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LEED's Reach Grows Despite Grim Economy, But Slower Than Hoped

<p>'s fourth annual Green Buildings Market &amp; Impact report finds continued growth in certified green buildings, especially overseas, as the business benefits of green buildings become more widely accepted.</p>

LEED registration soars overseas and continues to edge upward in the United States, but growth seems to be slowing, prompting a concern that progress in green building must accelerate mightily to counter the threats posed by climate change, according to the latest Green Building Market and Impact Report. released the report today by green building expert Rob Watson, a senior contributor to GreenBiz and the founding chairman of the LEED Steering Committee.

report coverThe data-rich study by Watson, his fourth annual report in a series that began in 2008, charts the progress of registration and certification under the market-leading green building rating and assessment system, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards of the U.S. Green Building Council.

Here are some of the key findings in Watson's new report:

  • LEED certification to reach 2 billion square feet soon. It took about 10 years for LEED to hit the 1-billion mark, but certification is expected to reach 2 billion square feet in 2012.
  • Overall growth seen, but not as much or as fast previous years. Registration domestically and abroad grew 45 percent, "though not quite up to the levels of the three-year "bubble" of LEED registrations between 2007 and 2009," Watson found.
  • Market penetration is climbing, with impressive international growth. LEED registrations rose by 53 percent overseas and 39 percent in the United States in the past year.
  • Certifications continue to be another story. Certifications, the number of projects that complete the ratings process, are hovering around the 35 percent level and grew by just under 3 percent in the past year. "Although LEED certification grew by 2.6 percent overall compared with last year's record -- indeed, more than a third of all LEED floor area ever certified in the history of the system was certified in 2011 -- we were expecting more," Watson said in his report.

Despite the mixed results from this year's research, Watson said during a webcast today that it does show progress and promise for the future of green buildings.

"Green building is becoming statistially significant," Watson said. "In the past, we've had a hard time proving the business case [for LEED certification]."

Now, what it comes down to, he continued, is "if you're not making more money with your green building, you need a new marketing department. Similarly, if you're not getting your green building coming in at zero-cost -- or very low single-digit extra costs -- then you probably need a new design team as well."

Designing green buildings and retrofitting existing structures can go along toward combatting climate change. Below is a projection of how greener buildings can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from energy use :

co2 savings

Next page: LEED Buildings' water impacts, plus results of a green building survey

The report tracks LEED buildings' current and future impacts along a wide range of metrics, from CO2 to the amount of construction waste diverted, to reductions in miles traveled for commuters, and many more.

Graphic by Seth FieldsAlthough the impacts of LEED standards on water use increased over last year's impacts, growth was not as high as hoped, although the savings are significant, as shown in the chart to the right.

Publication of the Green Building Market and Impact Report coincided with the release of results from a survey on the public's perception of sustainable facilities. The Harris survey sponsored by Sealed Air's Diversey business found that:

  • 69 percent of U.S. adults would prefer to work in a facility that's certified by a third-party environmental organization.
  • 64 percent would prefer to patronize a business in a facility that holds such certification.
  • 49 percent said they feel better about doing business with such a company.
  • 48 percent said third-party environmental certification of a faclity improves their image of a company.

Diversey detailed the results during the webcast today on "The State and Impacts of Green Buildings." Watson's report can be downloaded for free from; and he discusses his report and analysis in the webcast, which took place this morning and will be archived by GreenBiz. Both resources are complimentary with registration.

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