Taryn Holowka

Taryn Holowka spoke at a WSJ Business of America Series event on what LEED can do to enhance our national infrastructure.

I had the chance to attend and briefly introduce a Wall Street Journal breakfast this morning that USGBC was sponsoring. The event was part of WSJs Business of America Series and focused on infrastructure. It featured Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel; D.J. Gribbin, Special Assistant to the President for Infrastructure Policy; and Gerald F. Seib, Executive Washington Editor, The Wall Street Journal. Many people don’t immediately think of LEED, or green building in general, when they think of infrastructure. But we know that the built environment as a whole makes up and directly impacts much of what we call infrastructure.

LEED has emerged as one of the single most powerful economic development tools for revitalizing and advancing communities. Buildings, homes, schools, warehouses, infrastructure development and even entire cities throughout the country and around the globe are realizing their potential through LEED.

Left to right: D.J. Gribbin, Special Assistant to the President for Infrastructure Policy; Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago; and Gerald F. Seib, Executive Washington Editor, The Wall Street Journal.

LEED is good for business.

Many in the room were likely wondering why an environmental nonprofit was sponsoring the event and making a business case for green. But as you know, USGBC believes that business and the environment can—and should—go hand in hand.

Over the last two decades, LEED has become a symbol of leadership in business.

When you see the plaque, it tells you that the building it sits on represents all of the good that company has done to reduce the impact of their building on the environment. But make no mistake—that building is also more efficient and costs less to operate than a conventional building. It is saving money, time and resources. The LEED plaque is a visible reminder that profit and environmentalism can converge.

LEED supports infrastructure goals.

One thing that I think we can all agree on is the need for massive infrastructure improvements in roads and bridges, as well as hospitals and schools—all of which make up the built environment. According to the Department of Transportation, the U.S. needs to spend around $150 billion a year simply to maintain our existing infrastructure network.

At USGBC, we have been advocating for a sustainable built environment since 1994. Through LEED, we are not only building better buildings, we’re advancing new innovations and technologies, promoting energy that is clean and efficient and powering green jobs and the green economy.

LEED creates jobs.

In 2015, USGBC came out with an Economic Impact Study, conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton, that showed that by 2018, green construction and LEED will support 3.9 million jobs and provide $268.4 billion in labor earnings.

LEED saves resources.

Green buildings use less energy and water, they use fewer resources, they reduce operating and maintenance costs and they ensure a better indoor environment. This all results in improved human health, a better human experience and reduced turnover and absenteeism. From 2015–2018, it is estimated, LEED-certified buildings will have more than $2.1 billion in combined energy, water, maintenance and waste savings.

LEED is nonpartisan.

Supporting a growing green economy transcends political divides and party labels. Today, local governments and private partners across the country are applying green building practices to optimize their investments and promote resilience.

As a 2017 infrastructure improvement plan is contemplated by our current administration, we hope the federal program will follow the cue of businesses and leaders around the country and prioritize performance and longevity to maximize job creation and help the U.S. use less water and energy, save resources and reduce utility bills.

Green buildings are also an important part of any city’s infrastructure resiliency strategy, as they feature climate adaptation and climate change mitigation strategies like reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Green building is in a unique position. It combines the concerns of people who are both fiscally minded and environmentally conscious, and it fits well into an infrastructure improvement strategy. With nearly 90,000 buildings worldwide using LEED every day, embracing sustainability has yielded big results.

Learn more about LEED