Energy: people need it to live and work in effective, modern ways. Energy powers our technology, infrastructure, transportation and education systems. It might sometimes seem as if we're already maxing out our energy use worldwide—but in developing countries, one in seven people worldwide still lack electricity, according to the United Nations, severely limiting their quality of life.
Our energy needs will only increase in the future, as populations grow and become more urban. In addition to being closely associated with quality of life, energy use also has a huge impact on our environment. As the main contributor to climate change, energy use produces around 60% of greenhouse gases. Buildings are responsible for almost 40% of global CO2 emissions. These uses have major consequences for our planet and for human health.
Making wise choices in energy
Managing energy usage responsibly and shifting away from a dependence on oil and coal power to renewable energy sources like solar and wind will determine many aspects of our future. Through both national advocacy efforts and local initiatives, USGBC continually takes action to reduce the carbon footprint of the built environment and promote clean sources of energy. From California to Maryland, progress is being made—sometimes with small steps, sometimes with big leaps.
LEED has always been part of the fight to slow climate change by providing a framework for project teams to reduce carbon emissions. The Energy and Atmosphere (EA) category of the rating system prioritizes energy use reduction, energy-efficient design strategies and renewable energy sources. Everything from climate-appropriate building materials to passive heating and cooling plays a part in lowering the carbon footprint of a home, school or office.
With LEED v4.1, USGBC has gone even further, including both greenhouse gas emissions and cost in its energy performance metrics, and developing a new credit for renewable energy that better addresses diverse methods of renewable energy procurement and evolving global markets.
Here are some examples:
Energy and Atmosphere in LEED v4.1 for BD+C
The EA prerequisites and credits in LEED v4.1 BD+C include the following priorities:
- Prerequisite: Minimum Energy Performance has been streamlined to apply the same standards to all types of projects.
- Credit: For the Optimize Energy Performance credit, points are calculated based on the project's percentage of improvement, using both cost and GHG emissions as metrics. On-site renewable energy may be subtracted from both metrics prior to calculating proposed building performance.
- Credit: Renewable Energy now offers up to five points to increase LEED project activity in renewable energy markets. The new credit structure organizes renewable energy generation and procurement into tiers to help guide project team investment in on-site and off-site renewable energy resources.
Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in LEED v4.1 for Cities and Communities: Existing
The EA and GHG prerequisites and credits in LEED v4.1 for Cities and Communities: Existing include the following priorities:
- Prerequisite: The city or community is given an Energy Performance Score on a scale of 1 to 100, based on its GHG emissions relative to comparable locations. This enables the location to benchmark its current performance and set GHG reduction goals. The score is calculated from annual energy consumption from all sources, the emissions coefficient for electricity and all fuel types, and the total population of the city or community.
- Credit: To achieve the Low Carbon Economy credit, the city or community can gain two points by demonstrating a reduction in the carbon intensity of the economy over a period of three consecutive years.
- Credit: To achieve the Renewable Energy credit, the city or community can earn up to six points using renewable energy strategies such as solar, wind, geothermal, micro- or small-scale hydro16, or biomass.
- Take courses in energy efficiency on Education @USGBC.
- Read more in USGBC+ about why carbon was added as a metric in LEED v4.1.
- Explore LEED Zero and how you can gain recognition for net zero energy use.