Green building and sustainability are buzz words thrown around more and more often these days. It's great to see people interested in preserving energy and doing what they can to save the environment, but it seems that few cities really know what it means to actually construct sustainable buildings. That's where the US Green Building Council and their LEED certifications come into play.
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and it's a green building certification program that recognizes the best sustainable strategies and practices. In order for a building to qualify for certification, they must meet certain requirements and earn a set number of points to achieve different levels of certification. There are four levels, starting with the basic one - simply, 'certified'. From there, the ranking goes up to silver, gold and finally the ultimate in certification, platinum. Platinum certification is hard to get, and because of this, it's the least common type to see. Of course each of the top 10 most 'greenly' constructed states have their share of platinum projects, the sorts of buildings that demonstrate what it really means to be environmentally friendly.
As the serious consequences of global warming are already demonstrating, we need to be more sustainable in order to preserve energy sources and to prevent pollution - if only for the sake of our health, the health of future generations and the long-term preservation of our environment and infrastructure. Typically, a large office building or retail outlet will utilize (and waste) a lot of energy just to control its basic functions; not to mention the resources employed in building materials and the wastes that come from building or renovating a new site. Some of the things LEED encourages are alternative energy sources such as solar power - to at least offset some of the energy usage - as well as low-flow toilets and faucets to help conserve water, high-efficiency windows that allow sunlight in without affecting the temperature inside, lights that automatically shut off when people leave the room, and irrigation systems that use rain water, among many others.
There are many ways - from the small to the large, from the obvious to the somewhat bizarre - that we can help prevent further damage to the environment caused by new constructions. These ten states know that, and take sustainability very seriously.
11 Minnesota - 1.55 Sq. Ft Certified Per Person
10 Hawaii - 1.71 Sq. Ft Certified Per Person
9 Colorado - 1.77 Sq. Ft Certified Per Person
8 North Carolina - 1.80 Sq. Ft Certified Per Person
7 Oregon - 1.83 Sq. Ft Certified Per Person
Thanks to the city of Portland, Oregon is somewhat known for its sustainable practices already. The city ranks pretty high on many lists - including the most bike-friendly - and offers some of the best public transport in the country. So it should come as no surprise that Oregon as a whole had 47 projects and a total of 6.99 million square feet certified as environmentally friendly in 2013.
6 California - 1.95 Sq. Ft Certified Per Person
5 New York, Tied with CA - 1.95 Sq. Ft Certified Per Person
4 4. Massachusetts - 2.09 Sq. Ft Certified Per Person
3 Virginia - 2.11 Sq. Ft Certified Per Person
2 Maryland - 2.20 Sq. Ft Certified Per Person
1 Illinois - 2.29 Sq. Ft Certified Per Person
Illinois is another state that might surprise you, especially considering it's #1 on our list. But when you look at Chicago especially, there are a lot of green projects going on in the Lincoln state. They had 171 projects, and 29.42 million square feet certified in 2013. But Chicago isn't the only city striving for sustainable building. Past platinum certified projects come from a variety of cities, and include the Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Bolingbrook, the Business Instructional Facility in Champaign, and 550 West Washington in Chicago. Hidden Oaks Nature Center is yet another nature center on our list, but this one is pretty neat. It's built between two large oak trees to simulate a “tree house” feeling. The building utilized site-harvested timber, recycled and locally available materials, and photovoltaic panels that supply the building with energy while sending excess output back to the grid. It emphasizes green building in every way while allowing people to immerse themselves in nature.
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