Fomenting the Necessary Revolution: LEED-ing the Green Building Revolution!
When asked why he robbed banks, the infamous Willie Sutton replied:”Because that’s where the money is”. In terms of energy use and savings, most of the money is in our buildings- offices, malls, factories, apartment complexes, schools and homes. Our “built” environment. Heating, cooling and lighting our buildings create twice as many greenhouse gas emissions as our cars. But with so many buildings built by so many contractors, how could you get a movement started to build “greener” more energy saving buildings?
An architect, an environmental litigator and a small town developer got together to find out. In 1993 10 people met in Washington DC, to start what has become a worldwide network, The United States Green Building Council or USGBC. This tiny group of friends took on the task of developing a unified set of standards for green buildings- energy savings water usage, recycled materials, and so forth. They sought to get all the players in the room- “the whole building system” so to speak. And they asked one powerful question that generated a lot of answers. “What is a green building?”
Looking at a building as a whole system, they began to shape a set of guidelines for what became the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design -LEED- standards. LEED “Points” could be gotten for heating, energy, and water efficiencies, for recycled materials and so forth. The higher the total points, the “greener” the building. At different point levels a building could be certified LEED Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum. With the advent of the LEED System, the US Green Building Council took off and has become a cornerstone of green building.
IN 2002, there were 635 LEED projects. Bt 2007 that had jumped to overt 7500. The value of green construction starts in 2008 alone was over $12 billion. And in addition to the energy and cost savings, the people who work in LEED buildings have improved productivity and health, lower absenteeism, and better morale.
Cities like Washington, DC and Boston have adopted LEED as their building standard- why build a lousy building that’s going to cost more to operate? From those 10 folks in 1993, the USGBC grew to over 10,000 organizations and 38,000 professional members by 2006. Worldwide, the Green Building Council has over 70 regional chapters and projects in 41 countries.
Maybe best of all, the LEED standards are becoming ever more stringent, but at a reduced cost! The learning is being shared worldwide and people are discovering that energy efficient, recycled material buildings are actually cheaper to build. Good for the pocket, good for the planet. Energy efficiency in LEED buildings has shot up from 25 to over 70 percent more efficient than conventional buildings. And a new generation of “living buildings” is coming online that produces more energy and clean water than they use, capturing rainwater in green roofs, sunlight stored as heat and energy, and so on.
Old buildings are getting restoration and facelifts to bring them up to LEED standards. Over 13,000 people attend the annual Green Building conference. This statement is from their conference materials: “To lead the transformation of the building industry, we know that how we make our decisions is as important as the decisions themselves”
With even old line companies like Harley Davidson getting on the LEED bandwagon, why would anyone settle for less?