Twelve years later: LEED rating system a global phenomenon

October 1, 2012

The energy efficient buildings industry has expanded rapidly in the past several decades, thanks in large part to a certification system that helps to provide businesses and property owners with an idea of how green the given structure actually is.

While the creation of more green buildings was likely to occur without the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system, it helps to provide a benchmark for the industry and has motivated companies around the world to enact specific changes.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, the program was started 12 years ago by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and it has grown into a powerful brand and a global phenomenon.

There are now 14,044 LEED-certified commercial projects, covering more than 2 billion square feet in 140 countries. There are currently another 34,601 projects in the pipeline, a number that is likely to increase in the near future.

Although the LEED label was once just a placard for a building, it has become one of the most sought-after certifications across all industries.

"Green building is not a curiosity anymore – it's a huge market," said Aditya Ranade, a senior analyst with Lux Research in Boston. "The green building sector will be a $280 billion global industry by the end of the decade. LEED is dominant around the world, but there are other standards. Malaysia has its own Green Building Index, and China has developed its own three-star-rating system."

The ranking system tends to cover all types of commercial buildings, with different colors being given to projects that fulfill different amounts of the requirements than others.

Unlike some other projects in the green energy industry, the LEED program is constantly evolving. This helps it to adjust to changing markets and creates a more sustainable framework off of which to work.

"In order for LEED to be relevant, it has to evolve," said green building council spokeswoman Ashley Katz. "In 2000, people didn't know what low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint was. Now it's what everyone uses."

This type of success with a government-led effort is exactly what the U.S. Department of Energy tried to foster with its Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub). This consortium of institutions from academia, government, the private sector and energy development industries is located in Philadelphia and is using the building stock of the city to help design, test and develop new technologies.