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Over One Billion Served: USGBC, LEED Hits Square-Foot Landmark, Keep Rolling

Get far enough behind, and everything converges and a sort of amorphous, daunting impossibility. In a sense, there’s something good about the way in which this has come down on me, recently, here at gbNYC. It’s been awfully quiet around here of late, as you’ve probably noticed, for all the familiar, prosaic, suffocating and plain-crappy reasons. But green building, bless it, is not taking any time off, which means that green building news — green building news in NYC and green building news elsewhere, green building news good and green building news baddish, major and minor and so on and so on — has been thudding into my inbox without ever quite making its way past all of my other deadlines and appearing here on the site. It doesn’t help, I suppose, that I have a tendency to get more ambitious than I need on these posts, which means that a planned post about The Domenech — Common Ground’s ambitious green public housing development in Brooklyn — becomes a post about what The Domenech means, instead of what it actually is. And once things pile up enough, even the prospect of a simple post on some simple good news — the massive planned solar array at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, for instance — becomes complicated. Sure, you can sneak the news into a parenthetical in a longish, self-centered opening paragraph, but it’s not the same. Anyway, all this is to say that if you were worried that the weeklong silence here at gbNYC owed to a cessation of developments in green building here in NYC and elsewhere, you can rest assured that things are indeed happening. It’s just that I have a lot of other stuff to do and… anyway, it’s all very interesting. Almost too interesting. But certainly not interesting enough to share here. Let me get to it, then.

Some of the news that has piled up in my inbox — which has, indeed, turned it into the informational equivalent of one of those sad, clutter-bound homes on A&E’s Hoarders — is more notable than others, naturally. It’s great that Cooper Union’s 41 Cooper Square laboratory received LEED Platinum certification, but we’ve already written about that (here, and in another post that is MIA from the Great Drupal Changeover), and it’s not the most dramatic of posts. But one headline that jumped out at me — because gigantic round numbers kind of naturally do so — arrived the other day, from the good people at USGBC. The gigantic round number in question is one billion square feet, and it represents the number of LEED-certified commercial real estate currently certified in the United States. Yes, it’s press release stuff — a cut above some corporate HQ getting itself certified out in Saddle Brook, obviously, but not so much the sort of thing that demands or deserves a very complicated response.

As it turns out, the New York Observer’s Matt Chaban had the same response to the news that I did. “On the one hand, it is great news that ‘green’ design has become so mainstream, even if it is as much a marketing scheme as an earth-saving one,” Chaban writes. “On the other hand, though, there are so many releases, and LEED is so mainstream now, that such certified projects stopped being news a few years ago.” [But] the U.S. Green Building Council—which came up with the whole green-is-good, let’s-standardize-and-certify LEED program—just announced that 1 billion square feet of buildings, many of them in the United States, have now been certified. Given that the program is just celebrating its 10th anniversary, that is a pretty amazing accomplishment.”

And it is, indeed, a pretty amazing accomplishment. Amazing enough, indeed, to topple that Hoarders-y wall of dusty old stories I’ve Been Meaning To Get To and break on through to the other side of your computer monitor. LEED, as we’ve discussed numerous times — sometimes in literal discussions between Stephen and me, but in many guises for quite some time — is not perfect. It’s not always lovable, and it’s not foolproof, and all that success — New York City alone is home to five billion square feet of real estate, but one billion square feet is certainly not nothing — may not be an unmitigated and unqualified good. But, but: it is undeniably impressive, and a reminder that, even as we bemoan the state of the discussion in green building and fuss over the green building brand, the green building sector is growing at a very impressive clip, with LEED leading the way. We will, of course, have much to say about the relative good or bad of LEED’s leading role in all this — a new feature, which I’d like to introduce before the new year, will touch on different green building opinion leaders’ thoughts on that very issue. (If you’re interested in participating in that feature, send me an email) But it’s better, this once, to be puzzling over a green building success story, rather than the alternative.

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