Amanda Sawit

See standout projects and local policies contributing to each Top 10 State’s leadership status.

2017’s Top 10 States for LEED accounted for 1,399 projects certified last year, demonstrating best-in-class practices when it comes to designing, building and operating sustainable buildings. Apart from offering up stellar project case studies, the Top 10 States also highlights a number of important local policies that are helping to ensure regions’ sustainable economic growth through green construction and operations, including with LEED. More information on regional policies can be found in USGBC’s Public Policy Library.

1) Massachusetts

200 Clarendon Street is LEED Gold

200 Clarendon Street (left), courtesy of Anton Grassl/Esto.

Massachusetts finished 2017 at the top of the list for the second year in a row, with a total of 130 projects. Local real estate investment trust Boston Properties celebrated two major certifications in its portfolio:

  • 200 Clarendon Street, the largest project certified in the state in 2017; LEED Gold
  • 888 Boylston, the highest scoring project in Massachusetts in 2017; LEED Platinum

Also notable: the Walden Pond Visitor Center, at the national historic landmark where Henry David Thoreau wrote his famous book on the natural environment, achieved LEED Gold.

Policy spotlight:

  • Boston’s Zoning Article 37 turned 10 years old in 2017. When enacted, it made Boston the first city in the nation to require private developers of projects over 50,000 square feet to adhere to LEED standards.
  • Established in 2007, Massachusetts’ Leading by Example program encourages state agencies and public colleges and universities to adopt new practices to reduce their impact on the environment. It sets goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, using energy more efficiently, using renewable energy, conserving water and creating greener buildings.

2) New York

Integrated Science and Health Sciences building at St. John Fisher College is LEED Certified

The Integrated Science and Health Sciences building at SJFC, courtesy of Park Avenue Photo.

New York came in second, with a total of 192 certified projects. Although traditional office space typically dominates the list of certifications, there were notable exceptions, including:

  • Animal Haven Adoption Center, a 6,700-square-foot facility for abandoned animals in New York City; LEED Silver
  • The Integrated Science and Health Sciences building at St. John Fisher College, the campus’s first LEED building; LEED Certified
  • Longwood Public Library, the state’s highest-scoring project in 2017; LEED Platinum

Policy spotlight:

  • New York City has outlined a vision, One City: Built to Last, which seeks to reduce building-based emissions by 30 percent by 2025 from a 2005 baseline. Within this vision, one of the city’s major initiatives is to lead by example in reducing emissions in its buildings by 35 percent within the same time frame. These commitments are part of the city’s larger goal to achieve an 80 percent reduction by 2050 from a 2005 baseline.
  • The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority offers a number of services to help building owners and managers reduce their energy consumption, including flexible technical assistance, cost-sharing for real-time energy management and training for tenants.

3) Illinois

Sunstar is LEED Certified

Sunstar’s North American headquarters and manufacturing building, courtesy of Patsy McEnroe Photography.

Illinois held steady at third, with 135 projects spanning a diverse range of space types, including:

Policy spotlight:

  • One of the city of Chicago’s nation-leading sustainability policy initiatives is to obtain LEED Silver certification for new construction of city facilities and LEED Operations and Maintenance and/or LEED Silver under Interior Design and Construction for major renovations of city facilities.
  • Additionally, the Chicago Sustainable Development Policy requires development projects that receive financial assistance or special approvals from the city to include sustainable elements, including LEED certification.

4) Hawaii

Sheraton Waikiki is LEED Gold

Sheraton Waikiki and Royal Hawaiian, courtesy of Sheraton Waikiki.

Hawaii landed in fourth place, a personal best for the state, with 16 certified projects. Hawaii’s booming hospitality sector made significant contributions that helped propel it back onto the list, especially:

Also notable: The LEED Certified Symphony Honolulu, a luxury high-rise residential building offering sweeping ocean and mountain views from the comfort of your own bed.

Policy spotlight:

  • Hawaii requires each county agency that issues building, construction or development-related permits to establish a procedure for priority processing of permit applications for projects incorporating energy and environmental design standards for buildings, including projects receiving LEED Silver certification or higher.
  • Beyond this, the state has been very active in sustainability policy, including being the first state to commit to 100 percent renewable energy (by 2045) and going above and beyond to promote green schools.

5) Maryland

MGM National Harbor is LEED Gold

MGM National Harbor, courtesy of Prakash Patel Photography.

Maryland moved up the list and rounds out the top five with a total of 105 projects. While the state usually boasts a diverse list of certified space types, some of the most interesting include:

  • MGM National Harbor, a 1.3-million-square-foot casino that was the largest certified project in Maryland in 2017; LEED Gold
  • Progress Place, a community services and shelter facility serving the homeless in Silver Spring; LEED Silver
  • Remington Row, a multifamily residential building in the Remington neighborhood of Baltimore, LEED Silver

Policy spotlight:

  • Maryland has long been a leader in green building policymaking. At the state level, agencies, including schools, have committed to green construction using LEED. Several local jurisdictions, including Baltimore City and County, promote green building practice.
  • Montgomery County in Metro Washington, D.C., requires  any new construction or major renovation project that is financed 30 percent or more by the county, and is 10,000 square feet or more, to either comply with LEED or achieve LEED Silver.

6) Minnesota

A-Mill Artist Lofts are LEED Gold

A-Mill Artist Lofts, courtesy of Troy Thies.

