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Better Neighbors Wanted

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Every once in a while, I find myself between a rock and a hard place.

It's pretty exciting when big, really high profile projects decide to use LEED. We've worked very hard to evolve LEED into a true global standard for defining what a green building is -- and in our view, it is critical that any new construction initiative be built to the highest design and performance standards possible.

Why? Because LEED-certified buildings save energy, save water, save precious resources, reduce waste, mitigate climate change and provide improved indoor environmental quality that enhances the health and well-being of the people who live, work, play and learn in these LEED buildings. In short, while LEED is a rating system, a performance tool, a technology platform and an educational system, it is also a leadership brand, and one that I am committed to protecting at all costs.

But while LEED is the de facto standard for defining green building, it is not, and was never intended to be, a proxy for defining a good corporate neighbor. This is the province of elected officials and community leaders, and all of us depend on them to step up to their civic obligations across many issues.

But sometimes companies who make good design decisions on paper should take a much closer look at the truly questionable decisions they sometimes make around the context of their design.

LG, a world-renowned company, and its project team have created truly beautiful renderings and high performance blueprints for a proposed North American headquarters that aspire to LEED Platinum. But they want to put it in the Palisades, in New Jersey, and have it rise to a height that will break the tree line of this magnificent vista, a design that is hugely objectionable to its neighbors. To suggest that somehow LEED is forcing them to make this bad decision is ludicrous. Good project teams can always find creative ways to meet a LEED credit's intent and honor the place the building will stand.

Place matters in ways we're only beginning to understand, and I'm pretty sure that a company that it is known for innovation, high design and high-functioning problem-solving can find a creative solution that gets them to LEED Platinum and burnishes their credentials as a good corporate neighbor at the same time. And I urge them to seriously try.

A slight delay in construction to reconsider the design in the context of an extraordinary National Natural Landmark could result in a more universally acceptable design solution. That is the kind of leadership all of us would like to celebrate, and would garner the kind of accolades any world-class company deserves.

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