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A LEEDing Statistic

Elizabeth Baldwin

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) released some statistics earlier this year, looking at the number of LEED projects in 2011. The chart of LEED-certified commercial and institutional green buildings per capita that they provided is below:

This was heralded as great news and a significant statistic. I quote from the press release:"Looking past the bricks and mortar, people are at the heart of what buildings are all about," said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair, USGBC. "Examining the per capita value of LEED square footage in these states allows us to focus on what matters most-the human element of green buildings."

I don't actually see the human element here in their choice to sort the data "per capita." Washington, D.C., has a relatively small residential presence but plenty of public and commercial buildings that are going to be seeking either tax credits or the public relations value of becoming LEED certified. How many of these projects in D.C. (and also those in Maryland and Virginia, whose numbers I suspect are also top-heavy with Beltway building) are actually places where people live?

To me, this doesn't talk about the general public's awareness of LEED or a recognition of a value in LEED certification or the availability/suitability of LEED to a residential building. I would like to see statistics regarding the amount of LEED certification for publicly supported buildings, for private projects, for residential projects. Were these hotels, offices, or government buildings? Remodels or new construction? And I'm very curious how many projects/buildings these represent-rather than tell me a 'per capita' statistic, tell me how many square feet per project-does this number represent the construction of 100, 1,000, or 10,000 LEED projects?

Everyone knows that California aggressively supports green building programs, so that state's lead in LEED footage isn't a surprise to anyone. And New York has NYC with all that construction there. What I think is great is Texas's position on the chart. And how about Illinois? I'd love to know why those two states are going so strong compared to everyone else.

And wouldn't it be interesting to see a report looking at how most buildings gain certification? What are people valuing in LEED or perhaps more accurately, what are the most accessible credits (now that they've removed the point for putting in a bike rack?) Are most credits claimed for energy use? Water savings? Recycled material? Air quality? I suspect credits for wood material usage are pretty minimal-wouldn't it be interesting to see how many of these projects got a credit at all for wood use? What percentage of the nearly 300 million square feet of building represented here recognized the incredible and inherent green nature of wood?  

P.S. Just thought I'd note I wasn't the only one to question this. When I went Googling for more information, I discovered that this stat has been nominated for the year's silly statistic.

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