US Green Building Council

The US Green Building Council (USGBC) was formed in 1993 by a few enterprising souls who wanted to transform the building marketplace into a more environmentally responsible activity.149 Consisting solely of organizations, the USGBC now (early 2007) represents more than 8,500 members including federal, state and local government agencies; colleges and universities; environmental NGOs; product manufacturers; trade associations; architects, engineers and builders; and a myriad of other disciplines and professions engaged in the building industry. With less than 100 paid staff people, the USGBC is heavily supported by tens of thousands of hours annually from volunteers representing member companies who staff the extensive committee system that guides the organization's technical efforts. There is also a widespread system of more than 70 local chapters. The Canada Green Building Council is an equally dynamic force for change; in per-capita terms, its early 2007 membership of nearly 1,400 exceeds that of the USGBC.150

As its earliest priority, the USGBC developed the LEED rating system to define what made up a green building. Seven years after the introduction of the LEED version 2.0 in 2000, more than 5,000 projects are now registered under the LEED system. At an average building size of more than 100,000 square feet, LEED projects represent about 500 million square feet of construction, equivalent to about 20% of the annual commercial square footage constructed in the US.151

In addition to certifying a building's greenness with the LEED rating system, the USGBC trains people in using the scheme. As of early 2007 nearly 45,000 had been trained, and more than 35,000 had passed a national exam to become LEED Accredited Professionals. It is amazing how many people, from all different aspects of the building industry, are interested enough in this rating system to attend an all-day workshop and to take a test to certify their capacity to work within it. Through the LEED rating system and the training of building professionals, USGBC is effectively building the capacity for a major shift in building design, construction and operations, something that would have been inconceivable at the beginning of the decade.

In 2007 the organization responded to the climate change challenge by changing the LEED rating system to require certain minimum levels of energy efficiency from all certified projects. Beginning in 2007, as a result of these changes, USGBC leadership expects that LEED-certified buildings will reduce overall carbon dioxide emissions by 50% compared with conventional buildings.

USGBC believes we have reached a tipping point in the green building revolution. The organization's CEO, Rick Fedrizzi, predicted in late 2006 that, by the end of 2010, there will be 100,000 LEED-certified buildings and one million LEED-certified homes, a major increase in such projects in just four years.152 It's clear that the USGBC is one of the major catalysts for green buildings in the US and that its membership and influence will continue to grow significantly in the next few years. (Shouldn't your university, government agency, company or non-profit become a member?)

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