Following the LEED

LEED retrofits outpace new LEED buildings in 2011

The Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED) program recently announced that retrofits outstripped new lead buildings for the first time in 2011. The LEED program is designed to provide third party certification that a building is operating in an environmentally friendly manner. New buildings have always been at the forefront of the race for green building designs, but last year retrofit homes attaining LEED status outweighed new buildings by 15 million square feet.

This exciting trend is indicative of the enthusiasm LEED has garnered for its certifications and the growing awareness by home and business owners of the economic and environmental benefits of green building design. Ashley Katz, spokeswomen for the US Green Building Council which runs the LEED program had this to say: “Whereas before there was a lot of new construction, there are fewer funds for construction now. People are now looking at existing properties and footprints and saying, ‘What can we do to improve them?’”

The trend to retrofit buildings is encouraging. It is estimated that the US alone houses 60 billion square feet of buildings which use an inordinately large amount of energy. Ancient heating systems and insulation combined with equally outdated infrastructure stands in the way of energy efficiency and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Impressive inroads made into retrofits in 2011 bode well for cutting emissions, reducing fuel consumption and creating jobs in the green building sector.

Buildings of great historical import led the way last year with the Empire State building achieving LEED Gold status. The Empire State building was completed in 1931 and its new Gold status will save $4.4 million in energy costs annually. This will see the building earn back the cost of its facelift in only three years.

The US treasury building in Washington was under construction for much of the latter part of the 19th Century. Its aging façade got a building makeover and was upgraded to LEED Gold status last year. The environmentally friendly changes will reduce energy consumption by 7% and water use by 43%. These reductions will lead to an annual saving of $3.5 million in tax payer’s money.

In Canada, the denizens of banking in the prestigious financial district near King and Bay Streets have dominated the city skyline. Recently, however, they have been shown up by some new neighbours from the other side of the tracks. New, environmentally friendly buildings have been popping up in the Railway Lands and 1.7 million square feet of sparkling new “South Core” is outshining their aging neighbours. Not to be outdone, the financial institutes have decided that a shake-up is in order. While some, like the Royal Bank of Canada, are constructing new office blocks, others like the TD center are undergoing a $400 million refurbishment including replacing the 40 year old marble façade of the First Canada Place building. TD Center hopes to achieve LEED certification on all six of its buildings in the financial core.

TD hopes that the improvements will help to reduce running costs and win over tenants who are increasingly attracted to environmentally friendly buildings. Having lost 40% of its tenants to the greener buildings across the tracks, TD hopes that a green roof will have a more positive influence on occupancy as well as the environment.

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