09/14/2012 12:09 pm ET Updated Nov 14, 2012

U.S. Green Building Council Constructs a Greener Future

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) has given new meaning to the term "building the future."

Just 12 years after developing the innovative Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program that established a blueprint for sustainable construction and building rehabilitation, the USGBC has assumed a significant role at the crossroads of sustainability and economic development.

Consider the numbers:
• 146,264 LEED projects have been undertaken, including homes, health-care facilities, schools, commercial interiors, retail establishments, new construction and rehabilitation of existing space.
• 9.6 billion square feet of space has been LEED certified.
• 187,195 professionals in the building industry have been credentialed as LEED professionals.

Not only has the USGBC led the way in formalizing guidelines for sustainable construction, it has contributed to the growth of the emerging green-construction industry as the workforce learns new skills in the areas of photovoltaic installation and indoor air quality management.

Danielle Tallman, an associate development manager for the retailer Best Buy, calls LEED certification a "stamp of approval" that sets the company apart from other retailers. Bentley Forbes, vice president and general manager with Prudential Plaza in Chicago says blue-chip tenants use their LEED-certified offices as a "built-in marketing package" to promote their sustainability. And a global account manager for Cushman & Wakefield, George Denise, said the LEED process helped the company save more than a half million dollars a year.

Studies show that greener buildings mean lower operating costs, and better sales and occupancy rates. It only makes sense to do business this way.

Here at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), our students insist that we practice what we teach. Our mission is to advance the knowledge necessary for the stewardship of the built and natural environments, and our students expect us to operate our campus accordingly. Our Baker Laboratory rehabilitaton was designed to the LEED Silver standard. The College's first residence hall, Centennial Hall, received LEED Gold certification. And our soon-to-be-opened Gateway Center was designed to exceed LEED Platinum certification, the most stringent level in the program.

ESF celebrated its centennial last year and we begin our second century with a renewed focus on sustainability in every aspect of our lives. The USGBC is helping us design our future and, in the process, transforming our world.