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Are Green Builders Moving Beyond LEED?

green colored pencil

With the North American green building sector moving into the mainstream, conventional design and construction practices are quickly becoming synonymous with green ideals.

According to the recent Green Building Market Barometer report by US construction company Turner Construction Co., while green building is on the rise, particularly among businesses, interest in the US Green Building Council’s formal Leadership in Energy and Energy Design (LEED) is down.

The report surveyed approximately 700 industry professionals on their green building views and found that, while motivations such as doing ‘the right thing’ and cutting costs offered incentives to follow green design, development and running practices, they were not enough to incite them to garner LEED certification.

According to the recorded statistics, the percentage of executives looking to gain LEED certification for their business has fallen from the 61 per cent saying they were ‘very likely’ or ‘extremely likely’ to do so in 2008 to 48 per cent making the same claims now.

Turner Construction vice president and chief sustainability officer Michael Deane said the shift away from LEED certification centres on a newfound confidence in the sector, with businesses relying on their own standards and catering to their own unique criteria first.

leed 2012

“We’ve seen from our own work and the continuing growth of the green building market that in spite of this reduction in enthusiasm for LEED certification, respondents are still building green,” he said. “While some respondents are relying on their own standards or are considering another rating system, LEED certification remains the most widely used third party verification of achievement that is recognized by consumers and that can be used to market and promote a property.”

Though many executives understand that green building is the right thing to do, they are more motivated in practice by economic rather than environmental factors, as exemplified by a focus on energy reduction measures rather than water conservation.

“Energy efficiency figures prominently in the decision-making process of green building primarily because of its large economic impact,” Deane said. “Water efficiency in Green construction was seen as less important. This is in spite of a growing awareness that water is a finite resource, both in its operational use and its role in the production of goods and materials. While the direct economic impact of water efficiency is less than the savings on energy, its environmental impact is quite significant.”

It stands to reason also, that the costs associated with LEED certification to detract from the US green building authority rating. So while green building continues to boom, the sway of the LEED title fails to impress as it once did, with businesses moving beyond recognition as a motivator, to truly finding value in these green building practices.

By Emily D’Alterio
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