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Concept: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design


Buildings consume nearly 40% of primary energy production globally. Certified green buildings substantially reduce energy consumption on a per square foot basis and they also focus on indoor environmental quality. However, the co-benefits to health through reductions in energy and concomitant reductions in air pollution have not been examined.We calculated year by year LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification rates in six countries (the United States, China, India, Brazil, Germany, and Turkey) and then used data from the Green Building Information Gateway (GBIG) to estimate energy savings in each country each year. Of the green building rating schemes, LEED accounts for 32% of green-certified floor space and publically reports energy efficiency data. We employed Harvard’s Co-BE Calculator to determine pollutant emissions reductions by country accounting for transient energy mixes and baseline energy use intensities. Co-BE applies the social cost of carbon and the social cost of atmospheric release to translate these reductions into health benefits. Based on modeled energy use, LEED-certified buildings saved $7.5B in energy costs and averted 33MT of CO2, 51 kt of SO2, 38 kt of NOx, and 10 kt of PM2.5 from entering the atmosphere, which amounts to $5.8B (lower limit = $2.3B, upper limit = $9.1B) in climate and health co-benefits from 2000 to 2016 in the six countries investigated. The U.S. health benefits derive from avoiding an estimated 172-405 premature deaths, 171 hospital admissions, 11,000 asthma exacerbations, 54,000 respiratory symptoms, 21,000 lost days of work, and 16,000 lost days of school. Because the climate and health benefits are nearly equivalent to the energy savings for green buildings in the United States, and up to 10 times higher in developing countries, they provide an important and previously unquantified societal value. Future analyses should consider these co-benefits when weighing policy decisions around energy-efficient buildings.

Concepts: Pollution, Air pollution, Energy development, Limit superior and limit inferior, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Green building, Sustainable design, Natural building


Climate change is increasingly exacerbating existing population health hazards, as well as resulting in new negative health effects. Flooding is one particularly deadly example of its amplifying and expanding effect on public health. This systematic review considered evidence linking green building strategies in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design® (LEED) Rating System with the potential to reduce negative health outcomes following exposure to urban flooding events. Queries evaluated links between LEED credit requirements and risk of exposure to urban flooding, environmental determinants of health, co-benefits to public health outcomes, and co-benefits to built environment outcomes. Public health co-benefits to leveraging green building design to enhance flooding resilience included: improving the interface between humans and wildlife and reducing the risk of waterborne disease, flood-related morbidity and mortality, and psychological harm. We conclude that collaborations among the public health, climate change, civil society, and green building sectors to enhance community resilience to urban flooding could benefit population health.

Concepts: Medicine, Public health, Health, Demography, Natural environment, Climate change, Population health, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design


There is a need to better understand the perceived experiences of workers in green buildings as the literature to this point has been mixed.

Concepts: Building, Occupancy, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Natural building


This study determines the magnitude of the market signaling effect arising from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification for green buildings and explores the mechanisms behind the signaling effect. Previous studies have shown that signaling or marketability plays an important role in the pursuit for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and equivalent green-building certification. By analyzing all new construction projects receiving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification from 2000 to 2012 in the US, this study estimates the relative importance of ‘green’ signaling. This broad perspective using project-level data enables an analysis of some drivers of signaling and the pursuit of marketing benefits. The roles of local competition and market conditions, as well as municipal regulations are examined, especially as they differ between types of building owners (e.g., for-profit firms, governments, nonprofits). The results indicate that the non-building performance value-value captured by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design signals above and beyond the specific building attributes that Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certifies-dominates the attainment of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design scores around certification tier thresholds. Further, strong evidence of spatial clustering of this non-building performance value for some owner types indicates that for-profit owners may be more responsive to local competition than non-profit owners. Local legislative mandates predict greater signaling intensity by government-owned buildings, as expected, but for-profit-owned projects tend to signal less, even after controls for local conditions. The results highlight the importance of local conditions, including peer effects and regulations, in driving non-building performance values across a wide range of green buildings.

Concepts: Signal, Ownership, Construction, Real estate, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Sustainable design, Natural building, Environmental planning


This research investigates the relationship between energy use, geographic location, life cycle environmental impacts, and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The researchers studied worldwide variations in building energy use and associated life cycle impacts in relation to the LEED rating systems. A Building Information Modeling (BIM) of a reference 43,000 ft2 office building was developed and situated in 400 locations worldwide while making relevant changes to the energy model to meet reference codes, such as ASHRAE 90.1. Then life cycle environmental and human health impacts from the buildings' energy consumption were calculated. The results revealed considerable variations between sites in the U.S. and international locations (ranging from 394 ton CO2 eq to 911 ton CO2 eq, respectively). The variations indicate that location specific results, when paired with life cycle assessment, can be an effective means to achieve a better understanding of possible adverse environmental impacts as a result of building energy consumption in the context of green building rating systems. Looking at these factors in combination and using a systems approach may allow rating systems like LEED to continue to drive market transformation towards sustainable development, while taking into consideration both energy sources and building efficiency.

