Friday, June 29, 2012

Stand Up and Cheer, the EBies are Here!

By Cecil Scheib
Note: this blog is cross-posted from the Urban Green Council blog

On Thursday, June 28, the first annual EBie Awards were held at the Hard Rock Café in Times Square. The EBies are a nationwide, juried competition that celebrates increased sustainability in existing buildings (thus, EBies) and the people behind these improvements. Close to 70 competitors submitted entries, from every region of the country, and the finalists gathered in New York City to down “EBie Elixirs” and wait breathlessly to hear the winners announced (between banter among local and national green building luminaries).

The stated point of the competition is to recognize unsung heroes – but let me tell you, after last night, those heroes have been sung! As a building geek (and speaking for all the other building geeks in the room), it was heartwarming to hear the applause and cheers for all the people working their chillers off to reduce energy and water use in existing buildings. While the “sexy” focus is often on the construction of fancy new structures, in order to reduce the overall impact of our built environment we must also greatly improve our existing buildings.

And while all the hardworking people doing this will tell you they don’t care, I think the truth is that people are motivated by the recognition of their peers (and let’s face it – the chance to have a Broadway star sing to you, as Emily Padgett did). It also helps the recognition of the profession overall to have an Oscar-like production celebrating existing building efforts.

Occupant Empowerment: Creating a Culture of Sustainability with LEED

Lonny Blumenthal, LEED AP O+M
Associate, LEED
U.S. Green Building Council

I hear people say it all the time: “Buildings don’t use energy, people do.” So then I ask myself: Why has the idea of engaging with building occupants fallen by the wayside?...Despite the fact that it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to minimize energy consumption and save money? I wish I could provide a simple answer to that question, but the reality is that influencing occupants to modify their behavior to meet the sustainability goals of a building and/or an organization is far from straightforward. It requires an understanding of the actions people perform and even more importantly, the motivation behind those actions. Sounds easy, right?

Less power, more occupant empowerment.
Photo credit: Public Domain Photos
To address the impact occupants have on resource consumption in the built environment, USGBC recently released Pilot Credit 59: Occupant Engagement. Our goal is to help improve the performance of existing buildings by enabling energy efficient behaviors among building occupants. The credit encourages building owners and tenants to create a culture of sustainability and resource conservation for occupants in LEED-certified projects. Project teams are awarded for implementing innovative engagement mechanisms that empower occupants to become aware of and responsible for their own energy consumption.

Pilot Credit 59: Occupant Engagement requires two main components:
  1. Consumption feedback: Inform occupants about the actual energy consumption of the building and/or their workspace and provide a relevant comparison point
  2. Occupant empowerment: Implement and maintain an occupant engagement program that includes education, empowerment and feedback components
We would like project teams to establish performance goals and develop a way to effectively track the success of the occupant engagement program. Additionally, the requirements above are only intended to serve as a foundation for an occupant engagement program and are by no means meant to display a “one size fits all” approach.

Introducing this concept as a pilot credit allows us to leverage both project team and market feedback to directly inform whether the credit’s requirements are effective or if they should be modified to better accomplish the stated intent.

So, let’s hear from you. Have you recently implemented an occupant engagement program focused on energy efficiency? What strategies did you find effective? What barriers kept your program from achieving its goals?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hospitality Development Update: Moving Towards LEED

Jefferson Thomas, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
Sr. Design Manager (LEED Advocate)
Marriott International

Green construction starts have increased by 50% in the past two years, and now represent 25% of all new construction today, according to a study by McGraw Hill. Green and sustainable construction initially had a slow start for the hospitality industry, but now seem to be gaining momentum. Today, there are 141 LEED-certified hotels and nearly 1,200 more that are registered with the intent to certify upon completion.

Because there are wide misperceptions about the cost of building green, hotel owners have been hesitant to embrace green practices. However, it has been proven that green building does not have to cost more. In some cases, where projects target higher or more complex levels of green building, there may be added upfront costs of 1-4% - but these costs can be recouped relatively quickly, often within the first few years. Investing in high energy performance equipment and high insulated building materials has the shortest pay back from a cost standpoint, and generally, high-performance buildings and building green reduce operating costs and increase the net operating income for the life of the building.

