2016: LEED in (Slow) Motion - Part 4

In 2016, LEED certifications for commercial interiors (LEED CI/ID+C) grew significantly, but still represent a “de minimus” level of total US commercial floor area. The same was true of retail project certifications in 2016 - they grew nicely but still represented a very small fraction of US retail establishments.

Let's look now at some areas where LEED is doing reasonably well. For example, interior design & construction project certifications grew about 40% in 2016 compared with 2015 levels, after taking significant dips in 2104 and 2015. At an average of about 30,00 sq.ft. (1-2 floors in a small to medium-sized office building), LEED ID+C/CI projects totaled about 33 MILLION sq.ft. in 2016. A good achievement, if you're starting from zero, but remember there is about 88 BILLION sq.ft. of nonresidential floor area in the US. In my 2016 book, Reinventing Green Building, I discuss how to revamp the LEED system for all building types to put it back on a sustainable growth path.

Let's look at the retail sector, with more than 1.1 million buildings in the US (most of them quite small). After dropping in 2015, retail project certifications in 2016 were about 37% above 2015 levels and about 20% above 2014 levels, driven largely by the commitment of a few large retailers such as Starbucks to embrace LEED for hundreds of projects. Still less than 1000 projects among more than 1,100,000 retail buildings represents a very small penetration of this sector. At this level of activity, it would take more than 10 years just to certify all of the company-owned Starbucks stores. Most of the retail projects are certified inexpensively if they participate in the "Volume" project, which certifies store prototypes and then requires very little paperwork for each subsequent store certification.

So, you can see that there are some successes in LEED certification in commercial interiors and retail buildings, but compared with the task ahead, it's easy to see that these are really small numbers. In addition, unlike new construction certifications for commercial and corporate offices, where it's easier to see that LEED standards and practices have become widespread, it's hard to see any large impact of LEED in office and commercial interiors and in retail buildings, in terms of the sheer size and scope of these sectors.