Top 5 States for LEED Green Building

USGBC's Annual List Shows Record Breaking Year

LEED, the world’s most widely used and recognized green building rating system, has been gaining momentum in recent years and more buildings and facilities around the country are taking the steps toward certification. In its sixth annual study the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has released the 2015 Top 10 States for LEED, which names states leading the nation in sustainable building design, construction and transformation.

“Green construction is quickly outpacing conventional construction in the U.S.” – Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair of USGBC

LEED-certified spaces use less energy, water and resources, have a much lower carbon footprint, and help establish healthier environments for occupants and the community at large. “Green construction is quickly outpacing conventional construction in the U.S.,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair of USGBC in a press release published Jan. 26, 2016. “LEED has become an essential tool for the transformation of building design and construction. By recognizing these states excelling in the use of LEED, we are celebrating the green building professionals, architects, business, policy and community leaders who work tirelessly to design and develop innovative solutions toward a healthier, more sustainable future.”

“LEED construction drives economic growth, creates jobs and makes communities greener,” added Fedrizzi.

The ranking is based on total square feet of LEED-certified space per resident, based on U.S. Census data and includes commercial and institutional green building projects certified throughout 2015. USGBC calculates top states by using per capita figures to fairly compare states with significant population variance and overall number of buildings.

So, who is in the LEED?

#1: Illinois

For the third year in a row, Illinois has topped the list of states driving the green building industry, setting a precedent in sustainability and energy efficiency in all forms of building space. With 161 buildings and nearly 44 million square feet of certified LEED space, Illinois once again claims first place.

“Year after year Illinois sets a high bar for green building thanks to the dynamic network of companies and industry leaders who have made sustainability part of their business model,” says Brian Imus, executive director of USGBC-Illinois.

Standout Project: Virgin Hotel Chicago – LEED Gold

Virgin Hotel

Virgin Hotel Chicago (Photo:

Occupying the former Old Dearborn Bank Building, which was built in 1928 and designated a Chicago landmark in 2003, the 250-room property was certified LEED Gold in July 2015. While preserving the Art Deco feel of the historic building, the project developer, VHNA Acquisition LP, used sustainability upgrades such as a green roof and high-performance windows, smart thermostats, occupancy and light sensors, water-efficient fixtures and toilets and high-insulation walls and roofing to obtain LEED Gold. The project also scored LEED points based on its proximity to public transportation and development in the dense urban area. Overall, LEED helped the project achieve a 30% improvement over the baseline building energy standard and eliminated the use of potable landscape water.

#2: Maryland

As the epicenter of green building, Washington, D.C., continues to technically lead the nation in LEED-certified buildings with 19.3 square feet of LEED space per resident in 2015. However, D.C. is not included in USGBC’s list as it is federal territory. Other parts of Maryland made an impressive improvement with more than 17 million in LEED gross square footage and a total of 127 LEED projects.

Standout Project: Archives College Park — LEED Gold

#3: Massachusetts

Massachusetts showed the greatest improvement in ranking, making a jump from #5 in 2014 to #3 on the list in 2015. The state had 112 projects LEED-certified in 2015, amounting to more than 3 square feet of certified space per resident.

Standout Project: Douglas Elementary School — LEED Silver for Schools


Douglas Elementary School (Photo: USGBC)

The new Douglas Elementary school is an 83,095-square-foot facility in Douglas, Massachusetts. Completed in 2014 and certified in December 2015, the original school was built in 1986 and with a growing district population students were forced into 12 portable classrooms that were 15 years old. Many of the building systems were at the end of their useful life.

After a district study was conducted to assess overcrowding issues at all three Douglas schools, it was determined that the best solution was to construct a new elementary school and modernize the existing intermediate school. Maximizing classrooms facing the north/south was an important project objective, to create the most usable natural daylight. In addition, water-efficient landscaping, parking capacity and preservation of open space helped the school achieve LEED Silver for Schools.

#4: Washington

For the first time in three years, Washington made it back onto the list at #4, with 101 projects certified in 2015, representing 17.45 million gross square feet of space. According to USGBC, Seattle is among the top five cities in the United States for LEED-certified space, with more than 12 million square feet. Nearby, Bellevue boasts over 1 million square feet of LEED-certified space, and to the east, Spokane posts an impressive 1.2 million.

Standout Project: Starbucks Roastery Seattle — LEED Platinum

The Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting room is a 15,000-square-foot facility located just nine blocks from the original Starbucks store in Seattle. Featuring coffee roasting facilities, a café, a roasting “experience bar” and a library dedicated to coffee, this facility opened December 2014 and was certified LEED Platinum in September 2015. The 1920s building was restored to its original façade using reclaimed wood, decorative ceilings and the original flooring. 95% of materials used in construction were made in the U.S. The project achieved high marks on the LEED Scorecard, the grading scale used to assess all LEED projects seeking certification for water efficiency (fulfilling 11 of 11 possible points), energy and atmosphere, siting and indoor environmental quality.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room

Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room (Photo: USGBC)

#5: Colorado

Aside from Illinois, Colorado is the only state to have made the list every year since 2010. The state now has more than 12 million in gross square feet of LEED space and 95 projects that have been certified.

Standout Project: Pinnacol Assurance — LEED Gold

Rounding out the Top 10 spots on the annual list are: Colorado, Nevada, California, Texas, Virginia and Utah.

For the first time, Utah broke into the LEED pack at #10. The state had nearly 4.5 million square feet of LEED-certified space in 2015, representing 1.63 square feet per person. This goes to show how LEED is expanding beyond states with high population density.

Green building in all states on the list added billions to state gross domestic product (GDP), as well as jobs and labor earnings, according to USGBC’s Green Economic Impact Study by Booz Allen Hamilton. This study projects by 2018, green construction will directly contribute 1.1 million jobs. Of that, LEED will be responsible for directly contributing 386,000 jobs.

With a record breaking year and LEED projects continuing to gain momentum coming into 2017, USGBC hopes more states will reach high and aim for facilities that not only put them on the map, but help save energy, resources and promote healthy communities.


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