Courtyard Marriott in Portland, Ore.
Green hotels are catching on in a number of ways. For one, there is a new generation of hotel owners who put a higher asset value on their investments, and are realizing the benefits of green building practices. Many hotels are taking advantage of the federal, state and local incentives that can help pay for half to all of the additional cost to construct LEED-certified buildings: Attaining LEED certification, which is third-party verified, signifies a true green hotel. Marketing advantages, permit expediting, obtaining building approvals and reduced county fees are just a few other reasons why more owners are now turning towards building LEED. On the corporate sustainability front, major Fortune 500 corporations are changing their travel preferences to book green hotels, in order to boost their own company-wide green efforts.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

USGBC Members and Stakeholders Speak at the GSA Listening Session

Melissa Gallagher-Rogers, LEED® AP
Director, Government Sector
U.S. Green Building Council

You know from grade school, college, and maybe even your Ph.D program that an A+ is no easy feat.

Federal agencies know that, too: GSA recently received an A+ on the OMB scorecard. The statistics speak for themselves.
  • 19.2 percent reduction in energy use per square foot of space since 2003
  • 13.7 percent reduction in water use since 2007
  • 20.3 percent reduction in emissions since 2003
Obviously whatever they are doing is working, and we are thrilled that LEED has contributed to this success.

USGBC and its members spoke at a session yesterday complimenting the progress GSA has made. Dr. Chris Pyke, Vice President of Research at USGBC, offered comments about the federal government’s long history of using LEED as a common language to define sustainable buildings and a transparent framework for goal-setting, tracking and accountability for high performance federal buildings. Dr. Pyke reiterated that the consensus process for the creation of LEED continues to be the strongest part of our member organization with 22,000 public comments on the next version of LEED.

Tokyo’s Urban Cap and Trade for Commercial Buildings Sees Huge Success in First Year of Operation

Maggie Comstock
Policy Analyst
U.S. Green Building Council

Tens of thousands of delegates from diverse backgrounds and geographical regions convened in Rio to protect the future we want through sustainable development policy. While progress was made on the negotiating text, few are satisfied with the level of commitments and accountability from national governments. However, the news from Rio isn’t entirely bleak. Subnational governments are leap-frogging the unambitious goals of national governments to realize their own goals of urban sustainability.

Me with Yuko Nishida, planner, Bureau of Environment
Metropolitan Government of Tokyo
The benefits of green buildings are becoming more mainstream as businesses and governments alike embrace the economic, brand, social and environmental benefits of green buildings. So what’s stopping every city in the world from building sustainably? Despite the quick payback periods of green building strategies, up-front costs to green construction still remain a significant barrier. Innovative financing solutions are now being promoted by the public and private sectors to overcome these barriers to green buildings.

Monday, June 25, 2012

We’ve Got the Power – Bummmm…Bumpa…Bumm

Jason Hartke
Vice President, National Policy
U.S. Green Building Council

Cities Arrive in Force at Rio+20

I don’t know if that 1992 pop song "We Got the Power" was meant for cities. But it should have been. It certainly would have been apropos during Rio+20, where cities arrived in force.


Recognized widely as the driving force behind many of the most significant actions taken to combat climate change, mayors from around the world came to Rio with a simple message: We’ve got the power.


 How inspiring to attend the two signature events for local governments, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group’s event at Fort Copacabana and ICLEI’s Global Town Hall, where we didn’t hear rhetoric, and instead we just hear results, like Tokyo’s cap and trade program that covers commercial buildings or Brasilia’s intent to have the first LEED Platinum stadium in the world.


Mayor of Johannesburg, Mayor Bloomberg, Mayor Paes of
Rio and the Mayor of Seoul
Unfortunately at many of these global conferences, like Rio+20, where national governments convene and negotiate, the role of cities all too often seem to be an afterthought. Yet cities are economic engines. They generate 75 percent of GDP. They nurture investment and innovation. “Intellectual capital gravitates to cities,” said Mayor Bloomberg of New York City last Monday at the C40 Climate Cities Leadership Group kickoff event at Rio+20.

Bloomberg announced that C40’s 59 megacities have collectively taken nearly 5,000 actions to combat climate change, which is expected to reduce greenhouse gases by over a billion tons by 2030.

Existing Buildings = The 99%

It's hard to overstate the potential (and necessity) of greening our existing building stock. Buildings account for 73% of electricity consumption in the U.S. and 38% of CO2 emissions. Can you imagine the dent we can make with added efficiency in this sector - environmentally and economically? Plus, existing buildings are all around us. Chances are, you're inside of a building (an existing one) as you read this blog entry - talk about an accessible opportunity.

