LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is a certification program that recognizes and promotes environmentally sound building and design practices. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED certification is available not only for new brick and mortar projects, but also for things like renovations, building maintenance, and land development.
There are four levels of LEED certification that a project can receive: (1) certified, (2) silver, (3) gold, and (4) platinum. The level of certification is determined by a point system, and points are tallied based on the types and quantity of green practices that the project utilizes. Factors that earn points include the sustainability of a project’s materials, its indoor air quality and access to sunlight, water efficiency, and energy consumption. LEED’s influence is global–millions of square feet of LEED building space are certified every week around the globe.
At the local level, Boston became the first major U.S. city to incorporate the LEED system into its zoning code. In 2007, the city sought to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by amending the zoning code to require all building projects over 50,000 square feet to use renewable materials and employ energy efficient practices. The number of LEED certified projects in Boston now exceeds 150, totaling more than 38 million square feet. Examples of LEED construction include the new Atlantic Wharf building, a LEED certified platinum skyscraper that boasts 33% less energy use and 69% less domestic water use than comparable downtown towers.
Sustainable development is also contributing to the transformation of Allston, where three LEED certified residential buildings were recently constructed along an area of Commonwealth Avenue now known as the Allston Green District. In 2013, four new townhouses in Roxbury earned LEED platinum certification and also the distinction of being Boston’s first “energy positive housing.” Because the Roxbury townhouses incorporate features like solar panels, triple pane windows, and heat recovery ventilation systems, they actually produce more energy than they use. This enables the owners to save money and also earn money by selling energy back to utility companies. In addition to sharing sustainable features and innovative designs, the Atlantic Wharf building, the Allston Green District, and Roxbury townhouses have all enjoyed commercial success, an indication that the Boston real estate market is eager for LEED and poised for more green development.
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