What makes a building green?

You may have heard about a small brouhaha that’s been stirring in the blogosphere over the past two months regarding green building certifications. The discussion started after a public Q&A in Chicago in early April between Prtizker Foundation chairman Thomas Pritzker and architect Frank Gehry. As reported by a number of bloggers—Michael Arndt of Bloomberg Businessweek and Blair Kamin at the Chicago Tribune, among them—when Pritzker asked Gehry for his response to a client who wants a LEED-certified building, his response wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for the rating system. His thoughts: that LEED certification does not equate to energy savings and that the expense of building to LEED standards may outweigh the benefits of doing so.

Needless to say, there are many in the profession who disagree heartily with Gehry’s thoughts. Since the Q&A, the debate around what constitutes a green building has grown across national media outlets and social media platforms including a range of eco-focused blogs (here and here, for example) and Twitter. Want in on the conversation? Send us your two cents—or, more specifically, your 140 characters—on Twitter to @ecostructure.

So after two months of discussion, what is the consensus on how to best define a building as green? It still depends on who you ask. Is it the structure’s LEED rating, whether it is EnergyStar labeled, or the projected environmental performance? Or is it a combination of all of the above and more, such as performance data collected through post-occupancy evaluations? What’s almost certain in the ongoing debate is that there is no clear-cut definition of a green building. However, rather than looking at this as a negative, a number of firms are seeing it as a challenge—or better yet, an opportunity—and are striving to push the possibilities of sustainable design ever further. Consider one of this month’s Web-exclusive essays on eco-structure.com, “Sustainability Beyond Current Design Practices.” In it, Kathy Wardle, an associate principal and director of research at Busby Perkins+Will, takes a look at how striving to meet the Living Building Challenge set forth by the International Living Building Institute has restructured the firm’s parameters of sustainable building.

Here at Eco-Structure, we focus on recognizing structures that achieve excellence in both design and environmental performance on an ongoing basis both in print and online. This month provides an extra opportunity to show us your best efforts: You’ve got one month left to enter the 2010 Evergreen Awards as the deadline for entry is July 1. This year we will once again recognize outstanding work in commercial and residential projects, and also will recognize an industry leader for his or her work in leading the sustainable design community forward. What’s more, this year’s competition also includes a new category, On the Boards, designed to recognize works-in-progress. For more information on this year’s entry rules and fees, see eco-structure.com/evergreen.