1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar
Source link: http://archive.mises.org/13812/compliance-models-equals-nonsense/

Compliance models equal nonsense

September 6, 2010 by

The local state community college just opened a satellite campus five miles from my house. This afternoon, while on a bike ride, I headed over to check it out.

The college website loudly proclaims that the campus is “being built to rigorous LEED environmental standards.”

Ah, yes, LEED standards. It seems like every government building is adhering to them. OK. But how do those standards look in practice?

Since today was a holiday, the building was closed. This allowed me to have an unhampered ride around campus. One thing caught my eye: white signs spaced out on the sidewalk and around the building — signs similar to those informational signs blotting the view at zoos, parks, etc. I stopped to read each in turn.

Every sign had a statement proclaiming some environmental benefit due to the design of the building and campus. And each statement was contradicted by the reality around it.

Note this one, especially the claim that “[t]rees planted on the south side of the building shade the building and can reduce energy use for air conditioning up to 70%, reducing fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions.” (OK, they did use “can.”)

Now here are the trees. See if you can find the energy-reducing shade, or any shade for that matter.

Another sign proclaimed the benefits of riding and walking instead of using a car when making trips of two-miles or less, especially benefits derived by those too young and too old to drive.

Here are the ten of the 20 bike spots located near the shadeless south wall. Please note that there are not even 25 houses within two miles of this campus, a campus located in a large office complex served by US Highway 23.

I doubt that any bike rack will ever see bike and lock, especially from those too young and too old to drive.

Keep in mind that LEED is based on a compliance model. Install bike racks and riders will come. Plant small, lonely, almost leafless trees and shade will spontaneously block the sun on hot, hazy, 90 degree days.

Rigorous standards? Hardly. Applied nonsense? Absolutely.

Applied nonsense — the definition of government in practice.


Matt September 6, 2010 at 9:21 pm

While not addressing the specific merits or demerits of LEED, isn’t the concept of LEED, developed by a private NGO, where compliance is not mandated through coercion, part of a spontaneous market order? It seems hypocritical to promote the benefits of a private certification agency in the egg market and then decry it in the “green” architecture market. Obviously the gov’t may have tax/subsidy policies that may artificially shift parties in the directions of LEED certification, but LEED could still exist without gov’t.This article may have been a comment about innate inefficiencies in government, but it should be clear LEED itself is not necessarily the problem in this situation.

jon September 7, 2010 at 7:17 am

spontaneous what? government hanging money out on a tree overnight for the green bears?

so as you say “obviously” the subsidy for authoring these standards is there. but, in this theory, LEED could still exist without that subsidy. therefore, LEED is equivalent to other certification gauntlets that DO EXIST without any such subsidy, having been proven in the market. this is not a proof. the aforementioned theory is not even investigated.

its nominal private development is meaningless: it exists in that structure precisely for maximizing profit for the least amount of labor, just like every other NGO. with one hand tied behind my back i would predict that it was set up with the intention to take government contracts.

mandated or not, compliance is the equivalent of buying snake oil. the sign is clearly authored by a true believer, and they are buying the snake oil with stolen money (tax). it’s for your own good, of course, and the good of the corporate state. nevermind that the egg salesman will verify his certification with his profits. nevermind that the corporate state won’t verify a damn thing, and simply increase taxes.

it is not hypocritical to promote the benefits and then decry the drawbacks of any single such agency, whether or not they certify something meaningful to you, as one can inspect the experiences of its customers. but if they are both the same to you, then what is that which “seems” after all? attitude?

Slim934 September 7, 2010 at 11:14 am

Also…there is the possibility that the LEEDS certificate is required to get some sort of government privilege (a tax subsidy, or a deferral, etc.). Therefore the developer is doing it not so much because he cares about being “green” and is looking for a good benchmark, but simply doing as little as possible to get the cert inorder to get the reward from the state.

If that is the case then it is certainly an intelligent thing to do if it allows the school to keep more money.

I really have no idea if this is the case. It could just be a really wimpy standard. It just seems to me that if the cert is so lax then why even bother spending money to get it? There must be some monetary incentive somewhere, and I can’t possibly believe that in this case it would come from advertising that the building is “LEEDs” designed.

George September 6, 2010 at 10:17 pm

The trees are obviously young. Was that just a lame attempt to complain, or do you really believe that trees spontaneously mature in a matter of days?

jon September 7, 2010 at 6:57 am

was it not obvious that the author of the gloating LEED-compliance poster holds precisely that belief?

“plant trees, and the shade will come.”

nevermind that nobody knows what a tree will look like in 20 years when it finally produces any shade whatsoever.

Franklin September 7, 2010 at 8:37 am

Well, someday they will grow large enough to turn into signs.
“Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind.”

Ken Zahringer September 8, 2010 at 1:14 pm

That just demonstrates the lack of forethought encouraged by simple compliance models. Look how close the trees are to the sidewalk. By the time they’re big enough to shade the building, or probably before, they will be crowding the walk and probably damaging it with root growth. Those trees will have to be removed and replaced with smaller ones!

Tyrone Dell September 7, 2010 at 1:48 am

Yeah, I thought that was a pretty lame argument as well. So all thats really left is a complaint about bike racks. Big deal.

