The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a nonprofit organization that promotes environmentally friendly building practices. It is best known for its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) programs that certify that various buildings are designed and built to nationally recognized high standards for energy conservation and environmental sustainability.
Founded in 1993, the U.S. Green Building Council has become rather influential. With many thousands of members, it has LEED®-certified thousands of structures. USGBC's mission is to help enable an environmentally and socially responsible environment that improves the quality of life for those that live and work in and around these buildings. The council's vision is to achieve this within a generation.
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Council members represent all aspects of the construction industry. They include interior designers, architects, engineers, builders, utilities, governments and manufacturers. National committees work to update standards to take advantage of innovations in technology that may not have been widely available even a few years earlier. Consensus-building on the committees helps guarantee the ideas will be accepted in the market.
A LEED®-certified building is one that meets the high environmental standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council. There are different levels — Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum — depending on the number of points a structure earns in different building areas. The areas and some of their characteristics are:
- Energy and atmosphere: Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are not used in the heating and cooling system. Utilities are based on a renewable source such as solar or wind.
- Indoor environmental quality: Paint and carpets emit low or no toxins.
- A sustainable site: The building is near commuter lines and doesn't contribute to stormwater runoff.
- Materials and resources: Building materials come from renewable sources, such as flooring made from fast-growing bamboo. Materials also come from within the region.
- Water efficiency: Low-flow toilets and other water-efficient devices are installed.
All kinds of structures can be LEED®-certified, including new office buildings, hospitals, retail space, schools, homes and even existing buildings.
In addition to providing certifications, the U.S. Green Building Council runs an extensive education program. Industry professionals who have passed an exam qualify for the USGBC's Accredited Professional designation. It certifies that these people have the skills and knowledge to help customers through the LEED® process. The Council also sponsors an international Greenbuild Conference and Expo, called the world's largest conference dedicated to green building. USGBC also offers seminars and online learning for LEED® and other development, in addition to providing support to educators in kindergarten through high school.