Vol. 82, No. 6, June 2009
To assess the opportunities and risks associated with green development, one must understand a few key terms.
- Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of present users without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, in other words, not robbing from the future.
- Green buildings are structures that more efficiently use valuable resources such as energy, water, materials, and land. Compared to buildings constructed by following traditional building codes, green buildings use fewer resources and are more likely to provide healthy, comfortable, productive indoor spaces.
- LEED™ certification is another key term in the green building process. LEED™ (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a rating system that began in 2000 and is based on accepted energy and environmental principles that strive to strike a balance between proven practices and emerging concepts. Points are allocated to particular categories such as water efficiency, energy consumption, indoor environmental quality, and innovations in design and operations. LEED certification is based on a paper review and not an on-site inspection. The certification levels include bronze, silver, gold, and platinum, depending on the number of points allocated to the project. Non-LEED certifications (such as Energy Star) are not as stringent or as cumbersome as the LEED process can be. As a result, non-LEED certifications are more common for green buildings than the LEED designation. For example, based on September 2008 USGBC statistics, there are more than 4,100 buildings that have an Energy Star® rating, but there are only 1,753 LEED-certified buildings in the United States.