WASHINGTON, D.C. — LEED-certified existing buildings surpass newly constructed LEED buildings by 15 million square feet on a cumulative basis, the U.S. Green Building Council announced.
“The U.S. is home to more than 60 billion square feet of existing commercial buildings, and we know that most of those buildings are energy guzzlers and water sieves,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president and CEO of the USGBC. “Greening these buildings takes hands-on work, creating precious jobs, especially for construction workers.”
Historically, new construction projects have dominated the stock of LEED-certified buildings in both volume and square footage. The council said the shift began in 2008, when the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (O&M) program began experiencing “explosive growth.”
In 2009, projects certified under LEED for Existing Buildings: O&M surpassed those certified under its new construction counterpart on an annual basis, a trend that continued in 2010 and 2011, according to the council.
“This new data marks the first time that LEED-certified existing buildings have surpassed LEED-certified new construction cumulatively,” Fedrizzi said. “The market is becoming increasingly aware of how building owners can get better performance through green operations and maintenance, and tools such as LEED for Existing Buildings: O&M are essential to cost-effectively driving improvements in our economy and environment.”
“Projects worldwide are proving that green building doesn't have to mean building new,” the council said in a statement. “By undertaking a large renovation, the recently LEED-certified Empire State Building has predicted it will slash energy consumption by more than 38 percent, saving $4.4 million in energy costs annually, and recouping the costs of implementation in only three years.”
Taipei 101, the second-tallest building in the world, earned LEED Platinum in July for its design that uses 30 percent less energy to reduce annual utility costs by $700,000 a year.
San Francisco's Transamerica Pyramid also earned LEED Platinum as an existing building — 39 years after it was originally built — with an onsite co-generation plant designed to save an average of $700,000 annually in energy costs.
“Making these existing buildings energy and water efficient has an enormous positive impact on the building's cost of operations,” Fedrizzi said. “And the indoor air quality improvements that go with less toxic cleaning solutions and better filtration create healthier places to live, work and learn."
Based on the LEED project data, the council expects the growth in existing buildings to continue outpacing new construction in the future, according to Jennifer Easton, communications associate with the USGBC.
“We hope to see this trend continue since the benefits of green buildings — from curbing emissions to cutting energy use — can have the greatest impact on the existing buildings side because the market is so large,” she said.