Thoughts about my high school campus popped into my head the other day. I remember passing a plaque every time I would walk through the doors of Rowe Hall that read, “LEED Certified Building”. I knew this certification had something to do with sustainable building practices and the environment, but what exactly did it mean? This week, I set out to find the answer.
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Essentially, a LEED certification for a building means that it is a healthy, productive, and resource-efficient. Its presence is low stress on the environment and it saves money on operational costs. In the U.S, buildings account for 38% of CO2 emissions and 73% consumption of electricity. However, LEED buildings consume a quarter less energy and generate 34% less greenhouse gases. Green buildings can be a win-win for building owners, society, and the environment!
To become certified, a building must accumulate a certain number of credits. The rating system is different for each building type; homes, neighborhoods, retail stores, schools, warehouses, hotels, and hospitals can all be LEED certified. Buildings that are undergoing construction or major renovation can also transition to being a Green Building if the right steps are planned out then acted upon.
The U.S Green Building Council estimates that nearly 5 million people set foot in a LEED certified building every day. Have you ever noticed a plaque around campus? There are fourteen LEED projects on University Park’s campus that cover all levels of LEED designation: platinum, gold, silver, and certified. Among the list are The Millennium Science Center (gold), Student Health Center (silver), and the Rec Hall addition (gold). Surprisingly, the Day Care at Hort Woods is the only location listed as a platinum LEED building!
Sadly, Penn State’s sustainability website hasn’t been updated since 2013, but I hope that with all of the construction that is taking place on campus right now, architects and Penn State officials are renovating buildings while keeping environmental building practices in mind. While LEED buildings do exist on campus, I would love to see more LEED certification projects accumulate as we progress into more modern times. As a prominent University, Penn State has the chance to be a global leader in green building practices. A LEED plaque is a designation of environmental responsibility and civic duty to our planet that sets certain stakeholders apart from the rest. The need to coexist with our Earth will only increase in the coming years, and designing buildings to be sustainable, cost effective and energy efficient is just one way to achieve this.