By Meghan Hall
California and Washington remain leaders in sustainable commercial real estate, ranking among the nation’s top states for certified green buildings, according to new data released by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The ranking, released in February, is based on gross square feet of certified space per person in 2020. In USBGC’s rankings, Washington took the second spot out of the nation’s top ten. California was ranked seventh.
To date, buildings account for an estimated 39 percent of total U.S. energy consumption, and after more than a decade. LEED–Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design–is the world’s most widely used green building program. LEED was first adopted by the USGBC in August of 1998. The certification system certifies development projects based on numbers of earned credits that relate to their potential environmental and human benefit impacts.
In 2020, 1,171 projects—which represents more than 60 percent of offices, educational and healthcare facilities—were certified. Warehouses, distribution centers, multifamily developments and retail projects accounted for an additional 20 percent of those who received LEED certification last year.
Additionally, within the top ten states, 50 percent of projects achieved LEED Gold, one of the highest levels of certification. USBGC notes that such numbers indicate a strong commitment to high-performance and sustainable design.
“If we are to rebuild an economy that supports our health and our planet, we must lead with changing the way we design and build,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of USGBC in a statement. “Last year was a stark reminder that the quality of our buildings impacts the quality of our life. Looking ahead, people want to trust that the spaces they occupy are good for them and their communities, and LEED has always been a tool to support those goals.”
USGBC’s rankings are pulled from data found in 2010 U.S. Census data and the number of institutional projects certified in 2020. Last year, Washington certified 74 projects totaling more than 18.9 million of gross square feet (GSF), and registered 2.82 GSF per capita. California registered 417 projects—the most out of any of the other top ten states—which encompassed more than 78.9 million square feet. Its gross square foot per capita came in at 2.12.
By comparison, Massachusetts, who ranked first, registered 76 projects. Its LEED-certified developments totaled more than 19 million gross square feet and came in at 2.91 gross square feet per capita. Illinois, which ranked third, certified 94 projects and 18.957 million square feet, an allocation of 2.61 square feet per capita.
California and Washington are also among the best ranked states for LEED professionals. In 2020, California took the number one spot, with more than 26,900 credential holders. New York followed behind, with 12,575 professionals certified. Washington, which took the ninth spot in such rankings, has 5,968 professionals certified.
According to USGBC, the numbers continue to emphasize progress being made throughout the global green community to reduce the commercial real estate industry’s contribution to climate change. The council is currently tracking nearly 56 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the industry, and more than 167 billion gallons of water. Certifications such as LEED, USGBC maintains, will be pivotal to reducing emissions but also promoting occupant and tenant health after nearly a year dominated by the current coronavirus pandemic.