Government Eager To Help LEED Toward Environmental Conservation

You don't realize it, but federal, state, and local governments are currently playing key roles in developing and expanding private sector efforts toward energy conservation and sustainable development.

Remember when President Ronald Reagan puprposely removed Jimmy Carter's solar panels from the roof of the White House? It took nearly three decades before President Barack Obama returned solar panels to that rooftop, symbolically underlining the simple reality that some Administrations favor energy conservation and sustainable development, while others don't.

It was October, 2009, when President Obama signed an executive order calling for a 50% increase in recycling by 2015, a 30% cut in vehicle fuel use by 2020, and new targets for greenhouse gas reductions.

Because of President Obama's willingness to act in favor of energy conservation and sustainable development, federal agencies are now required to meet a series of performance targets, including improved recycling and waste diversion, significantly increased fleet mileage, and more efficient use of water. In addition, Obama has ordered federal agencies to promote environmentally responsible products and encourage sustainable business practices among federal vendors and contractors. Under his administration, 95 percent of most federal contracts must now meet enhanced sustainability standards.

The impact of this executive order is already, and will continue to be, enormous, in part because of the growing prominence of LEED certification.

As you may know, LEED ("Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design") is system created by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to give real estate developers, owners, and managers a set of "green building" certification standards against which to measure their plans and performance. Now recognized internationally, LEED helps key players identify and implement relevant design, construction, operations and maintenance practices in order to make buildings more environmentally friendly. A key component of LEED certification focuses on using innovative designs and strategies to improve the environmental conservation associated with a building, which often includes to increased usage of renewable or green energy sources, souch as solar power.

At every level of government in the U.S., LEED-related legislation, executive orders, resolutions, ordinances, policies, and incentives have been proliferating during the past decade or so. Government mandated standards are now in force in 45 states, 384 cities/towns and 58 counties (including the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico). LEED is also supported by 14 federal agencies and departments, as well as a great many public school districts, colleges, and universities.

The general goal of all this government action is for new buildings to meet LEED thresholds, and hence be more thrifty with energy and friendly to the environment.

The U.S. Green Building Council estimates that government owned or occupied LEED-compliant buildings now number more than 10,000, making up about 29% of all LEED projects in the U.S. Currently, the federal government occupies 310 LEED certified buildings, with another 3,535 in pursuit of LEED certification. State governments now occupy 487 LEED certified projects, with another 2,006 pursuing certification. Local governments now occupy 732 certified projects, with another 3,208 pursuing certification.

So while many people say that it doesn't matter which political party is in power, or who is running things, the plain fact of the matter is that some politicians are in favor of removing solar panels from the White House, while others are working hard to install more of them.

More later ...

Photo credit: Schlüsselbein2007