REEN buildings and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) have become popular buzzwords in the construction and design industry. The dramatic increase in fuel and energy costs plus the needed discussion surrounding climate change have pushed the environment into the fore front of public consciousness. Even those that are not concerned with their environmental impact are now interested in energy use because of the impact on the financial bottom line.
At the outset, it is important to understand exactly what is meant by green building. Green building promotes building practices that conserve energy and water resources, preserve open spaces and are accessible to public transportation. The common definition of green referred to as “sustainable building” is twofold. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Green building is defined as the practice of “increasing the efficiency with which buildings and their site use and harvest energy, water and materials.” Green Building also includes the practice of “protecting and restoring human health and the environment, throughout the building life-cycle: sitting, design, construction, operation maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.
In 1998, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a non profit coalition of building industry leaders launched the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) voluntary rating system. LEED establishes criteria for green or sustainable buildings by evaluating the location, design, construction and operational aspects of buildings. The LEED rating system allows for four potential categories of certification. These categories are LEED Certified; LEED Silver; LEED Gold; and LEED Platinum.
The LEED standards have become the most widely recognized measure for green design and building in the United States. The USGBC has defined LEED as the nationally accepted standards for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. The LEED program has done a great deal to transform the industry in a very positive way and is a great tool in achieving and recognizing green buildings. LEED gives contractors and suppliers measurable standards to assess a buildings performance. The LEED standards are also being adopted by federal agencies, states, city and local governments as the standard for construction for municipal facilities and other government projects.
The LEED standards recognize five key areas of human and environmental health to be considered in building and construction:
- sustainable site development
- water savings
- energy efficiency
- material selection
- indoor environmental quality
Currently LEED standards are not mandatory. However some government agencies have implemented incentive programs, tax benefits for following LEED standards and adopting a green approach to building. It is expected that LEED standards will eventually be written into building codes and are expected to become the industry standard for residential and commercial construction projects.
For more information on LEED visit www.usgbc.org.
According to Wikipedia, many local governments have adopted LEED incentive programs. These include tax credits, density bonuses, reduced fees, priority or expedited permitting, free or lower cost technical assistance, grants and low-interest loans.
Currently, the state of NH does not offer any state-wide incentives to project owners who build GREEN.
Cartoon of the Month