For the first time, LEED-certified existing buildings are outpacing their newly built counterparts – a milestone that the U.S. Green Building Council believes signifies a sea change in the market for green buildings. The organization credits its LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (O&M), which has seen “explosive growth” since 2008.
The organization reports that, as of this month, the square footage of LEED-certified existing buildings surpassed LEED-certified new construction by 15 million square feet. That’s a big change over the past few years, as historically, LEED-certified green building projects were overwhelmingly made up of new construction projects, both in volume and square footage. That began to change in 2008, with the introduction of LEED: Existing Buildings O&M; in 2009, the number of LEED certified projects for existing buildings surpassed the quantity of those for new construction, a trend that has continued in 2010 and 2011. Existing buildings certified LEED have now surpassed new construction not only in terms of the number of projects certified, but in square footage as well.
“The U.S. is home to more than sixty billion square feet of existing commercial buildings, and we know that most of those buildings are energy guzzlers and water sieves,” said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair of the U.S. Green Building Council, in a statement. “Greening these buildings takes hands-on work, creating precious jobs, especially for construction workers.” He goes on to note that making these existing buildings energy and water efficient has an enormous positive impact on the building’s cost of operations, while the improvements in indoor air quality that go with less toxic cleaning solutions and better filtration systems create healthier environments for those who live and work in such buildings.
Three high-profile LEED: Existing Buildings O&M skyscraper retrofits in recent years are the case in point: the Empire State Building (New York City), Taipei 101 (Taipei) and the Transamerica Pyramid (San Francisco). Green upgrades to these buildings have resulted not only in certification, but in energy savings of $4.4 million, $700,00 and $700,000, respectively.