leed-buildingsalliantgroup is dedicating the month of June to commemorating the achievements and global impact of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), and the wonderful value that LEED’s history brings to the AEC community.

Environmentalists Spark the Movement

In the late 1960s, a small alliance of eco-enthusiasts comprised of students and lawyers got organized over common concerns of pollution. With visions of protecting a safe and healthy environment for all living things, this group formed the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in 1970. Since its humble beginnings, NRDC has grown exponentially to over 1.5 million members who continue to lobby for a greener future.

Little did this small group know that their early concerns about pollution would mature to be the foundation for modern-day energy-efficient building standards.

LEED’s Leadership

Environmental movements continued to snowball through the 1980s, with the introduction of energy laws and the birth of building energy modeling (BEM).

But it wasn’t until 1993 that energy-efficient buildings received government recognition. It was that year that Rick Fedrizzi, David Gottfried and Mike Italiano established the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Their mission was to promote sustainability in the building and construction industry.

That same year, Robert Watson of the NRDC spearheaded a broad-based steering committee, and called it the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). This fusion committee of NRDC and USGBC members (Italiano was also a LEED cofounder) joined forces with non-profit organizations, government agencies, architects, developers, manufacturers, builders and other industry leaders, LEED sought to educate building owners, builders, and operators to respect resources and demonstrate responsible construction practices.

LEED Evolves

LEED’s early endeavors set out to define green building, to transform and raise awareness for the building market, to recognize leaders in the sustainable building industry and to raise competition for building environmentally sustainable buildings. From 1994 to 2006, LEED grew from one standard for new construction to a comprehensive system of six standards covering all aspects of the development and construction process. Since 1998, LEED has evolved to continue to incorporate emergent green building technologies.

By the millennium, the growing complexity and variation of buildings across different sectors needed to be addressed, and LEED responded in 2002 with certification requirements, classified by rating systems. In 2003, LEED was seen as the new yardstick for building design and became a highly accepted building certification system in the United States.

Today, LEED has a nine-rating system for design, construction and operations.

The benefits of a LEED-certified building continue to increase. LEED-certified buildings have been proven to use 25% less energy and generate a 19% reduction in aggregate operational cost. In 2010, Dodge Data & Analytics (formerly McGraw Hill Construction) published data that showed that 75% of firms viewed sustainability as consistent with their profit missions and that 73% of corporate leaders expected to attract and retain customers as a direct result of their sustainability efforts.

LEED buildings help keep employees healthier and more productive with better indoor environmental quality. Healthy employees are happy and definitely affect the bottom line of a business.

There are a variety of federal, state, and regional tax benefits and incentives available for green buildings. Typical examples of these incentives include: tax credits, grants, expedited building permits, and reductions/waivers in fees.

LEED Continues

In 2013, after three years of extensive research and testing, the USGBC approved major changes to the LEED rating system. These changes will increase the certification demands and force businesses to operate transparently.

LEED v4 advances technology and the need for continuous improvement; you can expect the USGCB to put even more focus on building performance. There will be transformation on a large scale, to include new market sectors from a global perspective. Builders embracing v4 should start adding words like BUG ratings, LID infrastructure, and BECx to their vocabularies, if they haven’t already.

LEED grew from the desire of a few people to save the environment and continues to advance a society that values sustainable building, living and working environments.

Anyone who doubted the USGBC’s influence or thought that LEED was only for conservationists is about to have a green awakening. The criterion set forth by both organizations is now established as industry standard and it’s the new normal of architecture, engineering and construction firms.

alliantgroup is the nation’s leading provider of specialty tax consulting services including the Energy-Efficient Commercial Building Deduction (179D) and the Research and Development Tax Credit. Contact us today to learn how your work on energy-efficient and LEED-certified buildings may qualify you for lucrative tax incentives and credits.