Massachusetts ranks first in the nation for LEED green building, followed by Washington and Illinois, according to the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) annual ranking. LEED is the world’s most widely used green building program and was created by USGBC to set standards and define best practices for high-performing, healthy, green buildings. The top states in 2020 certified 1,171 projects with more than 60% representing offices, education, and healthcare facilities.
“If we are to rebuild an economy that supports our health and our planet, we must lead with changing the way we design and build,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of USGBC. “Last year was a stark reminder that the quality of our buildings impacts the quality of our life. Looking ahead, people want to trust that the spaces they occupy are good for them and their communities, and LEED has always been a tool to support those goals. Now is the time to ensure that every building is LEED certified as that is the only way we are accomplishing our goals of access to healthy, green buildings, homes and spaces.”
The ranking is based on gross square feet of certified space per person using 2010 U.S. Census data and includes commercial and institutional projects certified in 2020.
Green Building Leadership In 2020
Buildings account for an estimated 39% of total U.S. energy consumption and transitioning these spaces to be more sustainable is key to climate action. The global green building community is continually improving LEED to ensure it helps buildings, communities and cities to be more sustainable, healthy, resilient and equitable. LEED provides a framework for designing, constructing and operating buildings that are cost-effective, reduce carbon, use fewer resources and support human health.
In 2020, LEED green building was not limited to a single part of the country and reflects progress across east, west, south and Midwest regions. Of note is that nearly 50% of projects in the top 10 states achieved LEED Gold, one of the highest levels of certification, indicating a commitment to high performance.
While offices, education and healthcare accounted for a majority of certifications in the top 10 states, warehouses, distribution centers, multifamily housing and retail projects represented almost 20%. LEED can be used by virtually any building type and has been adopted across industries to support corporate sustainability and ESG commitments, as well as by the public sector. President Joe Biden recently signed an executive order around greening the federal government’s own footprint, which includes its buildings.
During his campaign, then-candidate Biden also committed to upgrade four million buildings in four years as part of a sustainable infrastructure and clean energy plan.
Path To Net Zero
Over the last year, commitments to net zero emissions have roughly doubled, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Transitioning buildings to also be net zero is a critical factor in reaching those larger goals. USGBC’s LEED Zero certification is a pathway for buildings and verifies achievements in net zero carbon, energy, water and waste.
In the two years since LEED Zero launched, certifications have doubled, and the number of projects certified in 2020 exceeded 2019. Among the top 10 states for LEED, six are home to LEED Zero projects, including Virginia, California, Illinois, New York, Colorado and Maryland.
Growing The Green Workforce
Transforming the building sector to be green requires a skilled and knowledgeable workforce. This workforce is contributing to the development and advocacy of LEED and is being quickly embraced by the next generation workforce and decision makers. To aid in its commitment to supporting a green workforce, this year USGBC is also released its first-ever ranking of the top 10 states with the most LEED green building professionals.
More information about LEED certification and green building is available at usgbc.org.
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