Amanda Sawit

USGBC has just released the 2015 Top 10 States for LEED, which names the U.S. states leading the nation in 2015 in sustainable building design, construction and transformation.

Now in its sixth year, this list is based on 2010 U.S. census data and includes commercial and institutional green building projects that were certified in 2015. USGBC calculates the list using per capita figures to fairly compare states with significant differences in population and number of overall buildings. This approach provides a window into the impact of LEED activity on the lives of residents in these states over the course of a year.

2015 Top 10 States for LEED
Rank State Gross Square Footage (gsf) Per-capita Certified GSF Total No. Projects
1 IL* 43,979,595 3.43 161
2 MD* 17,659,881 3.06 127
3 MA* 19,850,624 3.03 112
4 WA 17,450,321 2.60 101
5 CO* 12,218,992 2.43 95
6 NV 6,534,960 2.42 30
7 CA* 87,358,563 2.34 618
8 TX 52,445,321 2.09 237
9 VA* 13,005,968 1.63 121
10 UT 4,494,301 1.63 31
** DC 11,612,237 19.30 84

*Included in the 2014 list

**Washington, D.C. is not ranked, due to its status as a federal territory, but it continues to lead the nation in LEED-certified buildings, with 19.3 square feet of space per resident certified in 2015.

A historic year

Within the top 10 states, 1,633 commercial and institutional projects became LEED-certified in 2015—representing 274.9 million square feet of real estate. The states that made the 2015 list were responsible for an 8 percent increase in the amount of certified space over last year (271.9 million square feet in 2015 versus 251.7 million square feet in 2014).

The 2015 list has the highest average (2.47) per capita space LEED-certified among the top 10 states since 2010. This year, four out of the six states included in the 2014 list (Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and California) increased the amount of space they certified per resident, and have made the list again.

Worldwide, 4,837 projects were certified in 2015, totaling 818.9 million square feet—the most space LEED-certified in a single year. That number, which represents a whopping 21 percent increase in certified space over 2014, is a clear indication of the global impact of LEED.

The list at a glance

The 2015 list highlights strong performance, with Texas (No. 8), Washington (No. 4) and Nevada (No. 6) making a comeback after a three-year hiatus. Illinois and Colorado are the only two states to have made the list every year since 2010.

Massachusetts showed the greatest improvement in rank, jumping to No. 3 in 2015 from No. 5 in 2014. Overall, the state had 112 projects LEED-certified in 2015, equal to a little more than 3 square feet of certified space per resident.

For the first time, Utah broke into the list. Debuting at No. 10, the state had nearly 4.5 million square feet of space LEED-certified in 2015, representing 1.63 square feet per person. Utah’s emergence as a green building hub demonstrates how LEED is expanding beyond states with dense populations.

LEED is also booming in the nation’s most populous state. California held onto its No. 7 rank, posting solid numbers: 618 projects LEED-certified, totaling over 87 million square feet—the most out of all states listed. Among the top 10 states, California also recorded the most projects certified LEED v4—three in total: the Alameda Free Library, the Downey Energy Resource Center and the Integral Group’s Los Angeles office. Colorado and Illinois also each had one LEED v4-certified project in 2015.

Maryland (No. 2) and Virginia (No. 9) maintain a strong presence in the list, solidifying the mid-Atlantic region’s status as the epicenter of green building. Washington, D.C., is not ranked because of its status as a federal territory; however, the District continues to lead the nation with an incredible 11.61 million square feet certified in 2015—equal to about 19 square feet per resident.

Project trends

LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance was again the most popular rating system among the top 10 states, making up 49 percent of the total square footage certified in 2015. LEED for Building Design and Construction was a close second, representing 46 percent of the square footage certified. The third most popular rating system was LEED for Interior Design and Construction, constituting 5 percent of total certified square footage.

Similar to the previous year, there were a handful of high-profile recertifications in 2015, including Los Angeles’ City National Plaza (the largest space certified among the listed states) and the Los Angeles Convention Center, as well as the Virginia Beach Convention Center. These projects, and many others like them, are indicative of building owners and operators’ commitment to maintaining a high standard of building performance over time through LEED.

View more of the year’s most noteworthy projects from the top 10 states below.