U.S. Green Building Council: Taking Sustainable Buildings to the Next Level
The construction industry accounts for a significant share of global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. As we strive to reduce our carbon footprint and mitigate the impact of climate change, it is essential to adopt sustainable building practices that prioritize resource efficiency, indoor air quality, and occupant health and comfort. This is where the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) comes into play.
Founded in 1993, USGBC is a non-profit organization that promotes sustainable design and construction through its flagship program, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The LEED certification system is a globally recognized rating system that assesses the environmental impacts of buildings across various categories, such as energy use, water efficiency, waste reduction, and indoor environmental quality.
LEED certification is a voluntary process that allows building owners and operators to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and benchmark their performance against industry standards. There are four levels of LEED certification – Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum – each corresponding to a different level of achievement in sustainable design and construction. Currently, there are over 102,000 projects participating in LEED across 180 countries and territories, totaling over 2.5 billion square feet of certified space.
While LEED started as a rating system for new construction, it has since expanded to cover existing buildings, interior spaces, and entire neighborhoods. USGBC also offers other programs and initiatives that support sustainable building practices, such as the LEED Dynamic Plaque, a real-time performance monitoring and reporting tool, and the Arc platform, which measures sustainability performance across buildings, portfolios, and communities.
USGBC's mission is to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built, and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life. In pursuit of this vision, USGBC engages with a wide range of stakeholders, including building owners and operators, architects, engineers, contractors, developers, policymakers, educators, and NGOs.
One of the key strengths of USGBC is its collaborative and consensus-driven approach, which involves diverse stakeholders in the development and evolution of LEED and other programs. USGBC also integrates scientific research and data analysis into its decision-making, ensuring that its programs and initiatives are evidence-based and continuously improved.
USGBC has achieved numerous milestones and recognitions throughout its history, including being named one of the World's Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company in 2019 and receiving the U.S. Department of Energy's Federal Energy and Water Management Award in 2020. USGBC has also launched ambitious initiatives such as the LEED Zero certification that recognizes buildings that generate zero carbon emissions, use no potable water, and send no waste to landfills.
However, there are still significant challenges to overcome in the pursuit of sustainable buildings and communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of indoor environmental quality and ventilation, as well as the need for resilience and adaptability in the face of crises. Climate change and resource scarcity are also pressing issues that require urgent and coordinated action.
USGBC remains committed to leading the way in promoting sustainable design and construction, advocating for policies that advance green building practices, and empowering individuals and organizations to make a positive impact on the environment and society. As we strive to build a better future for ourselves and future generations, USGBC's vision of a sustainable and prosperous built environment is more relevant and urgent than ever.