This is the editorial I referred to in my last post. It came to me in an e-mail I regularly get at work, which links to Architectural Record. As an architect, I probably should read the magazine more, but I have more mudane things to do like actually serve my clients. And honestly, I try not to think much about work at home – there’s office time and afterwards there’s ME time.
But I’ll have to give you a bit of personal background before I continue with this story.
When I was in Ohio, I went through all the testing and became a registered architect. So every two years, the state of Ohio sends a reminder notice to me that I have to renew my registration in order to legally practice for another two years (within the state of Ohio.) Despite the fact I live in Maryland now, I’ve opted to retain my Ohio registration – never know what can happen in life. (I also can continue to claim reciprocity as I work on getting registered here in Maryland.)
Anyhow, the state of Ohio, in its infinite wisdom, decided to kowtow to lobbyists from the American Institute of Architects and other interested groups who stand to gain from such regulations and adopt a mandatory continuing education policy, effective with this year’s renewal. So in order to maintain good standing with the state of Ohio, I have to complete 24 hours of continuing education in the next two years. (Fortunately, I’ll be able to use those hours concurrently for my Maryland registration once I get it since their requirements are similar.)
Don’t get me wrong, there’s some benefit to continuing education. But, honestly – have brick, steel, wood, and concrete changed that much in the last 20 years? Arguably, adopting a new building code every few years requires some study, but they retain 80-90% of the old code for the new one.
So what does the industry use as filler material for these hours? Primers on “sustainable” or “green” architecture, of course! That’s the AIA’s pet project, as evidenced by this article.
Thus, seeing it on the Sweet’s website piqued my interest. (Sweet’s is a company that compiles various product catalogs and annually publishes a multi-volume set of them, arranged by product. They were bought out by McGraw-Hill several years ago. McGrawHill also publishes Architectural Record.) I laughed out loud when I saw this though:
By now, you know the USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council) as the originators of the LEED program, which certifies that completed buildings meet a list of stringent criteria, from appropriate building materials to the disposal of construction waste. The program is generating its own energy, and although relatively few buildings [see Record, June 2005, page 135] have achieved LEED certification yet, and some have thrown up their hands and dropped out (the New York Times headquarters, for example, which folded its formal LEED program, if not its commitment to building green in the face of Manhattan’s unrealistic costs), projects in the pipeline are increasing.
So the New York Times, which probably made a huge deal out of becoming a “green building” participant, is given a pass because of “Manhattan’s unrealistic costs.” I can tell you from personal experience that it’s not just Manhattan that has unrealistic costs for green architecture.
Currently I have a project under construction that is attempting LEED Silver certifiication. That means they have to attain 33 points on a scale of 69. Some of these are common sense and good economics (like energy-efficient heating systems), but others are completely esoteric. (Here is the entire LEED 2.1 Green Building Rating System, it’s a 75 page .pdf file.) All of this to get 8% of your building cost back at some future point before 2011. But my bet is that it’s going to cost 10% or more to get this tax credit. We were pretty close on the calculations and that was before the owner decided to make a boatload of changes to the building. Hell, they STILL are and the building’s about 55% enclosed.
What sticks out to me above all else is that there has to be a tax credit to make these things happen. Just like too many other things, the government has to stick its nose into the market because it’s supposedly for our own good. I will grant that it’s the state government that’s doing it, so it’s the proper venue; but to me if there was a big demand for it people would naturally do this on their own, rather than create a lot more paperwork for everyone (particularly the contractor.)
And it leads me full circle to continuing education. Again, something for my own good, but let me be the judge of what’s good. I can do a lot more good to my employer restudying the code book on my own to verify the building is safe and sound as designed than spending unbillable time learning about another government boondoggle.