LEED's Limited Uptake – Green Building’s Biggest Unreported Story?

Why hasn't the media picked up on the fact that LEED's growth in the US has stopped since 2010?  The reality is that more than 99% of all US commercial buildings (by number) and more than 96% (by floor area), measured at the end of 2015, are not LEED-certified. if a business's sales revenues had flatlined like this, there would be immediate fixes and a new set of product updates, including changes to the basic delivery model. All we hear from USGBC is rampant triumphalism, how successful they are globally, etc. But in the most important market, accounting for 65% of product registrations in 2015, LEED shows no growth at all. Isn't it time for the larger green building community to start discussing fixes, if the "pros" in Washington can't come up with answers? We're not going to reach our massive carbon-cutting goals with LEED as it is now, that's for sure!

LEED Has Hit the Wall in the US

To understand the problem LEED is having with market acceptance, take a look at the numbers for LEED project registrations in the US nonresidential sector since 2005. (These numbers are taken directly from the online LEED Project Directory, as of 12/31/15.)

LEED’s record has been particularly dismal among existing buildings in the US, with fewer than 600 projects certified in a given year, from a total of 5.5 million US commercial and institutional buildings, a total each year representing barely more than 0.01% of all US nonresidential buildings (that’s not a typo – one-hundredth of one percent – 1 in 10,000!) The EBOM certification number for 2015, 585 projects, just continues this trend.

Why is This So Important?

We have got a gargantuan carbon problem, folks, and the lack of success LEED has had with existing buildings means that we are unlikely to hit any of the ambitious targets for reducing energy consumption in the nonresidential sector, which represents about 20% of US carbon emissions. There can be no doubt that the green building “baton” has been dropped..

How Can the USGBC Possibly Lead the Charge to a Carbon-Neutral Future?
I encourage everyone to read and analyze USGBC’s annual reports and tax filings (see previous blog), and then draw their own conclusions. It’s obvious to me that this organization and its version of the green building movement, as currently conceived and operated, has hit the wall, has lost credibility and following among the vast majority of building owners and developers (who after all have to write the checks to support the LEED program), and is rapidly losing its support among its core base of architects, engineers, builders and consultants.

In my new book, Reinventing Green Building, to be published in June by New Society Publishers, I present the case for a radical simplification of green building certification, one that will cut current costs by 90% or more, so that we can expand the market dramatically. I’ll share more insights from the book in upcoming blog posts. Please stay tuned and subscribe by email link if you want to be notified of new posts to this blog.