to advise developers on how to get their project certified and to assess buildings.
And the program has been good for the "nonprofit" USGBC, which reported a 300 percent growth in revenue from 2005 to 2007. The group rakes in tens of millions of dollars each year from examination and conference fees, member dues and speaking engagements. Many of the same people who developed the USGBC rules make money as private LEED consultants, members say.
But there's a hefty cost here. While estimates vary, developers and officials say LEED often adds 5 percent or more to project costs -- an expense that's passed on to the tenant or (in the case of public works) to the taxpayer.