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LEEDing the Way to a Greener Tomorrow


Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is an established “green” certification program designed to encourage a more eco-friendly building industry.  More than the extension of a trendy buzzword, LEED has successfully implemented its certification throughout the world, with LEED certified buildings already existing in over 20 countries.  Since over 10 billion square feet of new and renovated building occurs in the United States every year, the LEED program can contribute significant reductions of greenhouse emissions.


Established by the United States Green Building Council, a non-profit organization comprised of over 10,000 building professionals, the LEED certification program is an attempt to encourage the design of LEED certified buildings, which reduce waste, increase efficiency, develop sustainability, and decrease energy consumption.


LEED buildings profit from a wide-array of benefits, including reduced operating costs, less resource waste, and a healthier environment for the occupants.  For employers, healthier buildings help employee productivity by reducing worker fatigue and illness.


Other cost savings include:


·        30% reduction in energy expenses

·        35% carbon emissions savings

·        30-50% reduction in water usage

·        50-90% decrease in waste expenditure


Initial building costs of a LEED project are the same or slightly higher than expected by a “normal” project.  However, these costs are recovered over time through lower operating costs.


In order to achieve LEED certification, buildings must include “green,” renewable building materials.  These materials include recyclables, natural products such as wood and durable materials with long life expectancies such as concrete.  Inside the buildings, air quality must meet high standards, with low toxic emissions and minimal chemical emissions.  As with all “green” components, air conditioning and heating units within the buildings must require minimal levels of maintenance while exhibiting high efficiency ratings.


Vehicle emissions often receive the greatest media attention, but building emissions account for high levels of greenhouse gases.  Because we rarely observe energy going into or out of our houses or places of work, many assume these structures are relatively clean – such is not the case.  Think of the air-conditioning you run in the summer, your lights, your stove, the wood you burn during the winter, or the computers in that 40 story office building; all of these are responsible for emissions.  Reduced energy consumption by LEED buildings means fewer emissions. 


Achieving LEED certification is not an easy process.  Architects, contractors, builders, and all others involved in a LEED building project must adhere to strict guidelines.  The LEED rating system certifies buildings on a four-level scale - Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.  This certification is determined by a building’s performance in five key areas:


·                    Sustainable Site Development

·                    Water Savings

·                    Energy Efficiency

·                    Materials Selection

·                    Indoor Environmental Quality


Each of these areas is allotted a certain number of points, which, when tallied with all component points, determines a building’s level of certification. 


The core goal of USGBC is “to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built, and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.”  The USGBC also aims to increase individual awareness about “green” building alternatives.


LEED certification is not just for new buildings – buildings at any stage of construction or remodeling are eligible.  Training and certification are available to anyone wishing to go green with their building.  If interested, check with your local USGBC chapter for the next available workshop or conference.  While LEED certification is reserved for larger buildings, any structure, including your own house, can be “green” friendly.


For more information about LEED certification or “green” building, visit the USGBC website at www.usgbc.org.



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