LEED-Certified Structures and Hurricane Sandy


On Thursday, August 15, 2013, a joint meeting for the New Jersey Senate & Assembly committee was held in Atlantic City. Several organizations and distraught shore residents represented the elderly and the poor who are still dealing with Hurricane Sandy's consequences. Joining them were a number of environmental experts and organizations who each had their own stories to share.

EnviroPolitics was present and interviewed several environmental experts outside of the meeting, one of whom was Wayne DeFeo.

EnviroPolitics: When you just testified before the two environmental committees here on the aftermath of hurricane sandy and where we stand, you told the committees that LEED-Certified buildings tended to do better when it came to storm surges in big storms, here in New Jersey. Give us a little bit more information about that and explain what LEED-Certification is.

Wayne DeFeo: What we did is we looked back at some of the LEED-Certified buildings and how they fared after Hurricane sandy. What we found was that LEED-Certification, which is a third-party certification towards sustainable building, requires that certain things be looked at in a more holistic fashion. So a building would have to take into account such things as durable building materials. This is especially true for homes. It would have to take into account where it is being built. It would take into account what to do with water that comes to the property and in all those things a LEED-Certified building is generally designed to minimize the impact on surface water runoff and to minimize the ability of the building structure to be harmed by weather. I.e. - It is more durable therefore more resilient. The most important thing is that resiliency means that the home where the commercial building is designed to work in concert with the weather and with the storm and with the natural environment around it, rather than just try to resist it. We saw in New Jersey all those things that were built to just resist did not fare as well as those things that bent and worked with nature.

EnviroPolitics: Now I've heard from time to time that LEED-Certified projects or buildings tend to be more expensive than traditionally built buildings, how do you address that?

Wayne DeFeo: It's no different than any other building. If it is well-planned and well-executed, it cost no more, in every study that's been done, to build a LEED-Certified building whether it be a home or a commercial building, than it would to build a regular building. A home in Toms River that is in the study we submitted cost the same per square foot on the midpoint as a regular home. The thing that drove up the cost of that home were things that the client wanted that were luxury items but the lead elements did not cost any more money.

EnviroPolitics: So what do you think the state should be doing with regard to your types of materials and buildings?

Wayne DeFeo: The biggest thing is that sustainability right now is an option, more or less, in the plan for rebuilding. We're recommending the sustainability should be mandated because by using a LEED-Certified, or other sustainably certified building, and we obviously prefer LEED-Certified. We will be building better buildings that are more able to be resilient in the face of increased bad weather.

EnviroPolitics: Wayne, if people would like to learn more about LEED-Certification in New Jersey, where should they go online to find out that information?

Wayne DeFeo: They should look up the U.S. Green Building Council New Jersey Chapter. Just type that into a Google search and it will take you right to our website which is in Morristown, New Jersey.