End discrimination; adopt LEED

Heidi Fichtenbaum, Princeton
To the editor:
I encourage the Borough Council to reconsider incorporating LEED as a requirement for the 2012-08 MRRO Zoning Ordinance. Green building need not be more expensive if the design team is experienced. For example making a highly insulated and sealed exterior wall (which needs to be built anyway) can reduce the size of mechanical equipment. Making sure there is enough daylight can reduce the number of light fixtures. So one cost is traded for another but in the end it does not cost more. This is what is meant by integrated design. Integrated design along with the most basic green building principles such as the orientation of the building, and solar access are both no cost items that I would like to see adopted. Solar access is the ability to incorporate renewable solar energy technology now or in the future. I realize that something like solar panels can be expensive but this is not required to have a LEED certified building—it is only an option. I think that the Borough Council attorney, Mr. Chou, who advised the Council that LEED is very expensive and would be seen as cost generative for inclusionary housing based in the Mount Laurel decision is not well informed and I assume has never designed a LEED building.
   Furthermore, while Mr. Chou cited a buffer strip and patterned paving of examples of cost generative items that were unconstitutional with the Mount Laurel decision, they are clear example of aesthetic improvements. The Mount Laurel decision clearly states that only costs that can be attributed to the “public health and welfare” can be mandated. LEED has nothing to do with aesthetics and is clearly about public health and welfare. Landfills pollute our ground water and produce methane a green house gas, fossil fuel burning heating and air conditioning equipment produce CO2, volatile organic compounds in glues, paints, carpets, and sealants pollute indoor air, excess storm water pollutes our streams. These are all issues of public health and welfare.
   It is interesting to note that Mount Laurel occurred in 1983. The Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change produced its first report in 1990. The EPA finding on CO2 as a threat to public health and welfare was in 2009. Things have changed since 1983 but somehow we are stuck in a time warp, one that is risking our planet. Finally, the purpose of the Mount Laurel decision was to end discriminatory zoning practices. It is time for us to take a stand against housing discrimination and include the health and welfare benefits of the LEED rating system for affordable as well as market rate units in Princeton.
Heidi Fichtenbaum