The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit community of leaders trying to increase the availability of green buildings to everyone in a reasonable amount of time. Explicitly, their mission is to design buildings and communities to enable a “socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that will improve the quality of life “. They manage LEED certification, offer education programs, and provide resources for green building research, projects, and the general public.
An aspect of USGBC that I would like to delve into further detail is their LEED certification program. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is an internationally recognized green building certification system and is used to gauge how “green” a building is at any point of its development. A building’s performance is evaluated in key areas, a few of which are: a sustainable site, water conservation, energy efficiency, and air quality. Points on a hundred point scale are assigned to buildings which address each key area, thus making them qualified for one of four categories, from lower to higher points: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. An example of a LEED Certified and a Platinum Certified building is the American Embassy in Sophia, Bulgaria and the McKinney Green Building in McKinney, Texas, respectively .
Pursuing LEED certification is a positive pursuit in many aspects. LEED certification is measurable and offers a better image for the entity (i.e. companies, educational institutions, etc.) wanting the certification. It also provides a specific direction for those who would like to decrease their environmental impact. Furthermore, because a third-party certification process is involved, substance behind the claims is ensured .
However, there are a few negative aspects to examine as well. The copious amount of time consumed to address sundry details of the process could be better invested in other, possibly more sustainable things. Additionally, the points awarded for meeting the requirements of each key area is not “normalized.” By this, I mean that installation of a PV solar panel is worth the same amount of points as adding a bike rack .
At the University of Texas at Austin, the current buildings under construction, and any new buildings in the future, will at least be LEED Certified . For this, I am certainly proud of, regardless of the cons. You know, Rome was not built in a day. If we are to make this migration to the land of Green, we have to take it one step at a time. As technological advances are made in the field of sustainable construction, the vision of every building everywhere being LEED Certified will be easier to realize.
 About USGBC- http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=124
 Nau Examines the Pros and Cons of LEED – http://www.jetsongreen.com/2008/04/nau-examines-th.html
 Utilities and Energy Management – UT – http://www.utexas.edu/utilities/sustainability/leed/