America’s got a new number one when it comes to green building among the top states for LEED-certified construction, and this year’s winner may surprise you.
Illinois jumped from fifth to first in this year’s Top 10 States for LEED ranking from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), supplanting perennial winner Washington, D.C.
The list is based on a per-capita basis of 2010 U.S. Census data combined with commercial and institutional green building projects certified through the LEED certification program across 2013 – a whopping 1,777 projects and 22.8 million square feet across the top ten states.
Illinois Places First, With An Asterisk
Illinois ranked fifth in 2013 and placed third in 2012, so while its ascension isn’t shocking and shows a steady increase in green building projects, this year’s top rank is largely due to a technical change in how USGBC ranks states – namely dropping Washington, D.C. from the top 10 list.
171 LEED projects encompassing 29,415,284 square feet of space were certified in Illinois during 2013, good for 2.29 square feet of per-capita LEED-certified space. Those totals were good enough to beat out all other states, but would have been swamped by D.C.’s 32.45 per-capita square footage if it had been included.
“The public and private sectors in Illinois recognize that long-term investments in 21st century infrastructure should be done in ways that reduce energy consumption and protect the environment,” said Governor Pat Quinn. “Illinois is proud to be the nation’s green buildings leader, and we are proof that smaller environmental footprint can help us step toward energy independence.”
Metro DC, New York, and California Round Out The Ranks
While Illinois may sit atop the ranks in 2013 due to D.C.’s exclusion, the nation’s capital (and federal government’s green building efforts) had a spillover effect on neighboring states, boosting Maryland and Virginia into the top three, with 119 and 160 projects representing 12,696,429 and 16,868,693 square feet for 2.20 and 2.11 per-capita square feet, all respectively.
The nation’s overall leaders in certified square footage and total certified projects, New York and California, tied for fifth in the LEED rankings due to their large populations driving down per-capita square footage.
This twist is due to USGBC calculating the list using per-capita figures to create a fair comparison of green building activity taking place among states with significant differences in population and overall buildings.
Interestingly, USGBC notes the continued trend toward LEED certifications of existing buildings through retrofit projects. 48 percent of all square footage in 2013 was certified under LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance, while 43 percent was certified under LEED for Building Design and Construction.
Green Building’s Green Economic Boost
Regardless of if green building projects are happening on new or existing buildings, they’re having a big economic impact. 35 percent of all US construction jobs today are in green building, according to a 2013 estimate, and industry revenue could top $248 billion by 2016.
“As the economy recovers, green buildings continue to provide jobs at every professional level and skill set from carpenters to architects,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president and CEO of USGBC.
Beyond creating green jobs, green buildings are also saving businesses money while making their assets more valuable. A recent analysis showed 58 percent of corporate America had green buildings in their business portfolios with 30 percent building green to lower operating costs. Additionally, McGraw Hill research has shown building values jump up to 11 percent with an up-to 14 percent return on investment for green building projects.
That’s all great news, but the best may still be yet to come. USGBC notes 37,000 projects representing 7.6 billion square feet of space are in the certification pipeline worldwide, and LEED v4 has raised the bar with increased requirements for certification, meaning our buildings will continue to get greener and greener – just like our economy.