LEEDing the Green Building Movement

In 1993, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) was established. Its mission: to promote sustainability in the building and construction industry. In March 2000, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) was born as a green building certification system for commercial, institutional, and residential projects around the globe.

LEED has grown from a simple standard for new construction to a comprehensive system of interrelated standards covering many aspects from the design and construction to the maintenance and operation of buildings. LEED standards have been applied to close to 83,452 registered and certified LEED projects worldwide, covering close to 13.8 billion square feet (1.28 billion square meters).

Many U.S. federal agencies and state and local governments require or reward LEED certification. However, four states (Alabama, Georgia, Maine, and Mississippi) have effectively banned the use of LEED in new public buildings, preferring other industry standards that the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) considers too lax.

Notable LEED Buildings

The Philip Merrill Environmental Center, built in 2001, is one of the world’s most energy-efficient buildings. It is located in Annapolis, Maryland on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay and was the first building to ever receive a LEED Platinum rating, the highest level of LEED certification.

From 2009 to 2010, the Empire State Building underwent $550 million in renovations, with $120 million allocated to transform the iconic structure into a more energy efficient and eco-friendly tower. Following the renovation, it received a LEED Gold rating in September 2011 and is the tallest LEED certified building in the United States.

In July 2014, Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers, became the first NFL venue in the United States to receive LEED Gold certification. It has set the bar high for NFL teams building future stadiums. The Minnesota Vikings hope to exceed the expectations set by the 49ers when they open U.S. Bank Stadium in 2016.

Levi’s Stadium, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, CA, becomes the first NFL venue to receive LEED Gold certification.

Energy-efficient lights hang in the grand UCSB library entrance.

Energy-efficient lights hang in the grand UCSB library entrance.

New UCSB Library Expansion Project Receives LEED Gold Certification

New year, new UCSB library. After 35 years without renovations, the UCSB library was overdue for an update. Beginning construction in 2013, the UCSB library finally opened its doors to the public at the start of 2016. It is proud to be the 31st LEED certified building on the UCSB campus, and the ninth to achieve Gold certification. Many of the trees removed during construction have been replanted on other areas of campus as well as in off-campus sites. Several of the older trees were repurposed into custom furniture by local artisan Rob Bjorklund.

An outside shot of the state-of-the-art UCSB library.

Among other notable distinctions, the library features water-efficient landscaping, water use reduction, recycling of construction waste, a white roof, energy efficient heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems, and green building materials. Overall, the new building is 24.89% more energy efficient than a standard building of similar function. Of all nine UC campuses, UCSB has the highest number of LEED certified buildings.

Bren Hall: The Beginning of LEED Certified Buildings Across the UC System

In 2002, UCSB’s Bren Hall, home to the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, became the first LEED-certified building in the UC system and the first U.S. laboratory building to receive the USGBC’s highest certification – LEED Platinum. This solidified UCSB’s reputation for innovation in the green building movement and set the standard for sustainability across UC campuses. Seven years later in 2009, Bren Hall became the first building anywhere to receive a second LEED Platinum certification, this time for Operation & Maintenance of an existing structure. “One of just the many green features of Bren is that it’s the only building on the UCSB campus that uses reclaimed water in the toilets of its bathrooms, which ends up saving thousands of gallons of water per year,” says Cora Kammeyer, a current Bren student and LEED Programs Manager at UCSB.

Cora became interested in LEED during a yearlong undergraduate program called LEED Lab. In the program, she and 20 other students learned about the LEED process and had the opportunity to LEED certify an already existing building on the UCSB campus.

At the end of the LEED Lab program, students are prepared to take the LEED Accredited Professional Operations & Maintenance exam. Cora has yet to take the exam, but getting her feet wet in LEED certification as an undergraduate pushed her to pursue a position as a LEEDs Programs Manager and dive into the field of green building.

UCSB’s Bren Hall, the “greenest” laboratory building in the United States, sets the standard high for sustainable buildings.

UCSB’s Bren Hall, the “greenest” laboratory building in the United States, sets the standard high for sustainable buildings.


What it Means to be LEED Certified

According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. To receive LEED certification, building projects must satisfy prerequisites and earn points that satisfy different levels of certification. There are five different rating systems that apply to various project types for LEED certification. Project types include Building Design & Construction, Interior Design & Construction, Building Operations & Maintenance, Neighborhood Development, and Homes. The number of “points” a project earns determines its level of LEED certification. Buildings can qualify for four levels of certification:

  • Certified: 40-49 points
  • Silver: 50-59 points
  • Gold: 60-79 points
  • Platinum: 80 points and above
A typical plaque proudly displayed in a LEED certified building.

A typical plaque proudly displayed in a LEED certified building.

Why choose LEED?

LEED certification is recognized as the premier mark of achievement of green building. LEED is the best choice for saving money, conserving energy, reducing water consumption, improving indoor air quality, making better building material choices, and driving innovation. Across the board, LEED-certified buildings cost less to operate and over time can reduce energy and water bills by as much as 40%. Businesses and organizations globally use LEED to increase the efficiency of their buildings. In addition, LEED buildings have faster lease-up rates, may qualify for various incentives like tax rebates and zoning allowances, and retain higher property values.

A Final Thought from a Leader of LEED: Where is the future of green building going?

“To answer where it’s going, where did it come from first? I think that it was developed to remind us of where we came from,” explained Barry Colwell, a LEED Accredited Professional with a Building Design & Construction specialty as well as a LEED Accredited Professional Green Building Consultant.

“You look back to my grandparents, and they used their resources conservatively – they were careful with everything, they didn’t throw things away. They managed their energy usage. I think that LEED’s purpose was to educate people and remind us of where we came from. As resources get more and more scarce, we have to be more efficient, just like we used to be.”

Barry Colwell is also the Associate Director of Building Development & Resource Planning for UCSB Housing & Residential Services. He’s noticed that students are becoming more aware and inquisitive of green building. “Ten years ago, the average student who was renting from us didn’t care much about energy use. Now, I see that a majority of them do. Students are asking the important questions, “Is this building LEED certified? Is it energy efficient?”

This apparent awareness in younger generations is promising for the future of LEED.

Are you a building contractor or homeowner interested in LEED?

Get your next project LEED certified and start with these two online tools http://www.usgbc.org/leed#tools and https://www.usgbc.org/leedonline/.

For More Information

To learn more about LEED and the LEED certified buildings in this article, check out these links:







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