The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System® is gaining increasing attention from architects and builders. The LEED New Construction Rating System, or LEED-NC, which has been in place since 2000, has now certified 140 projects in all but 10 states and the District of Columbia, plus 27 projects in other countries. But a massive growth in LEED-certified projects is looming, as 1,717 projects throughout the country (plus 110 in other countries) have registered for certification, including projects in every state. Ohio, for instance, has only one certified project but has 45 projects that have registered for certification. The U.S. Green Building Council, which manages the LEED certification process, has also launched new LEED ratings for existing buildings (LEED-EB) and commercial interiors (LEED-CI) and is pilot-testing a LEED rating for core and shell construction (LEED-CS) while developing new rating systems for homes (LEED-H) and entire neighborhood developments (LEED-ND).
Among recent buildings that have either earned or applied for LEED certification is the California Environmental Protection Agency's new 25-story headquarters building in Sacramento, which became the first high-rise building to earn the Platinum LEED rating (the highest rating) in December. The building, developed by Thomas Properties Group, Inc., will save the agency roughly $1 million per year through lower operating costs. In the country's heartland, the William J. Clinton Presidential Center, located in Little Rock, Arkansas, earned a Silver LEED rating (the third highest), thanks in part to a high-efficiency heating and cooling system that reduces energy use by more than 40 percent. Steven Winters Associates, Inc. consulted on the project, which also features solar panels on its roof. And on the East Coast, the University of Southern Carolina (USC) opened a new dorm in November that aims to also achieve LEED certification. The "West Quad" building uses 45-percent less energy than similarly sized traditional residence halls, combining daylighting with solar water preheating, a five-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell, and a turf-covered roof.
Why are so many builders going green? According to a recent study by Steven Winter Associates, it may be in part because the cost impacts are minimal. The study, performed for the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), found that a 2.5-percent increase in the GSA construction budget should ensure that most projects would be LEED certified; with a 4-percent increase, many Silver and occasional Gold ratings (the second-highest rating) would also be possible. To view the GSA LEED Cost Study Final Report, visit (www.ccb.org/docs/GSAMAN/gsaleed.pdf).
This information was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (www.eere.energy.gov).