02/02/2011 02:23 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

All About LEED

This month, I thought it would be interesting to discuss New York State's growing green building practices with LEED projects popping up all over the State.

So, what exactly is LEED?

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design. Developed in 1998 by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the LEED system is the recognized international benchmark in green building design and construction, measuring important factors like "energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts" (USGBC: Intro - What LEED Is). Look into LEED's promising future here.

In NYC, Urban Green Council is the New York City Chapter of the USGBC and is now the second-largest USGBC chapter in the nation! Their mission is to lead the advancement of sustainability and serve as a model for other cities through education, advocacy, collaboration and research. Learn about New York City's Green Building History here.

And did you know that the USGBC New York Upstate Chapter includes 53 (out of 62!) counties in NYS (plus Berkshire County in MA)? They are co-hosting the 9th Annual New York State Green Building Conference with the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. On March 24-25, 2011 the conference will take place in Syracuse, NY.

Better yet, the USGBC provides an online directory of LEED-certified projects here. I did my own search and found out that there are 266 projects within New York State - how amazing is that?! Out of 6379 projects, we contribute 4% and growing.

Perhaps a testament to the development industry's increasing "greenness" is The Green Construction Education Program "designed specifically for construction professionals and focused on the contractors' role in a LEED project, translating the LEED Ratings System and organizing credits based on the impact they will have on construction" (AGC-NYS: Education). The program was developed by The Associated General Contractors of New York State, in cooperation with the AGC of America and a number of related industry groups. For extra guidance, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority's green building services offer technical assistance in attaining the USGBC's LEED green building certification.

Some existing LEED-projects in New York State that may or may not surprise you:

* Did you know that the New York Governor's mansion attained LEED-EB (Existing Building) Gold status in February 2009? I found this information in the article "New York State Green Building Construction Act to go into effect August 2010" - very good news!
* Two New York universities: Ithaca College and Hamilton College.
* The Wild Center/Natural History Museum of the Adirondack in Tupper Lake, New York, has earned distinction as the first LEED certified museum in the State of New York, garnering this green museum the LEED silver.
* The Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, New York. It is the first green building in America to receive both LEED© Platinum [the highest "green" building rating for environmental performance] and Living Building Challenge™ certification. Press release here.
* The Bank of America (BofA) Tower is located at One Bryant Park in New York City. According to Crain's New York, "It is New York's second tallest building and is now its first high-rise commercial building to receive LEED-Platinum certification."
* The Visionaire is located in Battery Park City and is New York City's First LEED Platinum-Certified Condominium. Other green residences nearby include The Solaire.
* As part of the Yankee Stadium Redevelopment Project, the Power House Building received a green roof and LEED Gold renovation, turning it into a mixed-use and energy-efficient facility.
* New Sunrise Yard, a maintenance facility for New York City's Department of Transportation, is one of NYC's LEED Platinum Certified buildings. Register here for tomorrow night's panel discussion event.
* Let's not forget The Albany Pine Bush Preserve and Discovery Center I visited in September 2010! Press release here.

Projects in New York State seeking LEED Certification:

* The new State Police Troop G headquarters being built in Latham, a hamlet in Albany County. Off Troy-Schenectady Road, the green building will have "high-performance windows, low-flow water fixtures, a demand-control ventilation system and other energy-saving features."
* The Lake Placid Convention Center located in the Adirondacks, which anticipates GOLD LEED certification upon completion by incorporating "optimized energy performance, renewable, recycled materials and natural daylight" (press release).
* The InterContinental New York Times Square is New York City's newest and largest new-build hotel. It seeks LEED Certification. According to Green Lodging News, "Green Buildings NYC and Hospitality Design have featured articles on the new hotel's commitment to being one of the most environmentally responsible New York City hotels."

And some future LEED-projects in New York State:

* The Old City Hall building, located in the Bellamy-Gansevoort Historic District of Rome, NY, was identified in Rome's Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) and will "undergo exterior historic preservation, interior rehabilitation and LEED certification for future commercial use."
* The New York Power Authority's White Plains office "uses environmentally-friendly cleaning products and materials [and] seeks to develop green guidelines for office renovations which will incorporate LEED Commercial Interior standards and is being implemented in the renovation underway on the building's fifth floor" (press release). Learn more here.
* Skanska constructs a LEED-Silver School Facility in Long Island City, New York. Work has commenced in November 2010 and will be completed in October 2013. Learn more here.

So... What if You Want to Green Your Home?

According to The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), "The United States' approximately 123 million residences consume 22 percent of the country's energy and 74 percent of its water, while generating 21 percent of its global warming emissions." While federal and state certification programs vary in their criteria and costs, UCS chose to describe three of the most well-known labels, which are all independently verified for compliance:

* LEED for Homes. The USGBC and American Society of Interior Designers created the REGREEN residential remodeling program.
* National Green Building Standard. The National Association of Home Builders and International Code Council oversee this program, which is approved by the American National Standards Institute.
* Energy Star for Homes. "This program uses Environmental Protection Agency criteria to rate new and remodeled homes based on energy efficiency only. There is no certification cost beyond what the homeowner must pay for independent verification. More rigorous Energy Star standards will be released in 2011 to ensure certification remains meaningful as overall building efficiency continues to improve" (Energy Star for New Homes: Program Guidelines).

Thanks for reading!