Minnesota jumped to sixth, with 47 projects, including three high-profile certifications in Minneapolis that contributed to the state’s overall standing:

  • A-Mill Artist Lofts, a National Historic Landmark transformed into affordable live/work residences; LEED Gold
  • Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins; LEED Gold
  • Minneapolis Convention Center, certified under LEED v4 for Existing Buildings; LEED Certified

Policy spotlight:

  • In 2009, the St. Paul City Council adopted Resolution 09-1377 to implement the St. Paul Sustainable Building Policy. As part of this, new projects receiving more than $200,000 in funding from the city or the Housing and Redevelopment Authority must meet minimum certification requirements within one of the approved green building rating systems, including LEED (read further in the Policy Library.) St. Paul is currently revising this ordinance to strengthen its sustainability commitments, and neighboring Minneapolis and Hennepin County are also regional leaders in building energy benchmarking through policies that require building energy measurement and disclosure.

7) Georgia

Metropolitan Library is LEED Silver

Metropolitan Library, courtesy of Smith Dalia Architects.

Georgia made the list again after a three-year hiatus, its status boosted by 71 certified projects, including a few that are central to the community and social life in Atlanta:

  • Suntrust Park, home of the Atlanta Braves; LEED Silver
  • Metropolitan Library, providing traditional library as well as community resources; LEED Silver
  • The Georgia World Congress Center, housing 3.9 million square feet of convention space; the state’s largest project certified in 2017; LEED Gold

Policy spotlight:

  • In 2015, the City of Atlanta adopted a Commercial Energy Efficiency Ordinance, requiring owners of commercial buildings over 25,000 square feet to benchmark energy and water consumption on an annual basis. The data is then reported to the city, where it will be made publicly available to inform the market.
  • In 2017, the city continued to raise the bar by updating its High Performance Building Ordinance. This policy not only requires new city buildings to certify to LEED Silver standards, but it also requires existing buildings to certify under LEED v4 O+M on a rotating basis.

8) California

Bren Hall is LEED Platinum

UC Santa Barabara’s Bren Hall, courtesy of Bren School of Environmental Science and Management.

California, which consistently outnumbers all other states in the sheer number of certifications year after year, saw 475 projects in 2017 encompassing office, retail, health care and education spaces, including:

  • Viacom’s Hollywood Headquarters, featuring ample space and open floor plans to foster creativity; LEED Gold
  • The U.S. Courthouse in Bakersfield, delivered throuh a design-build approach; LEED Gold
  • UC Santa Barbara’s Bren Hall, California’s highest-scoring project in 2017; LEED Platinum

Policy spotlight:

  • California created the first statewide green building code in the U.S. with the California Green Building Standards Code, also known as CALGreen. Since launching in 2011, the code has further propelled California as a national and global leader in the green building market, helping to improve public health and safety while saving residents and businesses money. Since 2015, USGBC has offered streamlined documentation and compliance for LEED projects in California that comply with CALGreen. Streamlining efforts have been updated to keep pace with more recent versions of LEED and CALGreen.
  • At the local level, San Francisco is one of many jurisdictions that requires all newly constructed and intensively renovated city-owned facilities over 5,000 square feet to obtain LEED Gold certification under the most appropriate version of the rating system.

9) Virginia

CHKD’s Health Center and Urgent Care is LEED Silver

CHKD’s Health Center and Urgent Care, courtesy of HDR.

Virginia may have slid one spot, but the state ended 2017 with a sizable amount of certifications—152 LEED projects, many of which hold central places within their communities:

  • The Basketball Development Center at Virginia Commonwealth University, a state-of the-art training facility for the men's and women's teams; LEED Gold
  • The rehabilitation of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia, one of the oldest LEED-certified buildings in the country; LEED Silver
  • CHKD’s Health Center and Urgent Care, in Virginia Beach, which achieved certification under LEED v4; LEED Silver

Policy spotlight:

  • In 2014, Virginia updated its Qualified Allocation Plan for affordable housing projects, creating rewards for developers that achieve LEED certification. Developers that achieve LEED at various levels receive a number of points, which are combined with other building and affordability factors and added up to determine which projects will receive funding.
  • Arlington County incentivizes LEED construction with an additional density/height bonus rewarded in exchange for certification under LEED v4. The amount of the bonus is dependent on the certification level.

10) Colorado

Byron Rogers Office Building is LEED Gold

The Byron Rogers Office Building, courtesy of GSA.

Colorado, which has made the list every year since 2010, saw 76 projects certified in 2017. Some of the notable projects representing the Centennial State include:

  • The modernization of Denver’s Byron Rogers Federal Office Building, the state’s largest certified project in 2017; LEED Gold
  • The Sustainability, Energy and Environment Complex at the University of Colorado, home to state-of-the-art labs dedicated to environmental and sustainability research; LEED Gold
  • PearlWest, a 175,000-square-foot office and retail space that achieved the state’s highest score in 2017; LEED Platinum

Policy spotlight:

  • In 2015, Governor Hickenlooper signed Executive Order D 2015-013, establishing one- and five-year goals in the areas of energy and water efficiency, petroleum reduction, greenhouse gas emissions reduction and environmentally preferable purchasing. The order outlines high-level directives for meeting Greening Initiative goals, which apply to all executive agencies and departments. Aligned with these aims, the Colorado state capitol earned LEED O+M certification and recently recertified using Arc.
  • Denver requires all new city building projects over 5,000 square feet to achieve LEED Gold, with the goal of achieving LEED Platinum where economically feasible. Building projects under 5,000 square feet must meet the standards laid out to achieve LEED Gold, with the goal of obtaining certification. Additionally, all agencies are to implement LEED O+M best practices.

View the infographic for the 2017 Top 10 LEED States