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Group Announces Top Green Building States

Rendering of the Cooper Vineyards in Louisa
The Commonwealth of Virginia ranked second only to the District of Columbia in the USGBC’s ranking of states with the greatest amount of LEED-certified square footage constructed per capita in 2012. One of the more remarkable projects in the state is the Cooper Vineyards in Louisa, which rely on the sun for both growth and electricity via photovoltaic panels. Cooper is the first winery on the East Coast and the second in the country to be awarded a platinum-level LEED certification. U.S. Department of Agriculture

The U.S Green Building Council has released its annual list of states leading in LEED certification, revealing a continued building slump.

February 5, 2013—The District of Columbia, Virginia, and Colorado had the most new LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications in 2012 when measured as commercial and institutional building square footage per capita, according to the annual top states list released in January by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The District of Columbia leads the list by far, with 36.97 sq ft per capita.

The USGBC list and the per capita figures are: 1, District of Columbia with 36.97; 2, Virginia with 3.71; 3, Colorado with 2.10; 4, Massachusetts with 2.05; 5, Illinois with 1.94; 6, Maryland with 1.90; 7, New York with 1.77; 8, Washington with 1.56; 9, California with 1.46; 10, Texas with 1.43; and 11, Nevada with 1.39.

Although the order shifted, the states on the list are largely unchanged from 2011. Only the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Massachusetts saw their annual square footage of LEED-certified space increase in 2012. Reflecting a weak construction economy, several states on the list saw significant declines in added LEED-certified space in 2012. This year, 53 percent of new LEED certifications were for renovations and remodeling in existing buildings.

Although the list reflects a group of states with large cities and a high number of buildings per capita, it is far from a reflection of the most populous states. Environmentally conscious California, the most populous state, sits at ninth on the USGBC list. Nevada, the 35th most populous state in the nation, is 11th on the USGBC list. Several other factors propel states onto the list, according to Lane Burt, the director of technical policy for the USGBC.  

 Rendering of Atlantic Wharf, displaying offices, retail, and urban lofts on Boston's Waterfront

Atlantic Wharf, a mixed-use complex with offices, retail, and
urban lofts on Boston’s Waterfront, received a LEED platinum
rating in 2012. Massachusetts was the fourth state in the nation
in new LEED-certified space, when measured as square footage
per capita. © Anton Grassi/Esto

“You also have to have a real estate industry that is aggressive, progressive, and broad in scope,” Burt says. “A lot of folks who own those buildings in those top 11 areas are also big owners around the country. They are doing a lot of building improvements—buying and selling a lot of buildings. And they want them to be up to their institutional standards, and LEED is often a part of that. “

The USGBC has a volume program for large property owners such as Bank of America, Best Buy, Citi, HBSC, Starbucks, Marriott, GNC, Kohl’s, and Target, Burt says. This volume program, the same or very similar designs don’t need to be proven each time. 

“We tried to make sure that we are not the barrier to green building,” Burt says. “We verify what these companies are doing and after that, get out of the way. If you are building and renovating a lot of similar buildings, you don’t necessarily prove out the design every time. There are just certain things we need to check to make sure everything is done properly.”

Another key factor in the composition of the list is a local environment that embraces the concepts behind LEED, Burt says.

“You have an environment where, whether because of incentives or expedited permitting or otherwise, LEED is seen as a good thing by the city and the folks who work in it,” Burt says. “Therefore, it’s encouraged, or at least not discouraged.”

Virginia is by far the top state on the list, with a square footage per capita of 3.71 compared to 2.10 for third-place Colorado. Governor Bob McDonnell praised the efforts of the state’s design and construction industry for the success.

“Today’s ranking is a validation of the tremendous effort of Virginia’s architects and builders to design and renovate building spaces to be more energy-efficient,” said McDonnell in a press release announcing the achievement. “Last year, I signed into law the High Performance Building Act, which ensures that state public building design, construction and renovation now meets the LEED green building standard as well. It is good for the environment, good for our bottom line, and good for business.”

“One of the interesting things you can’t say about this list is that it’s not necessarily red states or blue states,” Burt says. “It’s a good mix. So it’s not ideologically driven, it’s market driven. That’s very encouraging.”  


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