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Green Buildings Continue Impressive Growth, New Market Study Finds

Green building activity has sustained impressive growth during 2009, amid a brutal construction market that has decimated other segments of the construction marketplace, according to the 2009 Green Building Market & Impact Report published today by

According to report author Rob Watson, floor area registered and certified by the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED green building rating system in 2009 is estimated to grow by over 40 percent compared to last year's totals, for a cumulative total of over 7 billion square feet worldwide since the standard was launched in 2000.

The square footage of LEED-certified office space, now and through 2030. Art by Seth Fields. Click for full-sized.
LEED square footage

The annual report, which can be freely downloaded at, assesses the environmental impacts of green building as well as its impact on the overall building market. It found that while dramatic declines in 2009 U.S. new non-residential construction might result in construction starts dipping below the one billion square foot mark for the first time in many years, registrations of LEED new construction projects in the U.S. are expected to exceed 1 billion square feet.

"There may be a 'lifeboat effect' at work, where the market is jumping to the hot trend in the hopes of dodging the economic bullet," said Watson, who served as the U.S. Green Building Council's national LEED Steering Committee Chairman between 1994 and 2005. "Somewhat reflecting this, membership in the USGBC is stronger than forecast, expecting to grow over 10 percent and top 20,000 for the first time, compared with a predicted 3 percent decrease."

On the environmental front, Watson notes, "Overall, LEED's green impact shows some impressive numbers, but relative to the problem still is not providing sufficient contribution to halting unmanageable climate change."

Among the report's key findings:

• The estimate of reduced vehicle miles traveled (VMT) has grown to 780 million VMT to date versus 400 million in 2008. By 2030, the annual gasoline savings are expected to equal current U.S. imports from the Middle East.

• Total water savings from LEED through 2009 is estimated at 15 billion gallons, comprising 0.5 percent of annual non-residential water use. By 2030, LEED results in nearly 1.3 trillion gallons of saved water, equivalent to 30 percent of current annual non-residential water use.

• Annual carbon dioxide savings from LEED buildings is approximately 2.9 million tons from energy efficiency and renewables, a figure that is expected to grow to 130 million tons per year by 2020 and almost 320 million tons annually by 2030.

• Based on average materials costs, green building materials represented approximately $7 billion in cumulative spending through 2009, which is expected to reach a cumulative $230 billion by 2030. Moreover, the embodied energy in buildings that are renovated instead of demolished is expected to save as much energy in 2030 as we import this year from Saudi Arabia. In addition, an average of over 60 percent of construction and demolition waste was diverted from LEED projects, totaling 25 million tons to date.

• An average of at least 580,000 employees are currently enjoying improved indoor environments in LEED buildings at present, and the "green building workforce" is expected to approach 29 million by 2020 and almost 64 million by 2030. The productivity benefits from LEED buildings to date range from $230 to $450 million.

The report also assesses the impact of green building outside the United States. According to Watson, non-U.S. green building reached nearly 800 million square feet of registered projects in 2009, representing more than a fourth of all project square footage. Non-U.S. LEED projects could show a 30 percent increase in registration this year, thanks in large part to green building booms in China, India, and the Middle East. Green building is also growing quickly in Europe, notably Germany and Italy.

The 2009 Green Building Market & Impact Report can be downloaded for free at

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