We caught up with two of USGBC's existing buildings gurus to get the their take on the facts, figures, and future of the movement - including the evolution of LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance.

Existing buildings: They're everywhere! Seattle skyline - Source:  Jordan R. MacDonald

Let's start simple: What are the key principles behind LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance? What's the point of greening our existing building stock, and what does it involve?

Lauren Riggs: As I see it, the primary role for LEED EB: O&M in the market is to provide a platform for existing buildings to demonstrate their success in implementing sustainable operations strategies. The majority of buildings are not new - and in fact have been in operation for quite some time; LEED EB: O&M is available to set these buildings up for optimal performance. The point of “greening our existing buildings stock” is to realize the massive potential that such a large number of buildings has to positively impact the environment through efficient operations.

What does this involve? Commitment to the ongoing process of operating a building sustainably. Start with practical and sustainable practices, implement them and update along the way – key words “update along the way.” If LEED EB: O&M projects continually try to make their processes better, they will see the full value of the rating system.

Christopher Davis: Look, the annual replacement rate of buildings (the percent of the total building stock newly constructed or majorly renovated each year) has historically been about 2%, and during the economic recession and subsequent years, it's been much lower. Even if we succeed in making half of those new buildings green, that doesn’t sound like a very urgent response to a crisis. We're deluding ourselves if we think we can solve all of our problems just with new, super efficient buildings. Existing buildings are, to borrow a phrase, the 99%, and we need to pay serious attention to them. Greening existing buildings is incredibly important for our planet, but it makes exceptionally good economic sense. Last year when the Empire State Building achieved Gold using LEED EB: O&M, they were a little over halfway through a deep energy retrofit program projected to cut annual energy costs by 38%. Just a few weeks ago they announced that in the first year they've exceeded their projections by 5%, already saving $2.4 million. Just think what kind of impact we can have if every aging building with leaky windows and inefficient chillers invested in these kinds of improvements. That's the kind of innovation that LEED EB: O&M is trying to stimulate.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Citi Becomes World's First Bank with 200 LEED-Certified Projects

Yesterday, Citi celebrated the LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification of its New York City flagship branch in Union Square, becoming the world's first bank with 200 LEED-certified projects. LEED is the U.S Green Building Council's leading rating system for designing and constructing the world's greenest, most energy efficient, and high performing buildings.

Billy Cho, Citibank Area Director for NYC; Don Callahan, Citi CAO; Val Smith, Director of Citi's Corporate Sustainability, and Scot Horst, USGBC's Senior Vice President of LEED.

The 9,700 square foot branch is located at 14th Street and Broadway and features 100 percent ENERGY STAR rated equipment, high efficiency, energy optimizing lighting controls and nearly a quarter of all building materials manufactured using recycled content. The announcement is a direct result of a $50 billion pledge Citi made in 2007 to address global climate change over the next 10 years, which includes financing for the renewable energy and clean technology industries as well as investments in reducing our corporate environmental footprint through procurement, energy use and real estate portfolio. To date, Citi has directed over $36.4 billion towards these activities as part of this initiative.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Is a Sustainable City a Just City?

Maggie Comstock
Policy Analyst
U.S. Green Building Council

In order to accommodate the expected increase in urban population of two billion people by 2030, we would need 200 new cities with populations of 10 million people—think 200 cities larger than Paris! Obviously the sustainable planning and construction of these cities is crucial to avoiding exponential increases in future emissions; however, accommodating two billion additional people will have wider implications than just on the environment. We need to address the livelihoods of the urban migrants themselves.

Rocinha Favela, the largest favela in Rio de Janiero.
Photo credit: David Berkowitz
In rapidly urbanizing areas of the world, city migrants often construct informal settlements, many of which fall short of basic health and safety needs. No matter the name—informal settlement, slum or favela—these dwellings are holding people back from realizing the economic and social potential of the city. In a just city, people are connected to opportunities, either by proximity or by access to transportation. Yet today, many informal settlements and their occupants are marginalized by society and are forced to operate through informal economic transactions.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Brilliance of Green Building is Shining at Rio+20

Jason Hartke
Vice President, National Policy
U.S. Green Building Council

“It is time that we steered by the stars, not the lights of each passing ship.”
— General Omar Bradley

The green building world knows the following statistic all too well. On average, we spend 90 percent of our time indoors. That’s 21.6 hours out of every day. That’s 328 and a half days every year. Inside a building.

