USA Today had an article last week on LEED, how it is often gamed, how they don't track actual energy use and how studies show only a small - at best - reduction in energy use in LEED certified buildings. But the article unfortunately groups bike parking in with the 'questionable' ways to get credit.
The U.S. Green Building Council, a building industry non-profit, credited the Palazzo for having bike racks in the garage; room cards telling guests when towels are replaced; landscaping that does not use grass, which local law prohibits anyway; and preferred parking for fuel-efficient cars — spots that on a recent week were occupied by Ford Expeditions, Chevy Tahoes, Range Rovers, Mercedes E320s, Chrysler 300s, Audi A6s, vans, sports cars and a Hummer.
Or question the value
A USA TODAY review of 7,100 LEED-certified commercial buildings shows that designers target the easiest and cheapest green points by ... taking steps with an unknown effect, such as providing preferred parking for fuel-efficient cars, bike racks and showers, and posting educational displays about the building.
Or just say they have no value
"People have a tendency to buy points — they buy that bike rack even though there's no value in it," said Kansas City, Mo., architect Bob Berkebile
Perhaps it would be nice to try and quantify how much employee or customer bike parking increases bicycle use, though that would be hard to do. If you added parking, and bike commuting went up, there could be dozens of possible reasons for that. Perhaps you'd have to rely on surveys - though those are often flawed as well. I suspect you'd have more success with showing the value of showers, but then showers are much more intensive an investment.
There are some criticisms of LEED that are valid here. Buildings shouldn't get credit for meeting code, which means that most buildings in DC shouldn't get points for bike racks or showers - unless they go above that defined in the code, but only if that extra capacity will be used. Bike racks might get too many credits when compared to their benefits - not that that would be awful. And I don't think the LEED system has caught up with bike sharing enough to give points for a building that sponsers a bike station. But it's a stretch to say that there is no value in adding bike parking, or that LEED shouldn't credit buildings that do.
Going off topic of biking, I found the article put too much emphasis on energy use and ignored the wider goals of LEED. Improving the air inside a building is a legitimate enviromental and health concern, but it dismisses this.
More than 90% of the buildings got points for using indoor paints, adhesives and flooring that aim to protect occupants' health by emitting fewer contaminants. Widely used, the materials add little cost or effort and have no impact outside the building.
I don't think LEED is by any means perfect yet, but it's still evolving. It's been redesigned several times already and usually for the better. The idea of requiring a building to actually demonstrate lower energy and water use is a good one and something they should adopt. And, like I said, buildings shouldn't get credit for following existing building codes. But making some points easy to get, and giving developers the flexibility to choose the points they want to pursue are good features, not bugs. The program has flaws and I'd bet the USGBC would agree, but it has made buildings better and the framework is there to improve the system as flaws are found.
Also, a building is greener when it accomodates cycling. USA Today seems to miss that.