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Green Building Curmudgeon

Logo Wars

As soon as a LEED project gets certified, builders have to run out and paint over their signs

I hope I don't get in trouble for using this logo.

I am a provider representative for the LEED for Homes program. Working through an official provider licensed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), I certify homes under this august program. I appreciate all the work that has gone into this very rigorous certification system, and, while I certainly have some issues with it, I try to support and promote it when I can.

The program has an attractive logo, but for some bizarre reason, provider reps are not allowed to use it on our websites or business cards. I use logos provided by RESNET, NAHB, NARI, and lots of other organizations. They all have requirements and certain restrictions for logo use, but none comes close to the death grip that the USGBC has on its logos.

Only 21 pages of rules for logo usage! How careless can they be?

The USGBC has produced a 21-page document with rules on how to properly display its various logos and a total of 11 pages on their website describing how to use, and not use, all of its assorted trademarks.

This makes sense, up to a point

In reading this document, I learned that the LEED for Homes logo is “a mark developed for project team members to signify newly constructed homes (or major rehab projects) that are being designed and built with the intention of being certified under the LEED for Homes Green Building Rating System.” So far, so good. This description is followed by some standard comments regarding acceptable colors and backgrounds and appropriate written descriptions to accompany the logo.

This is all very much appreciated, as I am particular about graphic design and dislike the misuse of careful designs. While the rules do not explicitly exclude provider reps from using the logo, document states, “The logo may be used on marketing and collateral materials by liscensed [sic] LEED for Homes Providers. The logo must be used in context with referencing the LEED for Homes program, and not used to identify a LEED for Homes Provider” [my emphasis].

Watch out for the logo police!

The final statements in the usage document verge on the truly bizarre: “After a registered project is completed and has been certified, the project team must cease using the LEED for Homes logo in association with the newly certified project and begin using the appropriate LEED Certification Mark” [my emphasis again].

The few people who are entitled to use the LEED for Homes logo are not allowed to use it after the project is finished — they have to immediately stop and switch to the traditional LEED oak leaf logo. Does this mean that every builder has to run out and paint over their signs as soon as their project gets certified? Do we need to be afraid of the logo police?

Hiding in plain sight

Finally, the rule wrap-up states, “The logo may not be used in any way that creates the perception that an individual or organization is an official builder, contractor, designer, etc. of LEED homes.” So, let me get this straight: If a designer or contractor completes a home that is certified under the program, he/she is not allowed to use the program logo to promote this fact.

I have always felt that the beauty of USGBC and LEED is the truly brilliant marketing — in a short period of time, they marketed themselves into the most recognizable brand in green building. All I can say to these regulations that limit the ability of practitioners to use their excellent marketing tools is, WHY?


  1. Kayenta Kid | | #1

    LEED for Homes Logo Rules
    Typical of what is essentially a "Government" program. With ANSI Std: ICC-700-2008 available through the NAHB reseidential program, why even pursue a LEED-H rating?

    NAHB program encourages the use of the program logo and promotion of sucesses by designers, builders, and verifiers. It also doesn't require the killing of a tree or the selling of your "first-born" to get through the process.

    Try it you will like it.

    Kayenta Kid, BSME, MSEM, CSP, CGP

  2. Expert Member
    CARL SEVILLE | | #2

    Thanks for your comment. Keep an eye out for an upcoming series of articles on both these programs coming soon on this website.

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