US green building standards ignore air quality, says report
The American green building accreditation system LEED has come under attack from health researchers who claim it conveys a “false impression of a healthy and safe building environment”.
Environmental & Human Health Inc (EHHI), an independent organisation founded in the US in 1997, has published a report that claims LEED-accredited buildings could be creating toxic environments for people to live and work in.
Last year, American architect and leading sustainability expert William McDonough told BD that the profession was creating “killing machines” by not considering the toxicity of the materials used in buildings.
In its report LEED Certification: Where Energy Efficiency Collides with Human Health, published at the end of May, EHHI found that the highest LEED rating of “platinum” could be obtained without earning any credits for indoor air quality protection.
It expressed concern that LEED standards had already been adopted by legislators, corporations and institutions who did not understand the potential impact on human health of creating energy-efficient sealed buildings.
And the report concluded that the LEED certification system conveys a “false impression of a healthy and safe building environment, even when well-recognised hazardous chemicals exist in building products”.
John Wargo, professor of risk analysis and environmental policy at Yale University and author of the report, said: “Although the US Green Building Council’s LEED certification programme has effectively encouraged energy efficiency in buildings, tighter buildings often concentrate chemicals released from building materials, cleaning supplies, fuel combustion, pesticides and other hazardous substances.
“Even the council’s most prestigious platinum award does little to ensure that hazardous chemicals are kept out of the certified buildings.”