LEED’s Stunning Growth, And What’s Behind It

LEED might not be the only game in town when it comes to green building certifications, but it’s certainly a huge force in the sector, as a new report from the program’s keeper, the U.S. Green Building Council, makes clear.

According to the USGBS, there are 59,211 commercials buildings in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program around the world, comprising 10.6 billion square feet – and counting (the data released the latest LEED in Motion report was current as of July 2 this year). Here’s how that growth has unfolded since the beginning of the new century, when the program was launched:

LEED buildings

image via U.S. Green Building Council

What’s behind this rapid growth? The folks in Washington, D.C., LEED says:

Without a doubt, one of the preeminent reasons for LEED’s success in the U.S. (and ultimately abroad) was the leadership of the U.S. federal government. With an impressive amount of projects, the government has remained committed to green building and was an early leader in implementing it. That influence allowed LEED to grow in to a nationally-recognized rating system in just a few years, enabling building projects to save an impressive amount of energy, water, resources and waste across the board.

The credit given to the federal government is particularly interesting in light of a recent decision by the U.S. General Services Administration – the independent agency of the government charged with managing federal properties and vehicles, among other things. It recommended LEED 2009 and the Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes 2010 as acceptable third-party certification systems. The Golden Globes standard has been pushed by American High-Performance Buildings Coalition, and it has its critics, but GSA says using either program will “allow us to measure how federal buildings of all kinds can best save energy, improve overall performance, and cut down utility costs.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.