In 1993, there weren’t many people talking about a new eco-industrial revolution, but that didn’t stop Rick Fedrizzi, David Gotfried and Mike Italanio from founding the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in April of that year.
Two decades later, the conversation has become so pervasive in the A&D community that it’s hard to find someone who isn’t plugged into the sustainability movement in one way or another. If you don’t believe us, just ask one of the more than 181,000 professionals who currently hold LEED credentials, according to the USGBC.
Although the green building industry still has its share of growing pains to overcome (as the continuing debates over transparency and certification show), it appears to have reached something of a critical mass, thanks to the thousands of design practitioners, manufacturers and industry stakeholders that are committed to seeing a complete market transformation. Case in point: just 10 years ago, there were only 962 LEED projects registered with the USGBC, representing just 122 million square feet of space. Today, the United States alone boasts more than 46,000 registered or certified LEED projects, representing nearly 6.6 billion square feet.
If perception defines reality, then sustainable thinking is quickly becoming the new normal. For example, 42 percent of respondents cited
in Building Design & Construction’s 2003 whitepaper on sustainability suggested that the market was not interested in sustainability or willing to
pay a premium to achieve it. That contrasts sharply with the findings of a 2013 World Green Building Trends study by McGraw-Hill, in which 51 percent of the architects, engineers, contractors, owners and consultants surveyed anticipated that 60 percent of their work will be green by 2015, up from 28 percent of firms in 2012.
This year’s crop of Top 10 LEED Project submissions presented yet another vivid example of the evolution and reach of sustainable design. When we published our first Top 10 list four years ago, there were very few LEED Platinum projects from which to choose; this year, the number of Platinum projects made up well over a third of the submissions received. Although that’s just one small (and anecdotal) indicator, it’s clear a sea change has occurred, and the rising green tide continues to set new watermarks on the landscape of the built environment.
With the launch of LEED v4 looming on the horizon (its official launch coincides with the Greenbuild Conference and Expo in November), the USGBC is proving that sustainability and market transformation are not just possible, but coming to fruition sooner than expected.