Rating Systems as Transformation Tools

The USGBC’s LEED rating system has become a transformative force for change (issues aside-which are relevant and will be covered in a later post). Consider; over 260 million square feet of space are now certified under the LEED NC and O&M programs, 60% of LEED credits have some aspect of energy savings embedded in their achievement, and that the resulting projections for the built environment suggest that between two and four billion tons of CO2 emissions will be avoided by 2050 as a result. Further, national trends suggest LEED has achieved full market penetration; locally, we see all major projects pursuing LEED, and legislation to support such efforts. All of these trends are encouraging and significant considering our built environment accounts for 76% of all electrical use in the United States—but only part of the story.

The real story is the shift we’ve observed in the design and construction market and green building’s mainstream acceptance. LEED Projects are a physical and tactile manifestation of sustainability, and arguably, the single most recognizable icon within a larger cultural shift. So while green building isn’t particularly new, the massive market uptake and mainstream acceptance is. LEED established a common terminology and set of benchmarks for all projects to measure against. In turn, a language and set of expectations has developed around the concept of green building.

It is not surprising that efforts like the Global Reporting Initiative, Carbon Disclosure Project, or SMART product certification are seeking to provide that same language to discuss the relative sustainability of product or organization. It’s also not surprising that those systems are seeing significant uptake and growth as well. But more on that later…

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