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Why LEED Certification is lagging in New York

Diana Center - Barnard

Earlier this month in an article that was widely disseminated, the Chicago Tribune noted that, according to USGBC, New York City was tied with Washington, D.C. for third-place among U.S. cities with 146 LEED-certified buildings, trailing Chicago (firmly in the lead with 223). Since then, another major project which we've written about here at gbNYC has earned LEED certification, vaulting Gotham past D.C. and into second place behind the Windy City.

Designed by Weiss/Manfredi, the 98,000-square-foot Diana Center at Barnard College earned LEED Gold under the Core and Shell rating system last week. As you may recall, the building (which as you can see, and as we noted previously, is a rather striking shade of orange) serves as Barnard's new campus center, won the 2011 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Honor Award for Architecture, and the AIA Best in New York State Award.

While some buildings, like the Diana Center, have successfully moved forward with plans for LEED certification and added to New York City's growing total number of certifications, others, like the New York Times Building, have affirmatively made the choice not to pursue a formal rating from USGBC for a variety of reasons.

According to an article also published earlier this month in the Tribune, Frank Gehry's acclaimed new 76-story rental building, New York by Gehry at 8 Spruce Street, falls under that latter category. "It won't be LEED-certified," a spokeswoman for the project told the Tribune in a phone interview. "It is, in many respects, a green building. [But] [w]e [are] not going to go through the formal process."

One question currently hanging over the buzz about municipal leadership in green building practices is whether Henry Gifford's suit against the USGBC will eventually play a role in impacting LEED registrations moving forward. Our, answer, for now? Probably not; the pursuit of LEED certification is driven as much by tenant demand in certain sectors than it is by the promises – realized or not – of higher performing buildings. Plenty of owners were making the choice not to pursue LEED certification – like the New York Times did – before Gifford's suit.

Curiously, though, Forest City Ratner – the developer behind Gehry's tower, touted the potential LEED certification and green features of the controversial Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn as that project battled its way through land use approvals and court proceedings before finally breaking ground late last year. Note that those very types of representations have landed the developer of the Destiny USA project in Syracuse in the middle of some very serious allegations about misrepresentation; that story is one we'll be following both here at gbNYC and over at our sister publication, the Green Real Estate Law Journal, in the weeks ahead.