LEED-certified means a green building
by David Tanza and Debbie
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
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 www.buildingreen.com
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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