This article isn’t really mises.org worthy, imo.

jon September 7, 2010 at 7:38 am

hello and welcome!

you are reading the mises.org “blog.” “blog” is short for weblog (apparently weblog is two letters too long to hold the attention span of most online readers).

a “blog” is a journal of personal opinion and experience on the web. often, these “blogs” will incorporate ideas, long and short, from multiple like-minded authors in a single place. in general, the unspoken rule of the blog is that no item is considered unworthy of discussion, as someone, somewhere, will find the time to comment, often helping to elucidate a subject in the mind of the author in near-real-time.

Shay September 7, 2010 at 9:29 am

This comment that such a thing shouldn’t be included in the Mises blogs is a testament to the general quality of things in the blogs, and how apparently some people have mistaken them for something more controlled and refined.

I think this entry is worthy of the Mises blog. These sorts of environmental features are clearly there because there is some kind of government subsidy for them. Personally I’d rather be able to see the actual environment, rather than a bunch of signs distracting me from it.

J. Murray September 7, 2010 at 8:16 am

It’s not the LEED system that’s the problem, it’s the fact that a government agency is doing it and doing it in such a miserable manner that they take everything at its most literal level to the point where they don’t bother considering location and end-impact. They put in trees that may not ever reach a point to shade the building and save on the AC. They put in bike racks that will never be used because of where they’re located. The entire construction is likely replete with such examples beyond those mentioned in this blog post.

This is entirely because the school cannot determine if the design decision was valuable or not. In a business, the change will either lead to more profits, meaning the decision was good, or less profits, meaning it was bad. Government just spends.

Mark September 7, 2010 at 12:28 pm

The trees might grow, but I doubt much else will as our economy continues down the crapper.

Chris September 7, 2010 at 9:54 pm

I may be missing something here, but if the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, how is it possible for the trees to cast shadows to the north?

Shay September 8, 2010 at 4:57 am

By not being overhead. I take it you either live near the equator.

Chris September 8, 2010 at 9:19 am

If you were far enough north of the equator such that a tree on the south side could cast a shadow that can hit the building, wouldn’t the climate be cold enough such that shade would be counterproductive and you would waste more energy trying to heat the building to recapture the heat lost to the shade?

J. Murray September 8, 2010 at 11:40 am

Being located in Delaware, the campus isn’t far enough north for the trees to have a beneficial effect during the warm period when the sun is further overhead. The shadows will cast more effective shadows during the period of the year when the sun is at a wider angle, which is winter, when you don’t want the windows being blocked by trees.

Delaware, for simplicity sake, is located at 39 degrees north. The Earth’s tilt is roughly 23 degrees. This means in the summer, the hottest part of the year, the rays of the Sun’s light hits Delaware at a 16 degree angle.

Now, a standard ground floor window is approximately three feet off the ground and is six feet tall. Judging by the tree picture, the trees are approximately 20 feet away. Now for some trigonometry. I’m going to ignore the size of the tree leaf volume for this and just calculate center to center (going deeper is a little too complex for the time I have available and will only make the community college look even more foolish).

Since a tree is, in effect, a right angle, we know that one angle is 90 degrees and the most northerly position would put the sun at a 16 degree down angle, meaning the angle of the shadow’s tip to the top of the tree is 74 degrees. Since we know all three angles and we know one side, we need to find the height of the tree. The most appropriate is to use the tangent function:



So, the tree will need to grow at least 70 feet off the ground to satisfy the basic angle. But, the window is between 3 and 9 feet off the ground, meaning it needs to strike at 6 feet high, so the trees they planted will need to reach a height of 76 feet to cast a shadow to cover the window in the heat of summer for it to do any good. And this is on the BEST of days. Any additional days before and after the Summer Solstice, the height of the tree will have to be even higher for them to have any impact on the AC bill. Those particular trees don’t appear to have the potential to reach that height. The tree would need to be 7 stories tall, which is twice the height of that building the trees are supposedly there to shade. By the time winter rolls around, shading the windows is unnecessary, not that those trees would have any leaves left on them during cold months.

Basically, the best case scenario for those trees is the shade will come well short of even touching the windows, even at full maturity, meaning they were only planted there because the LEED program said plant trees, not becuase they would actually do any good for the electricity bill.

Franklin September 8, 2010 at 11:51 am

This was terrific, J. I couldn’t help but think how this would have played in a Monty Python sketch: enter the sober-thinking scientist trying to explain fundamentals to a gang of enviros.
You’d get about as far as, “Delaware is located at 39 degrees north; the Earth’s tilt is –”
“Shut up, you tree-hating Nazi!!!”

There’s no hope.

J. Murray September 8, 2010 at 12:22 pm

It would have cut to a man in a desk saying, “And now for something completely different, how to identify trees from a long way away.”

J. Murray September 8, 2010 at 12:35 pm

One more observation. Summer Solstice, the point in the calculation I came up with the 76 foot tree, is on June 21 (on the 20th every 4 years or so). Those trees look like they can hit roughly 30 feet above the ground. This would place the angle necessary at 39 degrees, or the midpoint between the Summer and Winter Solstice, which is the 21st of December, before the shade starts to have any kind of impact on the windows. That date would be around September 21, or the first day of fall. The trees would then have sufficient reach until March 21, the first day of Spring, before the shadows would receed too far to hit the windows.

In other words, the shade will reach the windows after it’s cooling off outside and receed after it starts to warm up.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: