LEED stands for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which is a building certification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The motive behind this certification is to enhance environmental awareness among the construction industry and emphasize energy-efficient design, construction, and operations along with the use of sustainable or green building materials. The U.S. Green Building Council was founded in 1993. Later on, the LEED rating system was launched in 2000, and now LEED includes guidance for the design, construction, operation of the buildings, interior spaces, homes, neighborhoods, cities and communities.
Effects of Conventional Building Construction on Environment
Conventional buildings impact the environment through non-sustainable materials, methods of construction, and other factors that affect the environment on a long time frame.
Huge Energy Consumption
According to the International Energy Agency, almost 40 percent of the world’s energy is used by buildings. The other two highest energy consumers are industries and transportation devouring 30 percent and 29 percent of electricity, respectively. Hence, a tremendous amount of energy is consumed by the buildings through lighting, heating, and cooling systems. In the United States, buildings ingest 73 percent of the country’s electricity consumption. So, apart from the building material, a non-efficient HVAC system and energy-uses have a substantial negative impact on the environment.
Degrading Air Quality
American building construction also impacts air quality. Construction is partially blameworthy for the massive greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Conventional buildings produce 38 percent of total CO2 emissions. Hence, traditional buildings are degrading the air quality, which is unfavorable for the environment and our health.
Improper Water Utilization
Conventional building construction uses a considerable amount of water. The traditional building system is also responsible for the waste of a significant percentage of water. According to research, buildings take 13.6 percent of all potable water, which is equal to 15 trillion gallons of water per year. So, our traditional building methods are affecting the resources our lives depend on.
The material used in construction also affects the environment. Construction materials that aren’t sustainably manufactured are more likely to increase CO2 emission. The transportation of the raw material and the final product are also accountable for climate change. Moreover, the consumption and extraction of raw materials also leads to adverse effects on the environment. Research from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that between 10 and 15 percent of construction materials are either unused or end up as waste. These raw materials are natural resources and waste results in negative impacts on the environment.
Construction and Demolition Waste
The development and demolition of buildings generates enormous waste. Demolition and construction waste includes concrete, metals, glass, plastics, bricks, etc. This waste is disposed in landfills or turned into ashes by incinerators. This renovation and construction waste affects air quality, squanders resources, and needs transportation services to be discarded. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are 170 million tons of waste already generated, and non-residential buildings produce 61 percent of it.
These are some crucial factors that affect the environment, and we need a way to optimize these impacts and support sustainability.
Benefits of Green Buildings
Construction projects under LEED certification earn points for various green buildings strategies across several categories, and depending on the scores achieved, LEED certification is divided into four levels; Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Certified. Studies have shown that LEED buildings:
- Recorded $1.2 billion in energy savings, consumed 25% less energy and lowered emissions by 34%
- $149.5 million in water savings and consumed 11% less water
- $715.3 million in maintenance savings
- $54.2 million in waste savings and diverted 80 millions tons of waste from landfills
In addition, a USGBC survey showed that employers in LEED-certified spaces report higher recruitment and retention rates and increased employee productivity.
LEED Rating System
Buildings have different construction phases like new construction, interior fit-outs, renovations, operations and maintenance. There is a LEED rating system defined for various processes, as well as guidance for specific project types, including healthcare, transit, schools, homes and more.
BD+C (Building Design and Construction)
This rating system is for new construction and renovations. It includes new construction, core and shell. BD+C also includes applications for the buildings of schools, retail, hospitality, data centers, warehouse and distribution centers, and healthcare.
ID+C (Interior Design and Construction)
This is for the interior fit-outs projects like commercial interiors. This rating system also offers specific guidance for the retail and hospitality buildings.
O+M (Building Operations and Maintenance)
This rating system is for existing buildings undergoing maintenance or improvement work. Often applied to offices, it also includes specific guidance for schools, retail, hospitality, data centers, and warehouse buildings.
ND (Neighborhood Development)
For new construction or redevelopment projects having residential, nonresidential uses, or both. A project can be at any stage, from planning to construction.
For single-family or one to six-story multifamily buildings, including homes and multifamily low-rise and mid-rise structures. Residential projects that are greater than six stories use the LEED BD+C rating system.
Steel Buildings are a Green Way of Building
Below are the green benefits of steel buildings:
- Most Recyclable
- Energy Efficient
- Save Landfill Space
- Reduce Deforestation
- Zero Waste
- Decrease Air Pollution & Ozone Depletion
To learn more, read What make Pre-engineered Steel Buildings Green Buildings?