Green Buildings and LEED

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Sustainable or green buildings consume fewer resources, have lower impact on the environment, and promote healthier spaces to its occupants compared to conventional buildings. However, the design, construction and operation of these green buildings require specific strategies that improve their environmental performance. Green building strategies promote building performance for human and environmental health. Depending on their intent, green building strategies are grouped into the following five key areas:

 Sustainable Site Development: discourages development on previously undeveloped land, minimizes building’s impact on environment, promotes smart transportation options, encourages the use of existing infrastructure, community resources, and access to open space.

 Water Savings: encourages the reduction of potable water use inside and outside the building.

 Energy Efficiency: promotes a variety of energy saving strategies, from efficient design to the use of renewable sources, and building commissioning.

 Material Selection: encourages the reduction of waste and use of local materials and resources.

 Indoor Environmental Quality: promotes the improvement of indoor air, access to daylight and acoustics, and the overall health of occupants.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is an internationally recognized green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Through its voluntary program, LEED provides third-party verification of practical and measurable green building strategies. Consequently, it encourages the adoption of sustainable building practices.

LEED certification is available for all building types. The USGBC developed different LEED rating systems applicable to the type of project worked on. The current LEED 2009 rating systems are LEED-Building Design & Construction, LEED-Interior Design & Construction, LEED-Operations & Maintenance, LEED-Homes, and LEED-Neighborhood Development.

LEED is a point based system where building projects earn points or credits for satisfying specific green building criteria in the five key areas mentioned before. The number of credits successfully accumulated and earned by a project determined the certification level achieved by the project. There are four levels of LEED certification:

Certified (Minimum points)

Silver (Second highest points)

Gold (Third highest points)

Platinum (Maximum points)

According to the USGBC, buildings in the United States are responsible for 39% of CO2 emissions, 40% of energy consumption, 13% water consumption and 15% of GDP per year.

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