#1 cleantech news, reviews, & analysis site in the world. Subscribe today. The future is now.


Published on January 10th, 2014 | by Silvio Marcacci


LEED Certification’s Impact On America By The Numbers

January 10th, 2014 by  

Green buildings create myriad benefits like reduced emissions and energy demand or happier and healthier employees, but those benefits can be hard to quantify, potentially creating skepticism about their bottom-line return on investment.

And that’s exactly what the US Green Building Council (USGBC) sets out to accomplish through LEED in Motion: Impacts and Innovation – quantify exactly how LEED certifications are helping make buildings cleaner and greener while plotting a course for the future of green building.

It’s an important effort, considering 72% of Americans are either unfamiliar with, or have no opinion on LEED certification, but those who do understand the concept approve of it by a 4-to-1 ratio – meaning information is key to success.

Green buildings

Green buildings image via US Green Building Council

Quantifying LEED’s Economic And Environment Impacts

As with many clean tech innovations, when people learn the benefits of sustainable technology demand increases, and Impacts and Innovation provides a powerful set of data points to make a business case for green building.

“Even as LEED is in itself an innovation, it has and will continue to serve as a gateway to further advances in the movement to create healthier, high-performing buildings and vibrant, resilient communities,” said Rick Fedrizzi, USGBC President and CEO. Need proof? Consider the following LEED certifications benefits, by the numbers:

Energy savings

  • $227 million – energy cost savings by Bank of America across their LEED facilities since 2004
  • 1.2 million – megawatt hours of annual energy use saved in Bank of America LEED facilities
  • $350,000 – annual savings in utility expenses for the LEED Platinum Chanin Building in Washington, DC
  • 450 – LEED projects that experienced an energy use intensity one-third lower than the national average
  • 404 – LEED projects with an Energy Star score of 85, above “Top Performer” level 

LEED-certified buildings

  • 1,875 – LEED for New Construction-certified projects
  • 1,302 – LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance-certified projects
  • 2,048 – LEED for Commercial Interiors-certified projects
  • 341 – LEED for Core and Shell-certified projects 

Environmental savings

  • 80 million – tons of waste LEED construction projects have diverted from landfills
  • 57% – amount of non-construction waste diverted from landfills by LEED buildings
  • 34% – fewer greenhouse gases emitted by LEED Gold buildings in General Services Administration’s portfolio, compared to average commercial building 

LEED’s impact on corporate America

  • 21 million – estimated number of employees who will be working in LEED buildings by 2030
  • 2.5 million – number of employees who currently work in LEED buildings
  • 58% – Amount of green buildings in business portfolios of corporate America
  • 30% – percentage of firms that built green in 2012 to lower operating costs
  • 20 to 1 – return on investment Adobe Systems gained from its headquarters LEED project 

Even Greater Green Building Impacts Ahead

These numbers, while impressive, just begin to scratch the surface of LEED’s potential to save money and the environment. An earlier edition in the LEED in Motion series estimated that green buildings could make up half of all US construction and be worth $248 billion by 2016.

LEED certification plaques

LEED certification plaques via Everblue.edu

This outlook tracks with other research examining the positive benefits green building could have in specific industry segments. For example, half of all new retail, restaurant, and hotel construction could be green building projects by 2015 and boost values between 7%-11%. In addition, the booming residential green building projects could be worth up to $114 billion by 2016.

Looking ahead to the next generation of green building, the report outlines how LEED v4 projects could help address some of our most pressing challenges like fighting climate change, building a green economy, protecting water resources and ecosystems, and enhancing social equity and environmental justice.

As USGBC President and CEO Rick Fedrizzi says in the report’s foreword, “innovation is about collective betterment.” Sounds to me like a great opportunity for the green building industry and corporate America to LEED by example.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

About the Author

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate policy public relations company based in Oakland, CA.

  • Matt

    Image if all building code nation wide added the following lines.
    – All new building must be at least LEED Silver
    – New building of Gold gets 5% property tax break for 10 years
    – New building of Platinum gets 10% property tax break for 10 years

    • Imagine if the government made LEED more accessible to the lower rung of the economic ladder. If say, a non-LEED home sells for $100k, but with $30k of updates the home could be LEED.

      However, the home-buyer can only afford the former home. A program could be created where the government owns a slice of that home, the $30k slice. Then all new build homes could be LEED. So when the home is sold, the government would get its money back or could allow the next buyer the option of the government to retain that same slice., no interest charges on the $30k, as it would already be made back by increased economic activity.

      *I sent this message to both of my Senators Brown & Portman.

      • Negative Nancy

        If only there were an infinite supply of funds to support this stuff… ahhh, there is. Taxes.

        Would you approve of your taxes increasing to support the government so they could fund this? Hmmm

        • Bob_Wallace

          I could get behind things like closing unneeded military bases and building weapon systems the military has said they don’t want and using that money to help struggling people get into homes that are cheaper for them to heat and cool.

          We need to close some of the ridiculously wide gap between the richest and poorest. We aren’t going to get there by expecting John McCain to share any of his nine homes or Mitt Romney and of this six homes with people who need some help. John and Mitt have needs, doncha know?

          Heck, if we have to tax the very rich a bit more, so what? Mitt would have been in misery if he had to sell off a few shares of his quarter billion in order to build a car elevator at his beach house?

          • Green Globe

            “Poor people have been voting Democrat for over 50 years and they’re still poor.” -Charles Barkley

          • Bob_Wallace

            Words of anti-wisdom.

            I suspect you have zero idea what it is like to be poor.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “Non-criminals have been outlawing murder for millennia and there’s still murder.” -Me

        • If the Fed can now spend $75 billion/month on bonds and treasuries, it is doable.

Back to Top ↑