And we certainly take this to heart because, while we’re spending all this time inside, the quality of air we’re breathing is on average 3-5 times more polluted than outside, according to the EPA.

Here at Rio+20, the historic UN Conference on Sustainable Development, a strong global contingency of green building advocates have been spreading the word about the triple-bottom-line benefits to green building.

Sure, the strict business case for green building is stronger than ever. Much of that is based on the deep energy reductions that come from green building projects (See Greg Kats’ analysis about the amazing net present value of green building in his book Greening our Built World).

Friday, June 15, 2012

We, the People, Still Making History

Heather Blakeslee
Deputy Executive Director for Operations, Program & Community
Delaware Valley Green Building Council

“We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It’s easy to make a connection between the Preamble to the Constitution and the missions of USGBC and Delaware Valley Green Building Council. Since the beginning of our history, our country has worked toward peaceful, prosperous communities for ourselves and future generations.

USGBC's Senior Vice President of Conferences and Events, Kimberly Lewis,
alongside DVGBC leadership

Philadelphia hosted our forefathers as they composed the Constitution more than 225 years ago, and in 2013 it will backdrop the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo as USGBC celebrates its 20th anniversary. To prepare the region for this monumental occasion, DVGBC decided to do something that would honor our historic past while looking toward our sustainable future — something that would show a global audience just how hard we’re working toward a more prosperous, sustainable region.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Transforming Buildings, Even the Little Ones: 20,000 LEED-certified Homes

Nate Kredich
Vice President of Residential Market Development
U.S. Green Building Council

20,000: No, I’m not talking leagues under the sea. I’m talking LEED-certified homes.

That’s right: I’m particularly proud to announce that we’ve certified over 20,000 LEED for Homes units.

It’s interesting to look at a sampling of the projects we’ve certified in just the past couple of weeks to see the reach and versatility of LEED in the residential space:
  • Eight LEED Platinum certified affordable homes in the Coconut Cove development in Cape Coral, Florida, developed by Southwest Florida Affordable Housing Choice Foundation, Inc. and built by Owen-Ames-Kimball Company
  • AMLI at Escena, the first two LEED Gold low-rise multifamily buildings in Texas, built by AMLI Residential
  • KAPSARC Villa B-19 in Riyadh, one of the first LEED for Homes International Pilot projects to certify - located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the LEED Silver home is one of 191 single family production homes built by SK Engineering and Construction as part of Phase I for KAPSARC

KAPSARC Villa B-19 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabi by SK Engineering & Construction

Since LEED for Homes launched as a rating system in 2008, 51% of our certified homes qualify as affordable housing, a statistic of which we are very proud.
Also of note has been the trajectory for the LEED for Homes program. Consider:
  • The 1st 1,000 certified homes (pre-pilot) took 31 months – or an average of roughly 32 homes/month
  • 1,001 – 5,000 took 18 months – 222/month
  • 5,001 – 10,000 took 12 months – 416/month
  • 10,001 – 20,000 took 13 months – 769/month

Pretty nice growth, huh?

AMLI at Escena in Texas, built by AMLI Residential

Enormous thanks goes to our incredible LEED for Homes community and its continued commitment to transforming all buildings…even the little ones, that happen to matter most of all.

Read the press release »

Monday, June 11, 2012

Stakeholders Along the Road to Rio+20 Call Upon Leaders for Action at Upcoming Earth Summit

Maggie Comstock
Policy Analyst
U.S. Green Building Council

On June 5, the Road to Rio+20 series made a final pit stop in Washington D.C., the North American host city for World Environment Day, to launch a new report, Advancing the Transformation to a Green Economy through Green Buildings and Resource Efficient Cities: Key Messages from North America. The series, a collaborative initiative between the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the United Nations Environment Programme’s Regional Office of North America (UNEP RONA) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s North American Office (WBCSD U.S., Inc.), kicked off in Toronto in October 2011 and visited six cities around the U.S. and Canada to raise awareness about Rio+20 and to engage North American stakeholders in promoting green buildings as a conduit of the green economy. Stakeholders and participants along the Road to Rio+20 identified obstacles and messages for decision makers, which were compiled into the final report.

