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.
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:
- $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
- 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
- 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.
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.