U.S. Green Building Council to Tighten Standards and Add Incentives

November 22, 2006

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is taking a carrot-and-stick approach to its ever-popular LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building rating system, tightening standards while providing new incentives for building designers to strive for their best. The USGBC announced on November 15th that its board and the LEED Steering Committee have put forth a series of proposals and recommendations for changes to the LEED system, including new standards for commercial buildings that require increased energy reductions and a 50 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, compared to typical commercial buildings. The carrot is that USGBC will develop metrics to quantify the carbon dioxide emissions reductions, providing building owners with a means to earn carbon dioxide offsets. The USGBC will also allow companies to earn LEED certification quickly on a large number of similar buildings, such as branch offices or restaurants.

To encourage building designers and developers to go for the gold—in this case, it's actually the platinum—USGBC will fully rebate its certification fees for any building that earns LEED Platinum certification, its highest rating. In addition, all LEED-certified new and remodeled commercial buildings will be automatically registered for the "LEED for Existing Buildings" certification, which relates to building operations. By doing so, the USGBC intends to encourage not only green design and building, but also green operations once the building is complete. And just to show that it practices what it preaches, the USGBC is moving into a new building this week, a LEED Platinum commercial interior in a building with a LEED Gold core and shell. The USGBC also intends to be carbon neutral by the end of 2007. See the USGBC announcement (MS Word 51 KB) and the USGBC LEED Web page.

Efforts to encourage green building in schools have been bolstered by a report released by Capital E in October. The report finds that green schools cost only $3 per square foot extra to build, but yield $74 per square foot in financial benefits. Of that, about $12 per square foot goes directly to the school in the form of improved teacher retention, lower health costs, and reduced energy and water bills. See the Capital E report (PDF 1.1 MB). Download Adobe Reader.