Thursday, February 27, 2014


"To those who develop LEED standards, we suggest you have a look at the peak oil, climate change and financial collapse literature and rethink the level of urbane complexity being required to sustain LEED certified buildings. "

Firstly, we have to express profound gratitude for all who participated in our winter Indiegogo drive for Youre Inn at The Farm.  This was our debut campaign, and it was not your usual film project or fascinating new electronic device that promises to tie your shoes or walk your dog for you. We just wanted to make mud and use that to build a country inn.

We raised $7600 and change in 90 days, which, by our reckoning, translates to 1000 bales of straw, 100 tons of sand, clay and limestone fines, and enough cash left over to brew a half dozen barrels of slaked lime and biochar dust. With all that material on site, our eager student volunteers, who begin streaming in from all over the world just about a month from now, will have plenty to work with.

We were off teaching our 9th annual residential permaculture course in internet-free rural Belize when the campaign wound up two weeks ago and were unable to make a final push, which spared our friends and relatives dunning messages but probably reduced the total netted in the time allowed. No matter! We can proclaim success and move forward. The campaign is still open to receive donations, if you missed your chance, and be sure to visit Indiegogo or share our Facebook page with your friends.

This week, while working on a book about ecovillages, we happened upon the table of LEED Standards and decided it would be fun to run Youre Inn at The Farm through that checklist. We scored LEED Platinum!

However, as we did that, we have to say, in our humble opinion, LEED standards are considerably skewed toward a 20th Century view of the world, something more suited for a Holocene future, not the more turbulent times that will confront us in the Anthropocene.

So, for instance, in site selection, we scored 12 of a possible 14 points because we were not an urban development (1 point) and did not have any access to public transport (1 point). We completely understand and agree with the logic of choosing brownfield sites for redevelopment over greenfield sites that are likely providing all manner of vital ecological services that should be preserved, but we have to say that both the megalopoli of past decades and their sources of public transport are endangered species likely to go extinct in not very many years. LEED site selection awarded zero points for sustainable water supply, ample soil resource to support inhabitants from on-site gardens, or friendly Amish neighbors with a plentiful heirloom gene pool for breeding horses, oxen, rabbits, hogs and poultry.

We managed to pick up the points for alterative transportation (solar cars), bicycle storage, our alternative refueling station, and parking capacity, and also scored high for reduced site disturbance, stormwater management, minimal light pollution, and reduction of heat island effect.

In the Water Efficiency, Materials and Energy modules we had perfect scores, but we stumbled again when it came to the permanent instrumentation requirements for indoor air quality, ozone monitoring and thermal comfort that complies with ASHRAE 55-1992. No points are awarded for mixing biochar into your plaster to remove mold spores and other sick building infections, but we did pick up a point for having an IAQ Management Plan. We lost points for insufficient daylighting of interiors, but that might be remedied eventually as we explore how best to construct (dimmable) watertight light wells penetrating a living roof. Engineers please comment.

Finally, we gave ourselves only 2 of four points for innovation in design (for C sequestration from biochar, both embodied and in winter heating operation, and for supplemental compost pile central radiant heating in Spring and Fall) because all the Inn’s other green features have been previously demonstrated.

Tallying our score, we received 56 points. To be LEED Certified (besides paying a LEED Accredited Professional and picking up another point for that), you need 26 points. Silver is 33-38 points, gold 39-51, and LEED Platinum is anything over 52.

For those readers whose dollars are making this possible, our profound gratitude. To those who develop LEED standards, we suggest you have a look at the peak oil, climate change and financial collapse literature and rethink the level of urbane complexity being required to sustain LEED certified buildings.

Most LEED buildings, we humbly submit, may not be sustainable when something as simple as electricity, water or debt is no longer available. Should that happen, or rather when that happens, we may well be confronted with the spectre of Zombie LEED buildings, gutted for component parts to build something more immediately useful.




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