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In our last post, we discussed green architecture, which is a philosophy of architecture that advocates for building with the environment in mind and the use of sustainable energy sources. We talked about the importance of sustainability and how steps have been taken to make architecture more sustainable. We also highlighted some interesting examples of green architecture. If you are interested in learning more, we encourage you to check out our last article!

Today, we’ll be taking a closer look at LEED certification, which we briefly mentioned in our last post. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards is the most widely used green building rating system. It is globally recognized and provides a framework for highly efficient, healthy, and cost-saving green buildings. If you are interested in learning more about LEED certification, we’ll be breaking down everything you need to know, so be sure to stick around! Let’s get started.

The Origins Of LEED

In 1989, Bob Berkebile, an architect from Kansas City, became a pioneer in sustainable design. He petitioned the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to study how architects could maintain the integrity of their profession while still designing environmentally friendly buildings. Soon after, the AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) was formed– This committee would later go on to collaborate with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create sustainable architectural design guidelines. 

LEED standards were then created by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which is a non-profit organization founded in 1993. In the 1990s, as buildings began to consume more and more energy and resources, it became more apparent that there was a need to optimize these systems in order to create better buildings. David Gottfried, Mike Italiano, and Rick Fedrizzi formed the USGBC with a shared mission to promote sustainability in the building and construction industries. This introduced what would be the beginnings of LEED, which was officially presented to the public in 2000, with help from Berkebile when it came to creating the LEED rating system. By 2003, there was a green building explosion, with many significant developments for LEED. USGBC expanded from the small non-profit it began as, gaining more staff and resources. And by 2004, LEED had 100 certified projects. 

Today, LEED boasts nearly 100,000 projects across 167 countries. The LEED standards are available for nearly all building types and provide a framework for sustainable development.

What Is LEED?

The LEED certification program is the globally recognized standard for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings. The rating system has a strong focus on efficiency and leadership, and aims to support “people, planet, and profit”. LEED rating systems are made up of prerequisites and credits:

  • Prerequisites: These are required elements or green building strategies that must be included in LEED-certified projects.
  • Credits: These are optional elements that projects can incorporate to gain points towards LEED certification.

In order to achieve LEED certification, a project must satisfy all prerequisites and earn a minimum amount of credits. The organization of prerequisites and credits can vary slightly depending on the type of project or building. Generally, LEED is organized by the following concepts:

  • Integrative process
  • Location and transportation
  • Sustainable sites
  • Water
  • Energy
  • Materials and resources
  • Indoor environmental quality

Depending on the type of building, requirements can range from material choices to energy and water consumption, to air filter systems or greenhouse gas emissions. The concepts covered in LEED certification ensure that buildings have a positive impact on the residents, communities, and environment. The LEED rating system is grouped into five categories:

  • Building Design and Construction (BD + C)
  • Interior Design and Construction
  • Operations and Maintenance (O + M)
  • Neighborhood Development
  • Homes

Why LEED?

So why should architects and designers aim to become LEED certified? There are a number of reasons. Becoming LEED certified provides many economic benefits– By following the framework provided by LEED, investors can decrease operational costs, save on energy and water costs, and save on maintenance and waste, all while increasing asset value. Additionally, this framework is great for the environment! It helps to reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. According to USGBC, buildings constructed with LEED standards contribute up to 50% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventionally constructed buildings. Approximately 11% less water is consumed, and approximately 80 million tons of waste has been diverted from landfills thanks to LEED standards. 

LEED is not only beneficial for the environment, but it provides benefits for people as well. Employers in LEED certified buildings report higher recruitment and retention rates, as well as increased employee productivity. Following LEED standards also reduces air pollution, which is beneficial to those with asthma, respiratory allergies, depression, and stress. 

LEED Certified Buildings Around The World

Let’s take a look at some of the best examples of LEED certified buildings!

Salt Lake City Library – Marmalade Branch

This library located in Salt Lake City, Utah, obtained LEED Silver certification in 2018. The two-story building utilizes an exterior shading device along its west-facing glass to minimize solar heat gain, and has a compact footprint that reduces land use. Additionally, the library makes use of LED lights, lighting control systems, and occupancy sensors. One feature of the library is called The Urban Room, and is an interior main street between the library and crescent wall that makes spectacular use of natural light. On the top of the roof is a reading garden, offering a 360 view of the city’s skyline. 

The Crystal

Located in East London, The Crystal is a highly sustainable building that achieved Platinum LEED certification in 2014. The building is used for unique events and uses only renewable energy to power its operations. It uses ground source heat to supply virtually all of the building’s heating and cooling– This means The Crystal uses 100% natural heat sources, and has no heating bill. It uses zero fossil fuels, designed as an “all electric” building. Additionally, The Crystal uses minimal artificial light, with a combination of fluorescent and LED lighting along with an advanced control system that automatically adjusts lighting without wasting electricity. It has been called a “landmark global urban sustainability center”, and for good reason. 

Parkland Memorial Hospital

Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas, earned LEED Gold certification in 2015. It was once named one of the “greenest hospitals in America”, and has a dedicated sustainability team. The team first focused on increasing recycling rates, but has since expanded to energy conservation and green building standards. The entire healthcare campus was designed to efficiently manage and control solar heat gain. The construction of the hospital consisted of recycled local building materials in order to reduce the carbon footprint. As of 2016, the hospital had recycled more than 3,800 tons of waste through 30 different programs. 

TAIPEI 101

Formerly known as the Taipei World Financial Center, Taipei 101 is a skyscraper in Taiwan that was certified LEED Platinum in 2011, making it the tallest and largest green building in the world. It was designed to withstand natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons and boasts energy-efficient upgrades that reduce its overall energy consumption. This results in more than $2 million in savings every year. The building also has water management systems that work with low-flow water fixtures to reduce water usage. 

These are just a few examples of LEED certified buildings around the world! As you can see, LEED certification provides an unmatched framework for sustainable architecture. Here at Architecture Plus, we love creating eco-friendly designs and contributing to the architectural industry with new ideas and ways to improve! We are always willing to take on environmentally friendly design projects, so feel free to reach out to us! We hope you found this article informative and we hope to see you back on the blog soon as we continue to dive into various topics regarding architecture. Perhaps something might spark inspiration for your next project! For more information on architectural design and building, keep up-to-date with the Architecture Plus blog. If you’re ready to sit down with an experienced team of designers and hash out the elements of your next project, reach out to us! We’re eager to hear from you. Until next time, thank you for reading!