Concepts: Sustainability, World energy resources and consumption, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Natural building, Building Information Modeling, Dimension stone, Elo rating system, Ecodesign


The matter of environmental concern prioritization integrated into globally used green building rating systems is a fundamental issue since it determines how the performance of a structure or development is reflected. Certain nationally-developed certification systems are used globally without being subjected to adjustments with respect to local geographical, cultural, economic and social parameters. This may lead to a situation where the results of an evaluation may not reflect the reality of the region and/or the site of construction. The main objective of this paper is to examine and underline the problems regarding the issue of weighting environmental concerns in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system, which is a US-originated but globally used assessment tool. The methodology of this study consists of; (i) an analysis of the approach of LEED in the New Construction and Major Renovations scheme in version 3 (LEED NC, v.3) and the Building Design and Construction scheme in version 4 (LEED BD + C, v.4), (ii) case studies in which regional priority credits (RPCs) set by LEED for four countries (Canada, Turkey, China and Egypt) are criticized with respect to countries' own local conditions, and, (iii) an analysis of the approaches of major environmental assessment tools, namely; BREEAM, SBTool, CASBEE and Green Star, in comparison to the approach in LEED, regarding the main issue of this paper. This work shows that, even in its latest version (v.4) LEED still displays some inadequacies and inconsistencies from the aspect of environmental concern prioritization and has not yet managed to incorporate a system which is more sensitive to this issue. This paper further outlines the differences and similarities between the approaches of the aforementioned major environmental assessment tools with respect to the issue of concern and the factors that should be integrated into future versions of LEED.

Concepts: Environmentalism, Conservation movement, Environmental movement, Priority, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Green building, Sustainable design, Building engineering


Improved indoor air quality (IAQ) is one of the critical components of green building design. Green building tax credit (e.g., New York State Green Building Tax Credit (GBTC)) and certification programs (e.g., Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED)) require indoor air quality measures and compliance with allowable maximum concentrations of common indoor air pollutants. It is not yet entirely clear whether compliance with these programs results in improved IAQ and ultimately human health. As a case in point, annual indoor air quality measurements were conducted in a residential green high-rise building for five consecutive years by an industrial hygiene contractor to comply with the building’s GBTC requirements. The implementation of green design measures resulted in better IAQ compared to data in references of conventional homes for some parameters, but could not be confirmed for others. Relative humidity and carbon dioxide were satisfactory according to existing standards. Formaldehyde levels during four out of five years were below the most recent proposed exposure limits found in the literature. To some degree, particulate matter (PM) levels were lower than that in studies from conventional residential buildings. Concentrations of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) with known permissible exposure limits were below levels known to cause chronic health effects, but their concentrations were inconclusive regarding cancer health effects due to relatively high detection limits. Although measured indoor air parameters met all IAQ maximum allowable concentrations in GBTC and applicable LEED requirements at the time of sampling, we argue that these measurements were not sufficient to assess IAQ comprehensively because more sensitive sampling/analytical methods for PM and VOCs are needed; in addition, there is a need for a formal process to ensure rigor and adequacy of sampling and analysis methods. Also, we suggest that a comprehensive IAQ assessment should include mixed mode thermal comfort models, semi-volatile organic compounds, assessment of new chemicals, and permissible exposure levels of many known indoor VOCs and bioaerosols. Plus, the relationship between energy consumption and IAQ, and tenant education on health effects of indoor pollutants and their sources may need more attention in IAQ investigations in green buildings.

Concepts: Smog, Volatile organic compound, Indoor air quality, Air pollution, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Green building, Sustainable design, Natural building


Despite guidance from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) on the requirements for earning a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) ergonomics credit in the Innovation in Design and Innovation in Operations category, few projects have received the credit. The University of California, Berkeley ergonomics program, Ergonomics@Work, has aligned the ergonomics strategy to those of the USGBC and LEED to achieve the ergonomics credit in several new buildings. This article describes the steps needed to obtain the credit and highlights the opportunities it creates to partner with the project team to promote ergonomics. As a profession it is up to ergonomists to create the road map that incorporates ergonomics into the green building design.

Concepts: United States, California, Design, Project management, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Green building, Sustainable design, Natural building


Green building adoption is driven by both performance-based benefits and marketing based benefits. Performance based benefits are those that improve performance or lower operating costs of the building or of building users. Marketing benefits stem from the consumer response to green certification. This study illustrates the relative importance of the marketing based benefits that accrue to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) buildings due to green signaling mechanisms, specifically related to the certification itself are identified. Of course, all participants in the LEED certification scheme seek marketing benefits. But even among LEED participants, the interest in green signaling is pronounced. The green signaling mechanism that occurs at the certification thresholds shifts building patterns from just below to just above the threshold level, and motivates builders to cluster buildings just above each threshold. Results are consistent across subsamples, though non-profit organizations appear to build greener buildings and engage in more green signaling than for-profit entities. Using nonparametric regression discontinuity, signaling across different building types is observed. Marketing benefits due to LEED certification drives organizations to build “greener” buildings by upgrading buildings at the thresholds to reach certification levels.

Concepts: Building, House, Business, Non-profit organization, Fire protection, Real estate, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Natural building


The 2009 LEED(®) for Healthcare green building rating system includes a total of two possible points to be earned by satisfying the requirements of the Indoor Environmental Quality Credit 2 (IEQ Credit 2: Acoustic Environment). This credit references criteria that are defined by the Facility Guidelines Institute’s 2010 Guidelines for Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities (2010 FGI Guidelines). The acoustical design requirements of the 2010 FGI Guidelines will be summarized, as well as a brief history of the FGI document itself. The FGI Guidelines document is currently being revised for the 2014 edition. Proposed changes in the 2014 edition will also be briefly discussed, as we anticipate that future versions of the LEED(®) rating system will reference the 2014 FGI Guidelines. The presentation will be made in English by Mr. Horan, secretary of the FGI’s Acoustical Working Group (AWG). Mr. Latour, a French-Canadian member of the AWG, will be available to help respond to any French-speaking audience members during Q&A.

Concepts: Health care, Environment, A Brief History of Time, Environmental quality, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Sustainable design, 2014 Winter Olympics, Environmental planning