New initiatives launched to complement LEED

Charlie Woodruff
Mountain regional director, USGBC

In November, U.S. Green Building Council and its partner Informa Connect held the 18th annual Greenbuild International Conference & Expo in Atlanta. Greenbuild is the largest green building conference and expo in the world and brings thousands of sustainability and green building leaders together to advance the vision that buildings and communities will regenerate and sustain the vitality of all life within a generation. The theme of this year’s conference, “A New Living Standard,” explored how we can broaden that conversation and help connect the dots between people and the places where they live, work, learn and play, especially with a changing climate.

USGBC’s mission, at its core, requires meaningful and rapid action on climate change in everything we do. We have long known that buildings are among the most significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions and combatting this was foundational in the establishment of LEED. Since 2009, LEED has allocated more than one-third of all the points in the rating system to technologies and strategies that comprehensively address the greenhouse gas emissions caused by buildings.

With increasing calls to reduce or neutralize energy use and rehabilitate existing buildings in the fight against climate change, we are leveraging LEED and the Arc performance platform to support this and the rapid scaling of existing building improvement. USGBC has launched a number of new initiatives supplementing LEED that will tackle how our cities and communities adapt to a changing climate, how we can use our collective power to begin regenerating our world and how we as an industry can take a proactive stance in the fight for equity, improvement and regeneration to make our world a better, safer and healthier place for future generations.

USGBC Equity. Green building and social equity go hand in hand, and we know that addressing and emphasizing sustainability through green building can provide communities with resources and access to opportunities that can help them reach their full potential. USGBC Equity is a new initiative that will highlight and bring attention to the broad spectrum of work that USGBC and its community members are doing around social equity and will help elevate the organization’s equity activities in the future. Launching in 2020, USGBC will create an Equity Leadership Committee, a group of volunteers and staff who will work to integrate and advance social equity across the organization. The committee’s mission is to inspire everyone to address the human needs and aspirations of all populations in buildings, communities and cities.

LEED Positive. During the Future of LEED education session at Greenbuild, USGBC announced LEED Positive, a vision statement and LEED development roadmap that will lay the foundation for a future of LEED that is regenerative. The world faces staggering challenges through 2050 in terms of water scarcity, air quality, resilience and climate change. To help address these issues, the LEED Positive vision will guide USGBC in transitioning LEED from strategies that reduce the harm done by buildings to strategies that cause no harm and use buildings as tools to repair and heal the environment.

Better Materials. At Greenbuild in 2018, USGBC announced a strategic partnership with the Health Product Declaration Collaborative dedicated to scaling the practice for better transparency of the health of materials. This year, to help advance this practice, USGBC launched a platform called Better Materials, which streamlines the search for building materials, and also is designed to simplify the LEED review process for material credits. This platform, powered by UL Spot, GIGA and Ecomedes, will allow LEED project teams to search through thousands of products and materials, access documentation on these in one place, and identify which have been verified for LEED documentation. Product manufacturers, on the other hand, will be able to organize their product documentation in one place by leveraging one of the partner’s platforms or working with GBCI to obtain verification for LEED documentation status.

USGBC Insight. Insight is a new data-driven feature to help green building projects prioritize sustainability strategies and improve building performance. Insight is available as a feature of the Arc platform and provides information on the design attributes of LEED certified buildings within a specified geographic region. Project teams can then compare and rank potential sustainability strategies to see how they stack up against the performance of other buildings. The ability to consider the impact of strategies and decisions will help building teams be more effective in tracking sustainability performance and progress. Insight supports teams pursuing LEED certification, as well as projects that are already certified, but are committed to maintaining a high level of performance or seeking recertification.

Twenty-five years ago, there was no way to know if a building was truly green and no agreed upon guidelines to help those who wanted to build green. Now, we are fortunate to have the opportunity to gather thousands of like-minded individuals from around the world trying to make the places and structures where we spend the majority of our time as healthy and environmentally friendly as possible. By the next Greenbuild, taking place in San Diego in November, the implementation of these new strategies and programs will help guide us in how we build, maintain and interact with green buildings in the coming decade.

Featured in CREJ’s January 2020 Property Management Quarterly

Edited by the Colorado Real Estate Journal staff.