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Green Buildings: Energy Concerns Power Their Way To The Top

When the US Green Buildings Council announced its Top 10 States for LEED this year, it found some common threads running through each that catapulted them to the top. That is, the various stakeholders — ranging from the citizens to the corporations that employ them — have a desire to live healthy and sustainable lifestyles that drive green construction and especially low energy use.

“LEED guides our buildings, cities, communities and neighborhoods to become more resource- and energy-efficient, healthier for occupants and more competitive in the marketplace,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of council said, in a statement. “The green building movement continues to evolve with advancements in technology, benchmarking and transparency, and the states on this list are leading the way toward a more sustainable future.”

Collectively, 1,819 commercial and institutional projects achieved LEED certification in the 10 states within the Top 10 LEED list in 2016, representing 309.12 million gross square feet of real estate. And across the U.S., 3,366 projects were LEED-certified in 2016, representing 470.39 million square feet.

Now in its seventh year, the ranking assesses the total square feet of LEED-certified space per resident based on US Census data and includes commercial and institutional green building projects certified during 2016.

Take Massachusetts, which leads the list with a total of 136 LEED-certified projects: Its Boston Convention and Exhibition Center is a prototype of energy efficiency and modern construction.

Illinois and Colorado are the only two states to have made the list every year since 2010, and New York has returned to the rankings after a one-year hiatus. Colorado’s Riverside Library and Cultural Center are considered top-of-the-line construction while I’llinois Chiaraville Montessori School is as well. Meantime, New York’s World Trade Center Tower One makes the grade — a special honor given that the former buildings have an indelible place in American history.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is a certification program that examines new commercial construction to ensure that it measures up to modern construction standards.

The council reviews such things as sustainability and development as well as water efficiency and indoor air quality. It also looks at the materials used to construct the site as well as how the facility is powered. Existing buildings, by contrast, are evaluated based on water and energy use as well as waste stream management. The council, furthermore, reviews sustainable purchasing policies as well interior and exterior maintenance programs.

A blog appearing on the council’s web site says that energy is probably the top item that industrial and commercial building developers are concerned about. To that end, energy efficiency is a driver and lighting alone represents about 22% of electricity consumption in the US. One of the easiest ways to become more efficient is to retrofit lighting, it says.

At the same time, the council points to zero net energy trends, which means that the total energy used by a building is offset by the amount of renewable energy generated on site. It points to a 2014 survey by the New Buildings Institute identified more than 160 zero net energy buildings in the U.S., with an additional 53 low-energy buildings defined as “net zero energy capable.”

It’s a trend that is bound to grow as more and more distributed generators — on site generators running on green energy — are deployed around the country.

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