Green Retrofits on the Rise: LEED for Existing Buildings Surpasses New Construction Projects, Echoes Industry Shift
The U.S. landscape is covered by more than 60 billion square feet of existing buildings, many of them hogging inordinate amounts of resources and energy due to outdated infrastructure. The potential to green this building stock is vast, and more importantly, the potential is being realized: We announced last week that LEED-certified existing buildings are surpassing new construction projects by 15 million square feet, cumulatively.
This news comes just one week after President Obama and former President Clinton announced that the federal government will invest $2 billion in energy efficiency, with an equal investment from the private sector in response to the Better Buildings Challenge, covering 1.6 billion square feet of commercial building space. Job creation potential there? 50,000 new jobs.
Earlier this year, the administration threw the lights on over the potential of a greener building stock with the Better Buildings Initiative, the goal of which is to cut energy consumption in commercial buildings by 20 percent, saving businesses $40 billion.
It's no secret that revisiting our existing buildings and making them cleaner, safer, and more efficient is one of our strongest opportunities to cut global emissions and conserve precious resources; create jobs and save taxpayer dollars. The announcement about the growth of LEED-certified existing buildings is significant because it heralds that project teams, developers and building owners around the world are seizing this opportunity in greater numbers than ever. Green building is not just for new buildings – that way of thinking is evaporating faster than you can say "EB."
Global projects like the recently LEED-certified Empire State Building are proving this, and setting an example for other forthcoming retrofits. Greening this globally known New York City landmark will result in a predicted 38 percent energy savings and $4.4 million in energy cost savings annually.
Another skyline-defining project, Taipei 101, not only is known for being the second tallest building in the world, but also one of the greenest: The skyscraper was designed to use 30 percent less energy, reducing annual utility costs by $700,000 per year.
The FBI Regional Headquarters in Chicago, the first Platinum LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (O&M) project reduced operating expenses by 25 cents per square foot, achieved an ENERGY STAR rating of 95 and reduced water use by 43 percent. One Bush Street in San Francisco successfully implemented for only 31 cents per square foot while still earning covetable LEED Platinum. You can learn more about these projects in the USGBC LEED Stories from Practice, case studies submitted by LEED project team members detailing goals, strategies, processes and lessons learned from completed projects, along with a detailed LEED scorecard. We encourage you to take a look at these blueprints for success in the beta library and provide your feedback.