Illinois, America’s Green Building LEED-Certified Leader

by Silvio Marcacci.

America’s got a new number one when it comes to green building among the top states for LEED-certified construction, and this year’s winner may surprise you.

Illinois jumped from fifth to first in this year’s Top 10 States for LEED ranking from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), supplanting perennial winner Washington, D.C.

The list is based on a per-capita basis of 2010 U.S. Census data combined with commercial and institutional green building projects certified through the LEED certification program across 2013 – a whopping 1,777 projects and 22.8 million square feet across the top ten states.

Renewable Energy. USGBC Top 10 States for LEED chart via US Green Building Council.
Renewable Energy. USGBC Top 10 States for LEED chart via US Green Building Council

Illinois Places First, With An Asterisk

Illinois ranked fifth in 2013 and placed third in 2012, so while its ascension isn’t shocking and shows a steady increase in green building projects, this year’s top rank is largely due to a technical change in how USGBC ranks states – namely dropping Washington, D.C. from the top 10 list.

171 LEED projects encompassing 29,415,284 square feet of space were certified in Illinois during 2013, good for 2.29 square feet of per-capita LEED-certified space. Those totals were good enough to beat out all other states, but would have been swamped by D.C.’s 32.45 per-capita square footage if it had been included.

“The public and private sectors in Illinois recognize that long-term investments in 21st century infrastructure should be done in ways that reduce energy consumption and protect the environment,” said Governor Pat Quinn. “Illinois is proud to be the nation’s green buildings leader, and we are proof that smaller environmental footprint can help us step toward energy independence.”

Metro DC, New York, and California Round Out The Ranks

While Illinois may sit atop the ranks in 2013 due to D.C.’s exclusion, the nation’s capital (and federal government’s green building efforts) had a spillover effect on neighboring states, boosting Maryland and Virginia into the top three, with 119 and 160 projects representing 12,696,429 and 16,868,693 square feet for 2.20 and 2.11 per-capita square feet, all respectively.

The nation’s overall leaders in certified square footage and total certified projects, New York and California, tied for fifth in the LEED rankings due to their large populations driving down per-capita square footage.

Renewable Energy. Green building image via CleanTechnica
Renewable Energy. Green building image via CleanTechnica

This twist is due to USGBC calculating the list using per-capita figures to create a fair comparison of green building activity taking place among states with significant differences in population and overall buildings.

Interestingly, USGBC notes the continued trend toward LEED certifications of existing buildings through retrofit projects. 48 percent of all square footage in 2013 was certified under LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance, while 43 percent was certified under LEED for Building Design and Construction.

Every Green Building Boosts the Economy

Regardless of if green building projects are happening on new or existing buildings, they’re having a big economic impact. 35 percent of all US construction jobs today are in green building, according to a 2013 estimate, and industry revenue could top $248 billion by 2016.

“As the economy recovers, green buildings continue to provide jobs at every professional level and skill set from carpenters to architects,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president and CEO of USGBC.

Beyond creating green jobs, green buildings are also saving businesses money while making their assets more valuable. A recent analysis showed 58 percent of corporate America had green buildings in their business portfolios with 30 percent building green to lower operating costs.  Additionally, McGraw Hill research has shown building values jump up to 11 percent with an up-to 14 percent return on investment for green building projects.

That’s all great news, but the best may still be yet to come. USGBC notes 37,000 projects representing 7.6 billion square feet of space are in the certification pipeline worldwide, and LEED v4 has raised the bar with increased requirements for certification, meaning our buildings will continue to get greener and greener – just like our economy.

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About the Author

Renewable Energy. Silvio MarcacciSilvio Marcacci Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo Announces $1 Billion for Clean Energy

by Kiley Kroh.

solar panels new york city skyline
New York State Governor, Andrew Cuomo, has allocated $1 billion dollars for clean energy in the state. Image by reneweconomy.com.au

Originally published on ClimateProgress

New York governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his State of the State address on Wednesday and announced an even greater commitment to clean energy, including $1 billion in new funding for solar energy projects.

Launched in 2012, Cuomo’s NY-Sun Initiative has already been a tremendous success, with almost 300 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaic capacity installed or under development, more than was installed in the entire decade prior to the program.

Now with another major financial boost, Cuomo aims to install 3,000 (MW) of solar across New York.

“That’s enough solar to power 465,000 New York homes, cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2.3 million tons annually — the equivalent of taking almost 435,000 cars off the road — and create more than 13,000 new solar jobs,” according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In addition to the ten-year financial boost for NY-Sun, Cuomo announced a new program entitled K-Solar, which will incentivize the deployment of solar energy by using the state’s 5,000 schools as “demonstration hubs” to increase the number of solar energy projects in their surrounding communities.

The governor also unveiled the $40 million NY Prize competition, which will bolster community microgrids in the state, helping to make the electrical grid more resilient in the face of increasing extreme weather like Superstorm Sandy. Additionally, Renewable Heat NY will seek to utilize private sector investment to boost biomass heating as a cheaper, renewable alternative to home heating oil.

As Cuomo’s impressive commitment to clean energy pays off in the state’s rapidly growing solar industry, NRDC notes that not only is NY-Sun expanding the marketplace, it has also served to “to drive down the cost of installed solar power by establishing new, cost-effective and efficient practices and technologies.”

Thanks to this suite of forward-thinking policies, New York has skyrocketed through the U.S. solar rankings.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, “with enough solar to power more than 30,900 homes, New York currently ranks 12th in the country for installed solar capacity. There are more than 411 solar companies at work throughout the value chain in New York, employing more than 3,300 people.”

And those figures are on the rise. An analysis of clean energy jobs created in the third quarter of 2013 ranked New York third in the U.S., behind only California and Nevada.

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