Recent studies show that green building is a key part of America’s economic future, promising jobs, energy savings and economic benefits.

The Proximity Hotel, Greensboro, NC, is the first LEED® Platinum Hotel in the United States.

The City Suite at Proximity Hotel.

Even as dire financial news continues to dominate headlines, new studies and reports point to green building as a growing bright spot for the U.S. economy. In fact, as a recovery plan that focuses on green jobs and infrastructure is implemented, as consumers look to live in more economically sustainable homes, as businesses strive to cut operating costs, and as our nation works to eliminate its reliance on foreign energy sources, green building principles are changing our perceptions of the building industry.

“As research comes in from diverse sources, examining the interest in green buildings among a range of Americans, the numbers keep painting the same picture: The future of our built environment clearly centers on energy efficiency, water reduction, systems that encourage cleaner indoor air, the use of recycled and more sustainably developed materials, and communities that coexist with their environments,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, U.S. Green Building Council. “Over and over again, Americans are saying the same thing: The key to a prosperous future is sustainability, and the triple bottom line - environmental responsibility, economic prosperity, and social equity - is imperative as we move forward.”

According to Turner Construction Co.’s “Green Building Barometer,” 75% of commercial real-estate executives, including developers, rental building owners, brokers, architects and engineers, say the credit crunch will not discourage them from building green. In fact, 83% said they would be “extremely” or “very” likely to seek LEED®certification for buildings they are planning to build within the next three years. The U.S. Green Building Council’s nationally recognized LEED green building certification program provides third-party review and certification of buildings’ design, construction and performance in five key areas: energy efficiency; water efficiency; materials and resources use; sustainable site development; and indoor air quality.

Other findings from this and other studies, conducted over the past year among participants ranging from consumers and homeowners to commercial real estate executives, include the following.
  • Seventy percent of homebuyers are more or much more inclined to buy a green home over a conventional home in a down housing market, according to McGraw-Hill Construction’s 2008 SmartMarket Report, “The Green Home Consumer.” That number is 78% for those earning less than $50,000 a year, showing the increasing access to green buildings for a range of incomes. In fact, 56% of respondents who bought green homes in 2008 earn less than $75,000 per year; 29% earn less than $50,000.
  • Over 80% of commercial building owners have allocated funds for green initiatives this year, according to “2008 Green Survey: Existing Buildings,” jointly funded by Incisive Media’s Real Estate Forum and, the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International, and the USGBC. Forty-five percent plan to increase sustainability investments in 2009.
  • That same study showed that 60% of commercial building owners offer educational programs to assist tenants in implementing green programs in their space, up 49.4% from 2007. This shows that both employees and customers are becoming more environmentally aware and are interested in using green materials and systems.
  • LEED-certified projects are directly tied to more than $10 billion of green materials, according to a Greener World Media study on green building. That could reach more than $100 billion by 2020, contributing to a vibrant industry that could drive an economic recovery.
  • In a September 2008 study, the Center for American Progress and the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst found that a national green economic recovery program investing $100 billion over 10 years in six infrastructure areas would create 2 million new jobs. The investments would include retrofitting existing buildings to improve energy efficiency and investing in wind power, solar power, and next-generation biofuels.
Many opportunities exist for creating a built environment that performs at a higher level and works for building owners rather than against them and their tenants. New buildings can be built with greener construction methods and designed for long-term operations and maintenance savings. Likewise, our nation’s vast existing building stock can be made greener - and studies show building owners are interested in doing so. Incisive Media’s “2008 Green Survey: Existing Buildings” found that almost 70% of commercial building owners have already implemented some kind of energy monitoring system. The survey found that energy conservation is the most widely implemented green program in commercial buildings, followed by recycling and water conservation. Nearly 65% of building owners who have implemented green buildings report a positive return on their investment. And 84% of respondents to Turner’s “Green Building Barometer” said their green buildings have resulted in lower energy costs, with 68% reporting lower overall operating costs.

As green buildings help companies cut costs and build sound financial situations, the Center for American Progress’ study shows how such green investments on a wide scale can ignite the economy of the nation as a whole. A $100-billion green infrastructure investment over 10 years, with a focus on green building retrofits and investment in alternative energy sources, could be paid for with proceeds from carbon permit auctions under a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program. That’s roughly the same amount of investment as the tax rebate checks that were part of the April 2008 economic stimulus plan, but would create 300,000 more jobs. In addition, about 22% of total household expenditures - the goal of a tax rebate stimulus plan - go to imports, while only about 9% of purchases for green infrastructure investment would.

Building and design professionals, product manufacturers, and others getting involved in green building are establishing themselves as leaders in a rapidly growing industry, McGraw-Hill Construction’s Green Outlook 2009 report “Trends Driving Change” shows. By 2013, the overall green building market (both residential and non-residential) is likely to more than double from today’s $36-49 billion to $96-140 billion. Green building is estimated to be 10-12% of the current commercial and institutional building market; McGraw-Hill predicts it will represent 20-25% of new commercial and institutional construction starts by 2013. What’s more, it’s possible these predictions could be conservative: In 2005, McGraw-Hill predicted green building would represent just 5-10% of the market in 2008.


The U.S. Green Building Council is a nonprofit membership organization whose vision is a sustainable built environment within a generation. Its membership includes corporations, builders, universities, government agencies and other nonprofit organizations. Since its founding in 1993, the organization has grown to nearly 18,000 member companies and organizations, a comprehensive family of LEED green building certification systems, an expansive educational offering, the industry’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo (, and a network of 78 local chapters, affiliates, and organizing groups. For more information,

About LEED

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building certification system is a feature-oriented certification program that awards buildings points for satisfying specified green building criteria.  There are six major environmental categories:  Sustainable Sites; Water Efficiency; Energy and Atmosphere; Materials and Resources; Indoor Environmental Quality; and Innovation and Design.  Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels of LEED green building certification are awarded based on the total number of points earned within each LEED category.  LEED can be applied to all building types, including new construction, commercial interiors, core and shell developments, existing buildings, homes, neighborhood developments, schools, and retail facilities.  LEED for Healthcare is currently under development.

Incentives for LEED are available at the state and local level, and LEED has also been adopted nationwide by federal agencies, state and local governments, and private companies.

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