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Home arrow Blog arrow 1/31/06-USGBC: LEED Immediate Savings And Measurable Results

1/31/06-USGBC: LEED Immediate Savings And Measurable Results PDF Print E-mail
Written by Taryn Holowka   
Thursday, 31 January 2008
Humans spend more time indoors than anywhere else — in fact, 90 percent of our time is spent inside. Buildings are human habitat — so shouldn’t the spaces where we live, work, play and learn enhance our quality of life and the health of our planet?

The Case for Green Building ;

Every year, buildings are responsible for 39 percent of U.S. CO2 emissions and 70 percent of U.S. electricity consumption. They use 15 trillion gallons of water and consume 40 percent of the world’s raw materials. The air in our homes, schools and offices can be significantly more polluted than the air outside, and has been linked to illnesses ranging from asthma to heart disease.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that while buildings contribute to major challenges like climate change and energy dependence, they are also one of our best solutions. Green buildings use an average of 36 percent less energy than conventional buildings, with corresponding reductions in CO2 emissions. The impact is dramatic: If half of all new construction in the U.S. were built to achieve similar efficiency, it would be the equivalent of taking more than one million cars off the road every year. Even better, green buildings make sense for both the environment and the bottom line. Studies show that, on average, buildings that have been certified as green by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, cost a mere 1 to 2 percent more than conventional construction — and the investment is paid back in full within the first year based on energy savings alone.

But energy savings aren’t the only story. Water conservation, reductions in construction waste, and effective stormwater management generate significant operational savings for the building owner, while also reducing the demand on municipal infrastructures.

The benefits to people are equally impressive — green buildings dramatically increase health and productivity. Anecdotal studies demonstrate that people in green buildings have 40-60 percent fewer incidents of colds, flu, and asthma; patients in green hospitals are discharged as much as two and a half days earlier; and kids in green schools increase their test scores by as much as 18 percent.

Transforming the Market

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) was founded 14 years ago to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated. The council’s vision is that all buildings will achieve sustainability within a generation. To realize this vision, USGBC developed the LEED rating system, which has proven to be a primary driver of the green building movement.

LEED is a voluntary building certification program that establishes a common standard of measurement for what constitutes a high-performance “green” building. Since its introduction in 2000, LEED has become a nationally accepted benchmark for leadership in green building design, construction and operations. LEED gives building owners and project teams a concrete, practical set of design and performance goals, and provides independent third-party certification that validates their achievements.

As of May 2007, 851 buildings have earned LEED certification, and 6,500 more are in progress — for a total of 1.1 billion square feet of building space. There are LEED projects in all 50 states and in 26 countries, and every business day another $100 million worth of construction starts registers with LEED. Twelve federal agencies, 22 states and 75 local governments have made policy commitments to use or encourage LEED, and building owners and developers are increasingly choosing to certify their entire portfolios.

The LEED rating system addresses all building types and all phases in the building lifecycle, from design to construction to operations and renovations. Currently, USGBC offfers individualized systems for New Construction (LEED-NC); Existing Buildings (LEED-EB); Commercial Interiors (LEED-CI); and Core & Shell (LEED-CS) [speculative development]. In addition, more than 6,000 individual homes and 200 builders are participating in the pilot test of LEED for Homes (LEED-H). LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) has also opened for pilot this year, and more than 350 projects have applied to take part.

LEED takes a holistic approach to sustainability, recognizing performance in five key areas: site, water, energy, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality, with an additional category to recognize innovation. Four progressive levels of LEED certification — Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum — are awarded based on the number of “credits” or points achieved in each category.

The Future of LEED

LEED rating systems are developed through an open, consensus-based process by USGBC committees. Each volunteer committee is composed of USGBC members representing a diverse group of practitioners and experts from a cross-section of the building and construction industry. Any USGBC member can serve on a committee, and all committee procedures and proceedings are available at

USGBC is continuing to advance the market with the development of LEED Version 3.0, which will harmonize and align the versions of LEED, as well as incorporate recent advances in science and technology. Congruent with this effort, USGBC is introducing a continuous improvement process into LEED, which will create a more flexible and adaptive program and allow USGBC to respond seamlessly to the market’s evolving needs. Particular focus areas include technical and scientific innovations that will improve building performance; the applicability of LEED to the marketplace, in order to speed market transformation; and the customer experience, to ensure that LEED is an effective tool for the people and organizations using it.

