Vatsal Bhatt
3 minute read

Better buildings—and better cities and communities—equal better lives.

For more than two decades, LEED has provided a framework for designing, constructing and maintaining high-performing, sustainable buildings. As a result, millions of people around the world are living, working and learning in LEED-certified buildings. It has fundamentally changed the way we think about buildings and transformed the building and construction industries. And now, it’s also revolutionizing our cities.

That is why USGBC has been expanding its vision to impact cities and communities. Recognizing that they lacked a globally consistent way to measure performance and sustainability, we introduced two new certification programs in December 2016. LEED for Cities and Communities is designed to help leaders measure their impact, improve sustainability and develop plans for green energy, water, waste, transportation and many other factors that contribute to quality of life.

The goal is to transform the way cities and communities are operated so that they improve the living standard for people and encourage continuous improvement. After all, better buildings—and better cities and communities—equal better lives.

Building by building, street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood—and now city by city, LEED-certified spaces are transforming lives. With the recent LEED Platinum certification of the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District, Washington, D.C., has become a living example of the many ways LEED can be layered to support people, businesses and neighborhoods.

Better buildings

Located in a LEED Gold building in downtown D.C., USGBC’s headquarters is one of three LEED-certified spaces inside the building.

  • In 2010, USGBC’s office became the first to certify under the LEED 2009 Interior Design and Construction rating system.
  • The facilities team continues to maintain the highest level of performance for USGBC employees by tracking energy, waste, water, transportation and human experience in the Arc performance platform>.
  • As a result of its commitment to continuous improvement, the space recertified to LEED Platinum in June 2019 under LEED v4.1.

Take a virtual tour of the space to see the many ways it supports people and the planet.

USGBC headquarters are LEED Gold

USGBC headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Better communities

USGBC is part of the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District (GTBID), which in 2019 achieved LEED Platinum under the LEED for Communities rating system. As the first LEED-certified Business Improvement District in the world, GTBID uses LEED to demonstrate how it’s creating a clean, safe and vibrant environment for more than 89,000 people. Through partnerships and strategic initiatives, visitors experience:

  • More than 63 LEED-certified buildings, representing 42% of the total built area of the GTBID, which underscores the value of sustainable design for people’s well-being and the benefit of energy efficiency to property owners and investors.
  • More than 400 bike racks, as well as protected bike lanes, to help encourage safe and alternative transportation around the neighborhood.
  • Six rain gardens—with 10 more expected by the end of November—that capture and filter millions of gallons of stormwater runoff annually and provide a refuge and resting spot for pollinators and people.
  • Greener corridors and an expanded tree canopy that required converting more than 12,000 square feet of asphalt and concrete into green space, adding an additional 4,500 square feet to the area.

Duke Ellington Park in the Golden Triangle Business District

Duke Ellington Park in the Golden Triangle Business District.

Better cities

In the words of DC’s Mayor Muriel Bowser: “It is in the best interest of Washington, D.C.’s safety, economy and future to take sustainability and resiliency seriously.”

  • The city became LEED Platinum and the world’s first LEED-certified city in 2017 and is home to more than 1,620 LEED-certified buildings and the first LEED-certified Business Improvement District.
  • Year after year, it records more square feet of LEED-certified space per person than any other state in the country.
  • LEED for Cities serves as a valuable tool for the District as it works toward the goals outlined in its Sustainable DC Plan, helping the city track progress and outcomes for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, supporting clean energy innovation, and focusing on inclusive prosperity and livability in all eight wards.

Washington, D.C. is a LEED Platinum city

Washington, D.C., is a LEED Platinum city.

Every LEED certification supports USGBC’s vision of buildings and communities that regenerate and sustain the health and vitality of all life within a generation. Over the past 25 years, LEED has been focused on creating the framework that explains what it means to be a green building—setting that standard defined our first generation.

Now, as we look ahead to our next generation, we must consider how the decisions we make today will impact tomorrow’s performance. The next phase of our work must seamlessly integrate buildings into communities to ensure a sustainable future for us all. Focusing on the outcomes generated from our sustainability efforts will encourage us to set the bar higher so we can truly improve citizen health, provide economic growth and make the right decisions for our planet, our resources and our fellow humans. Simply put, we must think beyond the buildings themselves.

Start sharing how your LEED project is impacting people and your community by joining USGBC’s Living Standard campaign and registering to join us at Greenbuild in Atlanta from Nov. 19 to 22.

Learn more about LEED for Cities and Communities