LEED’s pathway to healthy, green and resilient buildings

In 2021, it’s about rebuilding trust that buildings are helping people and the planet
(Photo: Kristof Degreef, Dreamstime)

The intersecting economic, health and climate crises of 2020 have made one thing clear for building professionals moving forward: Buildings must support human and environmental health.

Related: New LEED credits address health and safety as communities reopen from COVID-19

The operational benefits of green buildings have long been proven, and continue to serve owners, investors and tenants. Green buildings increase asset value, have lower vacancy rates and operating costs, and rent for higher premiums. With the business case firmly in hand, it’s incumbent on building professionals to double down on communicating how a space is supporting people and communities.

Certification programs like LEED have always been essential for businesses looking to demonstrate accountability. Consider, for instance, that disaster costs in the U.S. in 2020 almost doubled from 2019 reaching $95 billion. It accelerated financial markets to look for reliable ways to assess climate risk. LEED’s latest version, LEED v4.1, provides a data-driven approach to certification, and outlines strategies that enhance building resilience.

One of LEED’s system goals has always been to support the health and well-being of people. It’s why more than 70% of LEED’s credits address health in some way.

Fortunately, Colorado has long been a leader in green building, and even though 2020 was fraught with challenges, green building commitments continued. The industry’s progress is reflected in the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) 2020 list of Top 10 States for LEED Green Building. While the state slipped from its No. 1 spot in 2019, it still ranked No. 4, showing that while many industries screeched to a halt, green building continued. Offices, education-related spaces, warehouses and distribution centers were the primary types of projects that certified.

Rank State 2020 GSF Per Capita 2020 Certifications 2020 GSF 2010 Population
1 Massachusetts 2.91 76 19,034,129 6,547,629
2 Washington 2.82 74 18,957,253 6,724,540
3 Illinois 2.61 94 33,475,682 12,830,632
4 Colorado 2.35 64 11,826,927 5,029,196
5 New York 2.28 108 44,172,684 19,378,102
6 Maryland 2.23 88 12,898,921 5,773,552
7 California 2.12 417 78,912,603 37,253,956
8 Virginia 2.05 97 16,404,078 8,001,024
9 Texas 1.66 139 41,749,345 25,145,561
10 Nevada 1.34 14 3,623,852 2,700,551
* District of Columbia 39.53 129 23,783,731 601,723

*Due to D.C.’s status as a federal district it is not included in the official ranking of states, but is a national leader in green building.

Building and construction across the state is moving forward, and a focus on health and climate action is likely to remain. LEED’s Safety First pilot credits and tools like Arc Re-Entry provide the resources and verification that teams need to rebuild people’s trust that spaces are good for them and their communities.

Accelerating this work also requires a knowledgeable workforce, which is why USGBC also released a list of states with the most LEED green building professionals. Based on the total number of active LEED professionals, Colorado ranked No. 8 with more than 6,300 workers.

Rank State Total # of Credential Holders
1 California 26,906
2 New York 12,575
3 Texas 10,474
4 Florida 9,694
5 Illinois 8,640
6 Massachusetts 6,901
7 Virginia 6,612
8 Colorado 6,393
9 Washington 5,968
10 Pennsylvania 5,852

It is critical that building teams get engaged with LEED now. They can register projects to pursue certification and learn more about LEED professional credentials at usgbc.org. For projects not yet ready for certification, teams can start benchmarking and tracking sustainability performance for free using Arc.

Related: Rethinking construction is rethinking waste

Charlie Woodruff

Charlie Woodruff is regional director for the mountain region at U.S. Green Building Council.

Charlie Woodruff has 7 posts and counting. See all posts by Charlie Woodruff

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