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   Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

LEED-certified means a green building

by David Tanza and Debbie Bulger

There has been considerable discussion at recent Santa Cruz City Council meetings about requiring some new building projects to be LEED certified. Just what is a LEED-certified building? LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
The LEED Green Building Rating System, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. LEED provide a scorecard for evaluating the sustainability of a building. Based on well-founded scientific standards, LEED examines sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality, among other criteria.

Building "green" does not mean that energy-efficiency features are simply added to the developed design, but rather the LEED process integrates energy-efficient design, resource-efficient construction methods, and energy and water efficiency and more. It is a whole-building approach.

Specific design and building practices earn points toward four levels of certification: certified, silver, gold and platinum.

For example, projects receive points for using a sustainable site rather than prime farmland, being located 100 feet or more from creeks or other water, being near public transit, including features which reduce automobile dependency, and minimizing impervious surfaces so rainwater will not run off, but will return to the water table.

Other features which earn credits include using captured rain water or recycled water for landscape irrigation, installing waterless urinals and water-efficient fixtures, installing a renewable energy system such as solar or wind power for part of the energy needs of the building, using recycled building materials, and diverting construction waste from the landfill.

Although some features of a green building may cost more than standard features (e.g. energy-efficient windows), their use may reduce the entire building cost because other elements such as the heating/cooling system can be downsized or eliminated. Other changes might cost more up front but reduce operating costs during the life of the building.

According to researchers at The Worldwatch Institute, an independent, non-profit environmental research organization based in Washington, D.C., it is estimated that worldwide building construction and operations account for over 40 percent of the world's total energy consumption. How we choose to build has enormous effects on our environment, health, economy, and sense of community. Green building addresses problems such as "sick" buildings, traffic congestion and global warming.

For more info visit or

David J. Tanza, AIA, CCM, is a Principal at Strategic Construction Management. He is a LEED-Accredited professional.

Debbie Bulger is the editor of The Ventana.

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