“There’s renewed commitment from companies and organizations to run their business and operations in more sustainable ways,” says Deisy Verdinez, Communications Director with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). “As communities and consumers demand more from organizations to do more to support their communities, many are not only including sustainability in corporate social responsibility plans but are also setting ambitious goals to reduce their impacts on the environment.”
While there are a plethora of sustainable building certifications in the market, the USGBC Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program continues to be the world’s most widely used, with over 102,000 LEED certified projects across nearly 180 countries and territories. According to Yale University experts, the four most common green building certifications are LEED, WELL, the Living Building Challenge, and Energy Star.
There are many benefits of LEED certification, including reputation, credibility, cost savings, industry leadership, appeal to customers, qualifying for incentives like tax rebates and zoning allowances, and retaining higher property values.
To adapt the LEED program based on public feedback and the latest in green building innovation, the most updated version, LEED v4.1, raises the bar on eco-efficiency design and sustainable materials standards while also taking into consideration the people living, working in and using the buildings. Specifically, LEED v4.1 supports projects to implement sustainable and healthy building practices, with a specific focus on social equity to ensure that buildings consider their communities and prioritize access, inclusiveness and resiliency.
In response to the pandemic, USGBC recently launched its Healthy Economy Strategy, a path for how healthy places and LEED will support recovery efforts as businesses, governments and communities prepare for a post-pandemic world.
Concurrently, USGBC has released its LEED Safety First Pilot Credits program. These credits outline sustainable best practices related to cleaning and disinfecting, workplace re-occupancy, HVAC and plumbing operations, social equity as well as pandemic preparedness and response and support project teams working toward reentry and safe operation. More than 150 projects have started using the LEED Safety First pilot credits. The credits will continue to evolve as more communities reopen and as science and information are updated.
Finally, with the race to zero, and more and more organizations — from governments to corporations — adopting net zero goals and strategies, USGBC has developed LEED Zero, a complement to LEED that verifies the achievement of net zero goals. LEED Zero Carbon recognizes buildings or spaces operating with net zero carbon emissions from energy consumption and occupant transportation to carbon emissions avoided or offset over a period of 12 months. Projects can earn certification in LEED Zero Carbon, LEED Zero Energy, LEED Zero Water and LEED Zero Waste.