What Are the Top Markets for Sustainable Building?

Sept. 22, 2017

Report identifies the 30 best areas to go green in commercial buildings.

Commercial real estate company CBRE’s 2017 National Green Building Adoption Index (GBAI) unveiled the top 30 green building markets in the U.S. with Chicago topping the list. The report also shows slight growth in certification in these markets and highlights the expectation for green development to continue.

The report, which was produced in a partnership with Maastricht University, measures the growth in green building practices by calculating facilities and space that have received certifications from ENERGY STAR, LEED or both.

Sustainable Growth

The 2017 report showed overall green growth in the largest U.S. markets, with 38% of all office space earning at least one of the two certifications. This is a small increase from the 2016 report, which found 37% of space was certified, but it is a vast improvement from 2005’s low sum of 5%. Buildings that failed to renew certifications did not count in the final tallies.

Despite the current political environment and its impact on sustainability, several cities have implemented benchmarking laws and have seen an increase in green building practices and certifications. The study cites 22 cities, the District of Columbia, two counties and two states that put laws in place requiring privately owned buildings to measure and share energy information.

For example, the report details how green building space in Kansas City increased 5% after a benchmarking law was enacted in 2015. Likewise, Atlanta also saw a 5% improvement after its own benchmarking and energy audit law passed. As cities continue to drive sustainability through law and incentives, it is likely that the industry will see this as a continuing trend.

“The momentum in the commercial real estate industry toward improving building operating performance and enhancing building quality is hard to derail,” explains Dr. Nils Kok, an associate professor at Maastricht University.

Other findings in the study show that in the top markets, ENERGY STAR was a more common certification than LEED, as 3,854 total buildings had achieved its energy efficiency standards compared to 1,977 buildings meeting the sustainability requirements of LEED. 

Read the full report and access its interactive map at

Top 30 Green Building Markets in U.S. 

San Francisco
Minneapolis/St. Paul
Los Angeles
Washington, D.C.
Manhattan, NY
Walnut Creek, CA
Orange County, CA
Portland, OR
Dallas/Ft. Worth
San Jose, CA
San Diego
Tampa, FL
Sacramento, CA
New Jersey
Kansas City, MO
St. Louis
Stamford, CT

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