Concern for the environmental impact of building construction around the country has led to the organization of a regulatory agency called the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).
The USGBC, in turn, has developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, a trademarked system that is considered the standard of excellence for designing and building energy-efficient, environmentally sound buildings in the US. These standards apply to all buildings – private, commercial, and public.
The green building rating system, as defined by the USGBC, recognizes five key factors in determining the health benefits to humans and the environment. These five factors take into consideration the entire scope of the building, from construction to long-term habitation.
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These factors are:
Sustainable site development
Minimal use of water
Overall energy efficiency
Selection of environmentally healthy building materials
Long-term quality of the indoor environment
The LEED rating system designed for green building provides specifications and standards for each phase of the construction process. Some of the standards are in use today and others are under development and will become available in the near future.
Other organizations involved with the development and promotion of the green building industry include the Green Building Initiative (GBI). The GBI is comprised of construction industry leaders who have joined forces in this non-profit network in order to bring green building options to mainstream construction sites, both residential and commercial.
The EnergyStar program operates under the auspices of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Its goal is to promote energy efficient building design through the standards they’ve established. The EnergyStar program offers its own rating system for energy efficiency.
Financial needs of the green building industry are being serviced by ShoreBank, a banking system focused on community development. It is the first ever to provide financing to developers specializing in green building practices and it conducts audits for energy efficiency in existing buildings.
Washington is the first state to recognize the importance of green building benefits. Becoming law in 2005, all public facilities, including schools, with more than 5,000 square feet of floor space must meet or exceed LEED standards for new construction and renovations to existing structures.
The city of Charlottesville, Virginia, became the first small town in the US to adopt legislation requiring green building standards. Their 2006 law was enacted to make green building practices available to more homeowners.