LEED Certification and the Future of Green Construction

What is LEED?

Sweetwater_Creek_State_Park_Platinum_LEEDLEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, was developed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) which began certifying projects in 2000 to promote green construction. LEED certification is administered by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) which provides independent, third-party verification based on five categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources and Indoor Environmental Quality.

LEED Certification is broken down into the following rating systems: New Construction & Major Renovations, Core & Shell, Schools, Healthcare, Commercial Interiors, Existing Buildings, Retail and Homes. Each rating system has 100 possible points to allocate based on the five categories mentioned above and are weighted based on the rating system being applied. There are 10 possible bonus points available, 6 points for Innovation in Design and 4 points for Regional Priority. There are four levels of certification: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. To reach the Certified level a project must receive at least 40 points with each subsequent level needing to obtain more points. A Silver certified project would need to obtain at least 50 points; Gold would need to obtain at least 60 points and Platinum requiring at least 80 points.

The Future of the Construction Industry?

LEED Silver Certified Raleigh Convention Center

LEED Silver Certified Raleigh Convention Center

According to the Green Building Market & Impact Report 2011 published by GreenBiz Group, the total square footage of LEED certified projects to 10,517,000,000 SF up from 1,636,000,000 in 2011 and that number is expected to grow to 28,313,000,000 SF by 2030. LEED certified projects result in lower operating costs, increased property value, conservation of water and energy, waste reduction as well as providing government sponsored tax reductions and incentives.

The USGBC states that various LEED initiatives including legislation, executive orders, resolutions, ordinances, policies, and incentives are found across 45 states in 442 localities (384 cities/towns and 58 counties), in 34 state governments (including the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico), in 14 federal agencies or departments, and numerous public school jurisdictions and institutions of higher education across the United States.

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.

In Maryland, the High Performance Building Act was signed into law on April 24, 2008 and requires that all new public construction and major renovations over 7,500 SF are required to earn LEED Silver certifications or two Green Globes, which is another rating system operated by the Green Building Initiative.

On the federal level, the General Services Administration has recently increased its requirements for all new construction and major renovation to achieve LEED Gold Certification. Previously, the minimum requirement was for LEED Silver Certification.

What does it All Mean?

Green building appears to be the wave of the future. General Contractors and subcontractor would be well advised to get on board the “green movement.” General Contractors should have a clear understanding of the LEED credits they and their subcontractors will be responsible for whether it be ensuring that appropriate sustainable and locally sourced materials are used to implementing a proper waste management plan. They should also know what paperwork will be required from them for certification. If the General Contractor is the party responsible for applying to LEED Certification it would benefit them to have a LEED Accredited Professional on staff to ensure proper compliance.

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