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USGBC Announces Expansion of LEED Earth

Friday, March 5, 2021

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The U.S. Green Building Council announced earlier this week that it is expanding its LEED Earth campaign to homes, communities and cities around the world. LEED Earth is designed to bring LEED to countries where green building is still emerging.

The program offers certification at no cost to the first project in an area to certify. USGBC is now also extending LEED Earth benefits to the first LEED Platinum project in any country to certify using LEED v4.1. New projects became eligible for consideration this month.

“LEED is a global language and a catalyst for change. We are committed to bringing LEED to every country to make it accessible to as many people as possible, while also continuing to foster innovation and achievement in existing global markets,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, President and CEO of the USGBC.

“With the expansion of LEED Earth to LEED for Residential, LEED for Cities and Communities and Platinum LEED v4.1 projects, we can accelerate our healthy economy strategy and truly fulfill our vision of raising the living standard for people around the globe.”


The U.S. Green Building Council announced earlier this week that it is expanding its LEED Earth campaign to homes, communities and cities around the world. LEED Earth is designed to bring LEED to countries where green building is still emerging.

Launched in 2013, LEED Earth has enabled significant global growth of green building, taking LEED from 140 countries to nearly 200 today, according to the Council. LEED Earth’s goal is to incentivize project teams in countries where green building is not as prevalent and encourages them to take steps and adopt better building, construction and operations practices.

“The economic, health and environmental challenges we are facing are substantial and now is the time for project teams around the world to take steps to curb emissions, enhance resilience and support health, especially within our most vulnerable populations,” added Ramanujam. “LEED provides the framework that will help companies, communities and governments make progress toward those goals.”

Recent USGBC News

Bringing things back to the U.S., the Council released its annual Top 10 States for LEED list at the beginning of last month for the year 2020. Massachusetts led the country with the most certified square feet per capita.

The USGBC noted that this review of the top states showed that more than 60% of the certifications were for office, healthcare, higher education and K-12 projects. And, in addition to the Top 10 cities for projects, the council also ranked states with the most LEED professionals, with California taking the lead in that category.

Transforming the building sector to be more sustainable requires a skilled and knowledgeable workforce. This workforce is contributing to the development and advocacy of LEED and is being quickly embraced by the next generation workforce and decision makers. Because of this, USGBC is also releasing an additional Top 10 list recognizing states with the most LEED green building professionals. The top 10 list of states and their respective total number of credential holders are as follows.

  1. California – 26,906
  2. New York – 12,575
  3. Texas – 10,474
  4. Florida – 9,694
  5. Illinois – 8,640
  6. Massachusetts – 6,901
  7. Virginia – 6,612
  8. Colorado – 6,393
  9. Washington – 5,968
  10. Pennsylvania – 5,852

The Top 10 States for LEED green building list is based on gross square feet of certified space per person using 2010 U.S. Census data, and includes commercial and institutional projects certified in 2020. The top 10 states and their respective GSF per capita are as follows.

  1. Massachusetts – 2.91
  2. Washington – 2.82
  3. Illinois – 2.61
  4. Colorado – 2.35
  5. New York – 2.28
  6. Maryland – 2.23
  7. California – 2.12
  8. Virginia – 2.05
  9. Texas – 1.66
  10. Nevada – 1.34

The council noted that more than two-thirds of LEED credits support human health, as the rating system addresses ventilation and filtration, daylighting, low-emitting materials, access to outdoor spaces, acoustics and other key factors. And the USGBC pointed out that, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it introduced Safety First guidance to address operational challenges and assist with each state’s re-entry planning.

LEED Pandemic Response

The credits in general were first announced last May, when the USGBC announced its economic recovery strategy “Healthy People in Healthy Places Equals a Healthy Economy,” which aims to “leverage LEED and the community implementing the rating system to support buildings and communities in a post-pandemic world.”

