U.S. Green Building Council Maryland Promotes a Sustainable Built Environment
Global climate change represents a profound challenge for the built environment, especially as buildings account for an estimated one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. But it also represents a tremendous opportunity for how buildings are designed, construction and operated. Through the use of LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, U.S. Green Building Council Maryland (USGBC Maryland) is transforming the way we design, build and operate buildings and communities by promoting sustainable practices at the local level.
LEED was developed to address all buildings everywhere, regardless of where they are in their life cycle. From hospitals to data centers, from historical buildings to those still in the design phase, there is a LEED for every building with specific ratings systems for: building design and construction; interior design and construction; building operations and maintenance; neighborhood development; and homes. Through LEED, projects earn points across several areas that address sustainability issues and based on the number of points achieved, projects receive a rating level of Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. LEED-certified spaces are resource efficient and use less energy and water resources; save money for families, businesses and taxpayers; reduce carbon emissions; and create a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.
There is a LEED project in more than 160 countries and territories and 1.85 million square feet certified per day. Just this year, Maryland was recognized as second in the nation for LEED certified buildings in 2015, according to USGBC’s annual rankings, with a total certified 127 projects representing 17,659,881 square feet of real estate, or 3.06 square feet per resident. The annual rankings, now in its sixth year, is developed by analyzing each state in terms of square feet of LEED certified space per state resident. The rankings highlight Maryland’s efforts across all building sectors and at all phases of development to be more sustainable.
In fact, Annapolis, Md., is home to the first LEED Platinum project for new construction, the Philip Merrill Environmental Center, which was certified in 2001. Owned and operated by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Merrill Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to resource restoration and environmental advocacy and education. First in the world to achieve LEED Platinum designation, the building was constructed with cutting-edge features to reduce energy and water use, like passive solar power, composting toilets and a rainwater catchment system. Inspiring and educating countless projects since, the center is a landmark of the green building movement and a powerful case study in how to build with minimal environmental impact.
In addition, Baltimore City is home to four LEED Platinum buildings, including the University of Baltimore’s John and Frances Angelos Law Center and the recently certified Center for Parks & People at Auchentoroly Terrace. This latest project includes a significant amount of space available for public use with teaching labs, reading rooms, community event space, seminar rooms, demonstration gardens, a community composting center and new bike and walking paths.
Green construction is also an economic driver in Maryland and across the United States. Data from the USGBC’s 2015 “Green Building Economic Impact Study” shows LEED construction is expected to support 110,000 total jobs in Maryland alone and have a total impact on GDP of $9.64 billion from 2015-2018. Nationwide, the green building sector is outpacing overall construction growth in the United States and accounted for more than 2.3 million American jobs in 2015. By 2018, the study found, green construction will account for more than 3.3 million U.S. jobs – more than one-third of the entire U.S. construction sector – and generate $190.3 billion in labor earnings. The industry’s direct contribution to GDP is also expected to reach $303.5 billion from 2015-2018. Total state earnings related to LEED building construction projects are estimated to total $8.4 billion by 2018.
The motivation for green building goes beyond environmental or economic considerations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that most Americans spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors. As more connections are being made between the built environment and occupant health and satisfaction, studies are showing that improved indoor environmental quality of office buildings can increase employee performance and reduce absenteeism, especially for those with asthma or other respiratory conditions. Schools and educational facilities are another key area of focus for the potential for green buildings to improve occupant health. There are currently building standards in Maryland at state and local levels that require new buildings and major renovations for schools and other state funded projects be built to a minimum set of green building standards.
Locally, USGBC Maryland is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future for the state of Maryland through cost efficient and energy saving green buildings. Membership is open to anyone, and includes access to educational programs and networking events throughout the year. To learn more, visit www.usgbc.org/usgbc-maryland. I95