The inclusion of Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is an important step in the technical development of LEED. USGBC’s Life Cycle Assessment working group has developed initial recommendations for incorporating LCA of building materials as part of the continuous improvement of LEED.

LCA holistically evaluates the environmental impact of a product throughout its lifecycle: from the extraction or harvesting of raw materials through processing, manufacture, installation, use and ultimate disposal or recycling. USGBC’s long-term objective is to make LCA a credible component of integrated design, thereby ensuring that the environmental performance of the whole building takes into account the complete building lifecycle.

LEED provides a framework for integrated design and construction processes, which are the foundation for building better buildings. Projects like Seven World Trade Center, the Bank of America Tower in N.Y. City, The Clinton Library in Arkansas, and Adobe’s East and West Tower Headquarters in California are among those that have realized the economic and environmental benefits of green building.

“We already had a high-performing building, but going through LEED we uncovered hundreds of thousands of dollars of additional savings,” notes Ted Ludwick, Assistant Chief Engineer, Cushman & Wakefield at Adobe Systems, Inc. “LEED got us from green to Platinum and it helped us teach everyone on our team how to stay there.”

How to Go Green

Three Steps to LEED Certification

1. Register your Project. Register your project online with USGBC at Registration provides access to essential information, resources, and software tools such as LEED-Online. LEED-Online is an interactive project workspace that includes templates with specific guidance on how to achieve and document the project’s LEED points. Projects enroll in LEED by registering their intent with USGBC and paying a fee of $450. Project certification fees are approximately $0.03 per square foot, and average about $4,500.

2. Track Progress and Document Achievement. Each team defines a “project administrator” that will serve as the primary project liaison between USGBC and the project team. Via LEED-Online, the project administrator can facilitate collaboration with project team members, share information and resources, and track progress towards the goal. LEED-Online also makes it easy for project teams to prepare and submit the calculations and documentation required to satisfy LEED’s pre-requisites and earn LEED points.

3. Get Certified. The LEED certification process is paperless — all documentation and payment can be submitted to USGBC via the Web using LEED-Online. Teams can submit the documentation in two phases: First at the design phase, in order to get feedback and ensure that the project is on track for its goals, and then at the project’s conclusion. A team of expert certifiers will review your project’s documentation and a final LEED rating will be awarded within 30-90 days of completed submittal. Fees for certification range from $0.025-$0.035 per square foot for USGBC members. The average certification fee is about $2000, depending on square footage. The minimum fee is $1,750 for USGBC members and the maximum fee is $17,500.

Keys to Success:

Start Early and Use Integrated Design — From the beginning, ensure that the entire project team is engaged. By establishing the project’s sustainability goals from the beginning and pairing LEED credit targets with those goals, the entire team will work to achieve them. The integrated design process means that the full project team is engaged from the start and serves as an essential foundation for success.

Get a LEED Reference Guide — It may sound obvious, but many design teams simply hire a green building consultant without familiarizing themselves with the LEED process. Save time and money by learning what LEED points are available, which ones the project can attain, and learn about practical examples on how to achieve them. The reference guide is an easy to follow, invaluable tool.

Hire a LEED Accredited Professional — LEED Accredited Professionals (APs) have passed a rigorous exam and have demonstrated expertise in LEED and the integrated design process. LEED APs can be practicing architects, engineers, interior designers, general contractors, facility professionals or other professionals. Having a LEED AP on the project team serves two purposes — it will make it easier to achieve certification as well as earn a LEED point towards certification. Go to to visit the LEED AP Directory to find one near you.

People deserve cleaner air, a healthier environment, and a higher quality of life — and the building industry can make it possible. Together, we can make an impact: Every business day, $100 million worth of construction becomes involved with the LEED rating system, 50 people attend a USGBC training course, 20 people become LEED APs, and four organizations join the USGBC as members. Soon, we won’t be asking if we should build green; we’ll be asking why anyone wouldn’t.

Green Building Resources
Buildin Design & Construction
Common Sense Design, resource page
Environmental Building News
Frank Lloyd Wright
Get into Green, at the National Building Musem
Green Affordable Housing
Green Building Community.Com
Green Sage
International Initiative for sustainable built environment
LEED for Homes, energy certification from the USGBC
List of recycled building products from the Ca.Integratd waste management board
Marin County Green Building Program
Marin Max Reuse
National Renewable Energy Labratory Homepage
Oikos Green Building Source

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