At the time, the council also announced that it would be taking the following actions:

  • Form CEO Advisory Councils - USGBC will form Regional CEO Advisory Councils to advise and support USGBC’s CEO on how the organization, its programs and the building and construction industries can prioritize sustainability in a post-pandemic world;
  • Accelerate USGBC Equity - Announced at Greenbuild Atlanta in 2019, USGBC will accelerate the implementation of its USGBC Equity program to better address the social, health and economic disparities within communities;
  • Call for ideas - USGBC will launch a call for ideas this week to hear perspectives from the broader market on how LEED and healthy spaces can evolve given the current public health crisis;
  • Adapt review process - GBCI, the certifying body for LEED and other green business certification programs, will amend its LEED review process immediately to incorporate the lessons learned over the last two months from COVID-19, to ensure projects that are currently undergoing LEED certification can dynamically transition and make their spaces healthier; and
  • Publish guidance reports - USGBC will publish a series of best practice guidance reports to help project teams assist their occupants as they reenter their spaces.

“We know that LEED is the key to a prosperous future,” said Ramanujam. “Sustainability is central to creating jobs, saving energy and saving money, all of which are part of the backbone of a strong economy. But strong economies must also support the people who make them run. Going forward, we will prioritize our efforts to build trust in people that their buildings and spaces are healthy and positively impacting their communities.”

The first credits were released in June, along with a set of tools that professionals can use to analyze buildings.

The original set of credits included:

  • Safety First: Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Space credit - requires facilities to create a policy and implement procedures that follow green cleaning best practices that support a healthy indoor environment and worker safety. The credit also requires procedures and training for cleaning personnel, occupant education and other services that are within a management team’s control.
  • Safety First: Re-Enter Your Workspace credit - a tool to assess and plan for re-entry, as well as measure progress once a space is occupied. It identifies sustainable requirements in building operations and human behavior that take precautions against the spread of COVID-19 and aligns with the American Institute of Architects’ Re-occupancy Assessment Tool.
  • Safety First: Building Water System Recommissioning credit - helps building teams reduce the risk that occupants are exposed to degraded water quality and integrates recommendations from industry organizations and experts, including the U.S. EPA and CDC, and requires buildings to develop and implement a water management plan, coordinate with local water and public health authorities, communicate water system activities and associated risks to building occupants and take steps to address water quality from the community supply, as well as the building.
  • Safety First: Managing Indoor Air Quality During COVID-19 credit - builds on existing indoor air quality requirements and credits in LEED. Building teams should ensure indoor air quality systems are operating as designed and determine temporary adjustments to ventilation that may minimize the spread of COVID-19 through the air. The guidance also encourages monitoring and evaluating indoor air quality on an ongoing basis.

In July, the USGBC released two new Safety First pilot credits: “Safety First: Pandemic Planning” and “Safety First: Social Equity in Pandemic Planning.”

The Pandemic Planning credit is intended to help cities and communities prepare for, control and mitigate the spread of disease during a pandemic that poses a high risk to people. The plan must:

  • Include a task force representing diverse backgrounds that is responsible for evaluating possible impacts and advising decision makers on short- and long-term challenges;
  • Identify risks and vulnerabilities to health by outlining historical, geographical, epidemiological and other factors and assess preparedness;
  • Evaluate healthcare system readiness, domestic response, incident management and other existing policies and procedures; and
  • Include education and training for community partners and other stakeholders.

The Social Equity credit, meanwhile, systematically considers equity implications across all phases of the pandemic preparedness, planning and response process. Plans must:

  • Have a local equity officer in place and responsible for building equity into the structure of the emergency command and response system;
  • Convene a Pandemic Community Advisory Group to gather input on an on-going basis and the group must reflect the demographic and socio-economic diversity of the city or community;
  • Include public communications, outreach and educational campaigns in order to share relevant information about the pandemic, public health and healthcare facilities available; and
  • Demonstrate how policy, procedures, infrastructure and facilities impact low income, vulnerable or at-risk groups.

“LEED has long supported resilience planning and the new Safety First pilot credits expand those efforts to ensure local governments and development authorities are also planning for and considering public health threats and social equity challenges,” the USGBC said. “As projects pursue the new credits, USGBC will collect feedback and refine the guidance.”

In October, the council followed up and reported at the time that more than 130 LEED projects had engaged its Safety First pilot credits in support of “healthy reopening plans in response to the pandemic.”

USGBC said that the more than 130 projects pursuing the credits represent 20 different countries and territories. The council said that the credits are being used by commercial interior, new construction and existing building projects and have included offices, data centers, schools, retail and hospitality projects.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Good Technical Practice; Green building; Latin America; LEED; LEED v4; North America; United States Green Building Council (USGBC); Z-Continents

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