In June of 2012, I looked at some LEED numbers and asked a lot of questions about how they did their statistics. Most of those questions remain unanswered today.

The USGBC recently announced their 2014 numbers, boasting a worldwide count for 2014 of 4,502 certified projects, representing 675.7 million square feet. Impressive indeed and clearly they still remain the major player in green certification—both in the U.S. and abroad. (If you check the link, you’ll see a related story talking about 883 million square feet being done in India alone.)

But after I read this announcement, I went back to my older post and looked at the news of three years ago. The text of the two announcements was almost the same: In 2015,  Rick Fedrizzi feels that “Every story about a green building is a story about people,” while in 2012 he noted that, "Looking past the bricks and mortar, people are at the heart of what buildings are all about." That’s fine and true enough (and there really is only so many soundbites you can come up with, I get that) but my issues are that a real analysis of these numbers isn’t being done. I look at these numbers and note that:

Once again, DC has the highest per capita certified footage, with the same number of projects being done as the official No. 2 state on the list, and more square footage than six of the top ten states. Since the District is not really a residential area, this again points out that LEED is unofficially subsidized by government/public buildings.

To me, boasting that Georgia and Arizona are on the list, giving the impression that LEED is welcomed in the South, is misleading (misLEEDing?).

California once again has both the greatest number of actual projects certified, just slightly under the top four states combined, and the most footage, with a footage figure just under the top three combined. Yet, because California’s population is so great, they place 7th on the footage per capita list. Since we know California largely leads the green movement, I think this makes the program actually seem stronger by trying to minimize it. To me, boasting that Georgia and Arizona are on the list, giving the impression that LEED is welcomed in the South, is misleading (misLEEDing?). I also want to know more about the distribution of certification by city.

Now the state of New York, tied for number 10, is third in actual footage covered—I'd also like to see the numbers city vs. state: how much of that is in NYC vs. the entire state? NYC has a population close to that of Minnesota, which placed 9th—I'm thinking if we looked just at NYC, they'd beat the entire state out... If so, does that mean that LEED is really a nationwide program, or is it still something that’s really just for the big cities—high-end apartments and public projects like college buildings, museums, and government offices?

The author I linked to last time I looked at this post nominated this statistic as one of the silliest around. (He offered the great line that, “As far as useless statistics go, “square feet of LEED-certified space per capita” is right up there with “strip clubs per capita.’” He then backed off and suggested that the strip club stat might be more useful!) Well, he’s posted again on the list, this time a more serious look at the legitimate business opportunities this represents. If you want to analyze this a bit more in terms of what it might mean for your business, check out his post

As for me? I think 4,500 projects is definitely a significant number. Over half a billion square feet is absolutely impressive. But if they want me to really look at what these numbers mean for the program and the overall demand and recognition of the value of green building in the entire nation, let’s start digging into the data and trying to understand it. Don’t greenwash the green growth!

(Oh, and as a quick reminder, comment on the Federal Government’s acceptance/use of LEED v4 before March 23.)

Elizabeth Baldwin has over 20 years of international wood sourcing experience. Very widely traveled, her résumé's "Special Skills" section includes "the ability to eat anything from raw horse to deep-fried scorpion." She serves as Metropolitan Hardwood Flooring's (metrofloors.com) ECO (Environmental Compliance Officer) and deals daily with the "green alphabet soup" of today's industry: FSC, CARB, LEED, and much more. She blogs for Hardwood Floors on all things green (and, as she says, " 'grey' and 'blue' and almost every color except 'black and white.' Nothing in this world is black and white, particularly not 'green issues.'")