Day 5: Build for Cost-Effectiveness and Efficiency, Not Arbitrary LEED Certification

Due to Gov. Richardson’s Executive Order #06-001, New Mexico law currently requires all public buildings over 15,000 ft2 to be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certified.1 According to the U.S. Green Building Council, these building requirements are intended to promote "sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality".2 The reality is that this effort to make public buildings in New Mexico more "green" increases costs and doesn’t necessarily provide more energy-efficient buildings.

LEED standards can include building a minimal number of parking spaces in order to encourage the use of car pooling or public transportation, the addition of charging facilities for electric cars, and installing large numbers of bike racks.3 Certification for new schools constructed throughout New Mexico has added between $2,350 to $ 7,950 per building, not including additional material or design.4

The added costs of LEED Silver would be a small price to pay for buildings that are more efficient and better for the environment, but there have been numerous examples of LEED certified buildings failing to meet their long-term efficiency goals.5 This failure has even been recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which noted in its own study focusing on 121 certified buildings that "more than half – 53 percent – did not qualify for the Energy Star label and 15 percent scored below 30 in that program, meaning they used more energy per square foot than at least 70 percent of comparable buildings in the existing national stock".6

The truth of the matter is that in many cases the efforts led by the USGBC have created more costs while failing to provide more energy-efficient buildings. Executive Order #06-001 should be overturned immediately so that tax-payers are not put in the position of funding inefficient building projects that do little or nothing for the environment.

1U.S. Green Building Council, "LEED Public Policies," May 1, 2009.




5Henry Gifford, "A Better Way to Rate Green Buildings,"


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5 Replies to “Day 5: Build for Cost-Effectiveness and Efficiency, Not Arbitrary LEED Certification”

  1. This is similar to yesterday’s eliminating licensed contractors for New Mexico. Having a LEED certification, does raise prices, but ultimately the consumer saves some $2-5,000 a year FOR THE LIFE OF THE HOUSE. There is no other investment that pays so much in today’s society (that is legal). It also allows creative contractors to become LEED certified and to charge more for their efforts—because the house will be worth more for resale or even just living in it.

    Too often we say everything that Gov. Bill Richardson did is bad and must be undone, and that is why we elected Susan Martinez, to undo all the bad. But this is a good thing.

    It might be a libertarian rant that Rio Grande Foundation is on but it is not practical or reality. Truth is LEED keeps us safe from Al Qaeda—less dependence on foreign oil.

    LEED and HERS are just two of the certification agencies and maybe there is a better standard for New Mexico. I am personally disappointed that the construction with adobe doesn’t meet the standard unless you super-insulate it and that is cost prohibitive. If you need a 4-5 inch Styrofoam or urethane on top of the adobe that is way out of line. Building a 2×4 inch fiberglass wall inside of the adobe is nonsense. Perhaps allowing the use of adobe, especially owner built ones, like I have made—is the direction this should be going for affordability.

    Day 5: Removing the LEED standard for New Mexico is a bad idea.

  2. I’m sorry this is for commercial buildings. Many of our counties have already adopted the LEED or HERS for home residences over 2,000 square feet. This is what my first comment is more appropriate for. Having it for “public Buildings over 15,000 square feet” will over the life of the building make it cheaper for taxpayers to heat, cool and light. Additionally, we in New Mexico are too quick to knock down our old WPA buildings or just build new with steel 2×4’s and sheetrock and make a building that will not stand the test of time.

    1. William:

      I have read your responses to this series and appreciate your efforts to clarify or correct your errors. I am wondering, however, what the sources are for some of your assertions. For example, in your first response to today’s post, what is the source for the claim you make in the first paragraph? It is impossible for me to agree with your conclusion without more confidence in your scholarship.

      Without some documentation of your claims, I’m afraid that your lengthy responses also come off as “rants.” The next to last sentence in your first post today suggests that your perspective on the policy issues this series raises is very self-serving. In the absence of better documentation, I’m afraid that your arguments seem subjective, and not at all the reasoned critique of the series that you pretend to provide.


      1. Thank you John and it seems I have been ranting a little. In Santa Fe County (meaning the County government and citizens like myself) we have developed a Sustainable Growth Management Plan and it deals mainly with a land use code, but it is also a lot of planning. One aspect is the energy use of buildings and whetgher we want the HERS or LEED certifications. The $2-5,000 figure is quite varied but includes electricity and natural gas costs in our Santa Fe region that might be higher than in Alb.

        1. I got distracted….

          So anyway the cost-benefit analysis of whether following a LEED or HERS standard would have to factor in: the cost to heat & cool the home, heat and cooling loss, the cost of lighting and ghost draws, etc.; so whether it would be more beneficial to spend the money for the best quality construction or not? It would be greatly dependent on climate, solar orientation, etc.

          New Mexico Public Schools were not even required to be insulated until their Code was adopted in 1996. Our school in Agua Fria were 1966 and 1968 brick buildings with no insulation but a one inch air space between two bricks. Then a lot of north facing skylights that are just screaming let the heated air out while some minimal diffused light is let in. I’m sure some architect somewhere had an idea that the building was beautiful, but there was no concern for heating efficiency or practicality in how the children or others (the janitor) would use the building. It was an adult planning the building and adults are always right. The bathroom doors are 24 inches wide—-many years before ADA and they were intended to be “kid-sized”; how quaint. The janitor can’t even get the mop bucket in there! And during a remodeling the door had to be removed to change out toilets.

          I read where Albuquerque Public Schools was spending $20 million, or something to that effect, for just heating—imagine if LEED buildings lowered that to $2 million? I suspect that APS school buildings are also uninsulated like Santa Fe’s School district are.

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