The United States provides funding for ‘environmentally-friendly’ structures, yet fails to protect them from flood damage.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — It was the kind of extreme weather event that happened all too often this year: On an unseasonably warm day, more than two feet of rain inundated the city, flooding hundreds of cars and buildings, including a recently constructed luxury apartment tower that touts its sustainability credentials to prospective tenants.

The Vu New River is designed in the shape of a large bow tie and stands 18 stories tall. Its exterior is predominantly gray and white, with pops of navy blue. Due to heavy rainfall, water rapidly filled the rooftop patio lined with palm trees, seeped into apartments on the higher floors, and flowed down the elevator shaft. Some even spilled into the lobby, which was illuminated with neon lights.

The flood surprised the residents who believed the building was prepared to withstand the effects of climate change. However, similar to a supposedly unsinkable ship, the Vu New River is just one of many newly built sustainable structures that remain at risk to the very threats they aim to address.

There are 58,000 construction projects in the United States that have received a special certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. This nonprofit organization, established thirty years ago, strives to improve the environmental and living conditions of buildings and communities.

The primary method utilized by the Green Building Council is through their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system. This system is considered a widely recognized emblem of sustainability accomplishment. LEED certification is either funded or mandated by over 350 local and state governments, as well as the U.S. General Services Administration, which oversees the extensive federal building portfolio.

However, the influential rating system fails to adequately address the escalating consequences of climate change, despite the rise in frequency and severity of climate-related disasters and numerous warnings from former officials of the Green Building Council.

The Green Building Council has awarded its highly sought-after three-leaf seal to over 800 new buildings in the last 10 years that are highly vulnerable to flooding, according to a joint study by POLITICO’s E&E News and the non-profit organization First Street Foundation, which predicts potential climate consequences.

According to a study conducted by First Street at the request of E&E News, buildings labeled as “green” have a 50% chance of being flooded up to their lowest point each year. This group of structures includes over 130 that have been built or renovated in areas that have experienced flooding in the past few decades.

peer-reviewed models are based on open-source government data as well as United Nations-vetted climate projections. Its modeling is relied upon by insurance companies and real estate firms as well as the departments of Treasury, Commerce and other federal agencies.

E&E News spoke to approximately twenty architects, city planners, and policy experts about the results. According to several experts, the study indicates that millions of dollars in taxes have been allocated to new projects that may require frequent repairs or even be abandoned before their anticipated lifespan, prompting concerns about the true sustainability of some green buildings.

There are numerous programs that offer incentives to developers who commit to adhering to LEED standards. In addition, renters and buyers actively seek out this designation as a means of fulfilling their personal desire for a sustainable way of living. The LEED rating system can also impact regulators, motivating them to enhance local building codes.

LEED standards are currently a valuable resource in the nation’s endeavors to decrease climate pollution in the commercial and residential industry. This industry is responsible for a significant amount of emissions, especially when considering electricity consumption.