Ever since a documentary on global warming opened in 2001, and the rise in the costs of energy, the level of awareness among the general public on environmental issues has skyrocketed. Since then, there have been sobering nationwide conversations about what can we do to lessen the impact we have on our planet and its resources.
In keeping with this conversation, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) brings together industry professionals to promote so-called 'green' buildings that are environmentally responsible as well as healthy places for people to live and work.
As a means of defining what 'green' is, USGBC offers its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, a nationally accepted rating system.
LEED helps the USGBC keep its finger on the pulse of green building and development all over the country by offering a benchmark for the design, construction and operation of green buildings.
Green buildings might look like regular buildings from the outside, but builders who put them together know that some very key aspects go into their design and construction.
"A green building is a high-performance building which is more environmentally responsible, healthier and more profitable," explains Larry, communications coordinator at the USGBC. "Green buildings use less energy, less water and fewer resources. They also have less of an impact on the environment and are healthier places for their occupants."
LEED for New Construction and Commercial Interiors puts the focus on the construction or major renovation of a building.
The USGBC also offers LEED for Existing Buildings, which allows buildings over two years old to get certified by making changes that will make the building friendlier to the environment and healthier for those residing within its walls.
Those who want to work toward LEED certification of their building--whether that is a developer working on a new construction or an existing building trying to become more energy-efficient--will find everything they need to get started on the USGBC's website http://www.usgbc.org.
LEED works on a point system. If you earn the minimum 26 out of the total 69 points, your building will certify at the basic 'certification' level. Buildings that earn more points than this will enter into the silver, gold or platinum levels.
Points, or credits, may be earned in the five main LEED categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Materials and Resources, Energy and Atmosphere and Indoor Environmental Quality.
LEED offers credits for such things as proximity to public transportation, reduction of heat island effect, reuse of materials, use of materials with recycled content, use of renewable energy, protection of the ozone and increased ventilation.
The reduction of potable water usage is a big issue. "A lot of people maintain that water is going to be the next oil," warns Craig Draiman, senior project manager for the Chicago Energy Research and Development Authority (CERDA). "It's ridiculous that we pay to treat water and then use it to flush away human waste."