In 2006 the Hearst Tower became the first green high rise in New York City. The Norman Foster designed blue lattice tower earned LEED Gold Certification and set the stage for many to follow.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, is a rating system that, in the words of the U.S. Green Building Council, “provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.” Basically it shows how ‘green’ a building is based on specific, measurable criteria that, once determined, will earn a building a rating and possible certification. The higher the LEED Rating the more sustainable, or ‘green’, a building is said to be.
Created by the U.S. Green Building Council, the LEED system is now an internationally accepted criterion for green construction. 20,000 projects in 30 countries have incorporated the LEED system into their plans since it was first created in 1998. Considered the ‘gold standard’ for environmental sustainability, the LEED certification and rating system is recognized industry-wide by architects, engineers and developers, many of whom are now LEED accredited. In fact, receiving a LEED AP designation is now highly sought after by professionals in all areas of the building profession.
LEED promotes a ‘whole-building’ approach to sustainability, and recognizes excellence in 5 key areas of environmental health; water savings and efficiency, materials selection, indoor environment quality, sustainable site development and energy efficiency. When any new construction is certified as LEED it provides a 3rd party, independent verification that the building was designed using those 5 criteria. In terms of skyscrapers, a LEED certification is only gained if ENERGRY STAR compliant high-reflectivity and high-emissivity roofing is used and produces a specific amount of solar reflectivity. The building must also contain at least 5 percent recycled materials, must maintain appropriate indoor environmental quality, and finally, must use an innovative, energy saving design. Using local or regional materials can also earn a building more points towards LEED certification.
By following the LEED guidelines, architects, engineers, designers, construction managers and many others are transforming the way building are constructed, making a better, safer, cleaner environment for everyone.