Roger Platt, Jessica McGlyn, Amy Fraenkel & Jason Hartke

The launch of the report featured remarks by the Director of UNEP RONA, Amy Fraenkel, who introduced the Road to Rio+20 series and our goals moving towards Rio. USGBC’s Vice President of National Policy Jason Hartke presented the findings of the report including the top five messages for decision makers: 1. improve awareness, education and training; 2. empower local action and innovation; 3. increase financial resources and remove barriers to long-term investments; 4. encourage common metrics, methodologies and tools; and 5. promote stakeholder collaboration and public-private partnerships. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

President Clinton Announces the Launch of California’s Best Buildings Challenge at 2012 Clinton Global Initiative America

Jason Hartke
Vice President, National Policy
U.S. Green Building Council

Add six companies…five million square feet of collective real estate…and one challenge. Stir.

What do you get?

A recipe for something remarkable – not just better buildings, but best buildings. In other words, California’s Best Buildings Challenge.

Yesterday, six major leading companies – Adobe, Genentech, Google, Prudential Real Estate Investors, SAP and Zynga – stepped up to the Challenge, a commitment to achieve not just a 20 percent reduction in energy but also in water and waste.

The kicker? They’re doing it in 2 years.

President Clinton announced the Challenge at yesterday's CGI America conference

California’s Best Buildings Challenge, a joint effort of the U.S. Green Building Council and its Northern California Chapter, gained significant national recognition today when President Clinton highlighted the effort at the closing plenary of the Clinton Global Initiative America conference in Chicago.

"Greater building efficiency can make - listen to this - can make available to us 85 percent of future U.S. Energy demand and a national commitment to green building has the potential to create 2.5 million jobs," said President Clinton. "It is also by far the most labor rich of all the clean energy investments. A billion dollar invetment in energy efficiency yields about seven thousand jobs."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Q & A with Gina Duncan, Executive Director of Fondation Enfant Jesus

Gina Duncan (right) with FEJ Founder Lucienne "Manmi" Duncan
Fondation Enfant Jesus (FEJ) is the non-profit organization that will own and run USGBC’s Project Haiti Orphanage & Children’s Center. Project Haiti is being rebuilt in the earthquake-stricken Port-au-Prince’s Delmas 41 neighborhood and its impact will go far beyond the walls of the building. The LEED Platinum facility will educate the Haitian people on how to rebuild back better and will provide a safe place for those who need it most. FEJ is dedicated to creating a nurturing and loving environment that educates both children and parents, offers pathways to adoption and provides medical support to those in need.

Who benefits from the work of FEJ?

First of all and most importantly, the children who receive care at our orphanages and schools benefit from our work. These children are most at risk and in the poorest communities. The community itself also benefits.  We work closely with the women in the community who are the mothers of the children, we provide education and we set a positive example. We are really proud of the example we are setting for the rest of the country on what is possible.

What is your proudest accomplishment thus far?

As far as FEJ is concerned, our proudest moments have been centered on uniting families and promoting education in everything we do. The impact of education through our school program, health clinics and promotion of education in all its facets is at the core and essence of change and progress. We’ve taken the time to understand that education is the true catalyst for change.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Important News About LEED 2012: A Message from Rick Fedrizzi

Rick Fedrizzi
President, CEO & Founding Chairman
U.S. Green Building Council

To USGBC members and LEED users:

The amazing volunteers on all our LEED committees have been working extremely hard for the past 3+ years to get LEED 2012 ready for launch. The continuous evolution of LEED is made possible through hard work, and these committed technical experts undertake this work because they have a passion for USGBC’s commitment to market transformation and they see LEED as the best tool to help us get there. We are all deeply in their debt.

We always have to remind ourselves that LEED is only about 12 years old as a rating system. It was launched and grew during one of the greatest economic expansions in US history. Then 2008 saw some 60,000 architects lose their jobs, the new housing market shrink by 1/3, and commercial real estate new construction ratchet down. Though focus has shifted to improving our existing buildings, critically important work to be sure, financing remains difficult.

Despite this, LEED continues to thrive. More than 1.6 million square feet of space is certified every day.

