Going Green with LEED
Green office buildings in the U.S. are defined as those that hold either an EPA ENERGY STAR® label, U.S. Green Building Council LEED® certification or both. ENERGY STAR is a US government-backed organization that helps businesses determine cost-effective approaches to primarily managing energy use in their buildings. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a third-party green building certification program and the globally recognized standard for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings and neighborhoods. It is the most widely used green building rating system in the world.
Green building in commercial office space continues to grow. Every year, CBRE publishes the National Green Building Adoption Index in partnership with Maastricht University, to measure the growth and uptake of energy efficiency and sustainability in buildings. In the 2017 Index, the percentage of commercial office space that was certified as “green” or “efficient” by LEED or Energy Star certification stood at 38 percent across 30 office markets in the United States. That number had risen from less than 5 percent in 2005. According to the report, this long-term growth in certified buildings indicates continued interest in energy efficiency and sustainability.
LEED Celebrates 20 Years!
When the LEED system was introduced in 1998, it challenged the status quo. Instead of looking at a building as a series of independent systems, LEED introduced a more integrated, holistic approach. It proposed that a building actually functions as a living, breathing organism, similar to the human body. Each system has its own role or function, but all systems have to work together, in order for the building to perform in a sustainable and efficient way. For example, leveraging a lighting control system for daylighting in combination with certain building insulation materials results in less energy usage for heating and cooling.
LEED brings all disciplines together early in the design phase. In this way, operational efficiency can be realized and buildings can become better, cleaner, and healthier for occupants and the environment. Today, LEED is no longer an aspiration as it was 20 years ago. It has become the way of the future with over 2.2 million square feet LEED certified every day, more than 39,000 certified commercial projects, and over 201,000 total LEED professionals across the globe. Source: USGBC
Top U.S. States for LEED in 2017
Can you name the top 10 states for LEED-certified square feet per resident? According to USGBC’s released annual list (2017), Massachusetts was #1 followed by (in order) New York, Illinois, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, Georgia, California, Virginia and Colorado. The competition was close with the next five states being Washington, Texas, Rhode Island, Tennessee and North Carolina.
Why LEED Certification?
Green buildings offer lower energy costs and better indoor environmental quality in addition to having lower life-cycle operating costs. According to statistics published on the USGBC website, LEED certified buildings offer the following benefits:
- Lower operating cost
- Increased building value
- Improved return on investment
- Increased occupancy
- Increased rent
The LEED rating system provides a framework for creating healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings and includes guidelines under five classifications: Building Design and Construction, Interior Design and Construction, Building Operations and Maintenance, Neighborhood Development, and Homes. The newest version of LEED is Version 4.
Within each building classification, projects pursuing LEED certification earn points across several categories including energy and atmosphere, sustainable sites, indoor environmental efficiency, innovation, integrative process, and more. Based on the number of points achieved, a project then earns one of four LEED rating levels:
- Certified-40-49 points
- Silver 50-59 points earned
- Gold 60-79 points earned
- Platinum - 80+ points earned
LEED and Lighting
The largest driver of LEED points is energy performance so implementing LED lighting and an intelligent lighting control system can be an indispensable tool in achieving LEED certification. An advanced lighting system can earn points under a number of categories including environmental efficiency, indoor environmental efficiency, sustainable sites and more. While dramatically saving on energy consumption, an advanced lighting system enables building owners to provide high-quality lighting that promotes occupant productivity, comfort and well-being.