According to the testimony of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) before the U.S. Congress on May 15, 2008, “green” buildings are one solution to the problem of global climate change—one of the biggest challenges facing society today.
Speaking before the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, Michelle Moore, senior vice president, policy and public affairs, for the USGBC, detailed the impact of the built environment on the natural environment, the economy, and the health and productivity of building users. Moore’s testimony stressed the importance of green building practices not only in new construction but through smart retrofitting of existing buildings. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building certification program plays a lead role in driving the reduction of energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.
“Buildings are the single largest contributor to carbon dioxide emissions, accounting for 39 percent of emissions in the U.S. Of those buildings, school buildings represent the largest construction sector in the country, and 20 percent of America goes to school every day,” said Moore. “It’s fundamental to promote the design and construction of green schools, which play a tremendous role in bettering the health and performance of our students and children. Every new building coming out of the ground today should be built green and every existing building should be retrofitted, whether it is an office building, a school, or your own home. Buildings offer an immediate, measurable solution for mitigating climate change—and we don’t have time to wait.”1
The LEED Green Building certification program is a feature-oriented rating system that awards buildings points for satisfying specified green building criteria. The six major environmental categories of review include sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation in design. Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels of LEED green building certification are awarded based on the total number of points earned within each LEED category. LEED certification can be obtained for all building types, including new construction, commercial interiors, core and shell developments, existing buildings, homes, neighborhood developments, schools, and retail facilities.
Governments at all levels have been highly influential in the growth of green building, both by requiring LEED certification for their own buildings and by creating incentives for LEED certification in the private sector. Currently, 12 federal agencies or departments, 28 states, at least 120 local governments, 12 public school jurisdictions, and 36 institutions of higher education have made policy commitments to use or encourage the LEED program.2
The USGBC is a nonprofit membership organization whose vision is a sustainable built environment within a generation. Its membership includes corporations, builders, universities, government agencies, and other nonprofit organizations. Since the founding of the USGBC in 1993, the council has grown to more than 15,000 member companies and organizations, a comprehensive family of LEED green building rating systems, and expansive educational offerings. For more information, readers can visit www.usgbc.org.
1“U.S. Green Building Council Testifies before U.S. Congress: Testimony Addresses the Role of Greening Existing Buildings, Including Schools, in Mitigating Climate Change,” press release, May 15, 2008, http://www.usgbc.org/Docs/News/USGBC%20Testifies%20Before%20Congress_051408.pdf (accessed May 29, 2008).