LEED 2012 has always been envisioned as a significant step forward in the rating system, one that would raise the bar on performance, and push all the players in our industry – everyone from the architects to the product manufacturers to the financial community – to the next level. However, as we’ve gone through public comment on LEED 2012, and engaged in hundreds of discussions with our members, the LEED community and numerous other stakeholders, we have heard repeatedly that while our community continues to fully embrace our mission, they need more time to absorb the changes we’re proposing and to get their businesses ready to take the step with us. Most importantly, they want more visibility into the infrastructural improvements we’ve promised with the LEED 2012 program — forms, documentation, education and LEED Online – to inform their internal adoption strategies.

Therefore we’ve decided to delay ballot on LEED 2012 until June 1, 2013, (or potentially sooner in 2013 if our members and the market tell us they are ready). We will use this time to deliver on the infrastructural improvements to the LEED program already underway.

Our marketing team has been hard at work for the last 18 months on a comprehensive brand strategy taking into account LEED’s much stronger role in the global green marketplace. Our team believes that a simpler rating system nomenclature is more conducive to continuous improvement and maintaining clear communications throughout development. Therefore, we see this ballot date change as an opportunity to begin to refer to this next version of LEED as LEED v4.

Also, USGBC will ensure that LEED 2009 and LEED for Homes will remain available for registration for three years. This means that the rating system our stakeholders have begun to master is still there so they can make the switch when they are ready.

We will, as previously announced, continue to ask for the market’s assistance in "test driving" the fourth public comment draft. This test will give us important insight to make program improvements in advance of ballot and launch.

We’re also committing to a fifth public comment, and it will open on October 2, 2012, and run thru December 10, 2012. This has been done to take advantage of Greenbuild in November, where we will hold public forums and educational sessions on site in San Francisco to help stakeholders better understand the requirements as well as any final changes that may appear in the new draft. It will also allow us to debut some of the new forms, submittal documents, LEED Online enhancements and other infrastructural upgrades that will help improve and enhance the project teams' experience. We will solidify the infrastructure of the LEED v4 program in early 2013 in advance of ballot.

Speaking of ballot, I want to give a large thank you to the USGBC members who opted into the consensus body and to whom we commit to providing as much education and insight as possible over these next months so they can head to the ballot with full knowledge of all aspects of LEED v4.

To be clear… this change is 100% in response to helping our stakeholders fully understand and embrace this next big step. We intend to do everything we can to ensure that the market is ready for LEED v4 because it represents progress on both carbon reduction and human health improvements. Greenbuild will provide us the perfect venue to start to experience the look and feel of the new system as an integrated package, and ensure the information necessary for informed voting in ballot is available.

The passion for market transformation that resides in our membership and our LEED users is undeniable, but we also acknowledge the reality of the day-to-day assessment of market conditions that has informed this decision. Our commitment to you is that the balloting and launch of LEED v4 will be seamless for our users and successful in terms of advancing the market transformation we all seek.

Please let us know if you have any questions.


S. Richard Fedrizzi
President, CEO and Founding Chairman
U.S. Green Building Council

Cc: Elizabeth Heider
Chair, USGBC Board of Directors

Friday, June 1, 2012

Creating Green, Affordable Neighborhoods: Get Funded, Get Educated, Get Started

Casey Studhalter
Associate, Neighborhood Development
U.S. Green Building Council

The benefits of green building and smarter neighborhood planning and design should be available to everyone, regardless of household income level. We know that green communities foster good health through walkable streets, transit connectivity and proximity to resources. Green building and infrastructure reduce carbon emissions and conserve energy and resources. Collectively, these green neighborhood features drive community costs down and create cohesive, active settings. Shouldn’t everyone have access to green neighborhoods?

Sunnydale HOPE SF, a 2010 AGN recipient, was the first US project to
achieve certification under LEED ND 2009.
Illustration by Jeffrey Michael George

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Much of the nation’s affordable housing stock is outdated, resource inefficient, poorly connected to transit, jobs or neighborhood amenities, and in some cases harmful to inhabitants. The LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system seeks to change that by serving as a guide for redevelopment of former public housing complexes or development of new mixed-income communities. In addition to prioritizing the selection of infill sites, previously developed sites, and locations with transit access and walkable compact development, the rating system rewards projects for including a certain portion of affordable and workforce housing. But unfortunately, in many cases, nonprofit developers and public housing authorities don’t have the experience, capacity or funding to pursue certification.