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According to the U.S. Green Building Council, or USGBC, in December of 2011 the total square feet of existing LEED-certified building space exceeded the square feet of LEED new construction by 15 million square feet. In August, LEED-certified commercial space alone totalled 1.3 billion square feet.
The USGBC, a nonprofit dedicated to making “green” buildings available to everyone within a generation
, administers the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification process, an internationally recognized building evaluation system which assesses a number of building parameters to rate a building’s energy efficiency and environmental footprint.
In spite of competing interests
, LEED certification remains the dominant program for designing, building and operating low-energy, eco-friendly buildings. Currently, the USGBC LEED-certifies
1.7 million square feet of buildings daily.
LEED certification, which is delivered as a Platinum rating (at 80+ points, the highest), a Gold (60-79), a Silver(50-59), and a simple Certified (40-49), measures site sustainability, water use, energy use, materials sustainability, waste recycling, indoor air quality, natural lighting, acoustical effectiveness, design innovations, the use of clean energy technologies like solar
, and a building’s total envelope in concert with regional environmental concerns like the availability of water, the presence of critical habitat, and the way and amount in which waste water is disposed.
Previously, new buildings were the lion’s share of the LEED market, largely because it seemed easier to “build green” than to retrofit buildings to meet LEED energy use and environmental parameters.
Now, however, that paradigm has been turned on its head, as evidenced by buildings like the Empire State Building
, whose recent renovation to gain LEED gold certification promises to cut energy use by more than 38 percent, or $4.4 million a year, delivering a renovation payback period of three short years.
“Green building” certification fills an increasingly important niche in both the economic and environmental spheres, offering not only tax incentives at the federal and state level, but the opportunity to participate in the energy efficiency financing venue, predicted to rise to $18 billion
annually by 2015 (according to McGraw Hill Construction’s Green Outlook 2011 report), with a threshold of about $150 billion – a venue driven by events like President Obama’s announcement of $4 billion in energy efficiency funding
as part of the Better Buildings Challenge program.
This kind of investment is expected to save American businesses and households $200 billion a year and create one million new, fulltime jobs among energy service companies, or ESCOs, based on the fact that the building sector currently accounts for 73 percent of domestic electricity consumption and contributes 40 percent to U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.
Savings could go even higher, depending on the future trajectory of energy prices, which saw oil demand growing
by 3.7 percent in Q4, 2010 and coal at a two-year high
of $140 per tonne.
To date, more than 43,000 projects are participating in both commercial and institutional LEED rating systems. This represents almost 8 billion square feet across all 50 states and 120 countries, not including the approximately 15,000 new and existing homes that have been LEED-certified.
For more information on energy efficiency in building spaces, please visit Energy Boom’s learning pages