The Greenest U.S. Buildings Are Where?

Feb. 6, 2015
Many of us might guess California or Massachusetts house the greenest U.S. buildings. And we’d be wrong. Illinois is number one, at least by the standard of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

Many of us might guess California or Massachusetts house the greenest U.S. buildings. And we’d be wrong.

Illinois is number one, at least by the standard of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which this week  ranked the top 10 states for LEED, a widely used international building rating metric.

In fact, Illinois has been number one for two years running, with 174 LEED certifications representing 3.31 square feet of LEED-certified space per resident. In addition, it was one of two states to make the list every year since 2010. Colorado was the other.

California made the list, but pretty far down at number seven. Massachusetts was five. These states, however, were numbers one and two on the American Council for an Energy Efficient-Economy’s annual scorecard, which looks at broader metrics and focuses on government policy.

Georgia and Arizona were newcomers to this year’s list, underscoring energy efficiency growth in the south.

Meanwhile, USGBC described the Mid-Atlantic as the epicenter with Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia all scoring high.

Washington, D.C., is not included on the official list of top states because it isn’t a state, but it is “notable as it continues to lead the nation with 29.44 square feet of space per resident certified in 2014,” the USGBC said. That’s significantly higher than any of the top 10 states (See listing below.)

The district, of course, houses many federal buildings, and benefits from the government’s push to become more energy efficient.

Rank State Projects certified in 2014 Square feet LEED certified in 2014 Per-capita square footage
1 Illinois 174 42,457,254 3.31
2 Colorado 102 15,816,498 3.15
3 Maryland 132 15,583,423 2.70
4 Virginia 150 18,617,712 2.33
5 Massachusetts 99 14,662,950 2.20
6 Hawaii 30 2,657,808 1.95
7 California 517 69,762,936 1.87
8 Georgia 87 17,748,781 1.83
9 Minnesota 39 9,511,684 1.79
10 (tied) Arizona 82 11,152,201 1.74
10 (tied) New York 250 33,691,209 1.74
* Washington, D.C. 102 17,716,622 29.44

LEED is now used at 68,600 commercial and institutional projects that cover 12.4 billion square feet of construction space in over 150 countries and territories. In addition, more than 71,400 residential units have been certified under the LEED for Homes rating system

The per-capita list is based on 2010 U.S. Census data and includes commercial and institutional green building projects that were certified throughout 2014.

Here is a list of  notable green buildings supplied by USGBC:

  • Illinois: The Aon Center, a 3.2 million-square-foot tower in Chicago owned by Jones Lang LaSalle, LEED Silver
  • Colorado: Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s Morgridge Family Exploration Center in Denver, LEED Platinum
  • Maryland: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Building 26 in Greenbelt, LEED Gold
  • Virginia: University of Mary Washington’s Technology Convergence Center in Fredericksburg, LEED Silver
  • Massachusetts: Winchester Hospital Ambulatory Surgery Center in Winchester, LEED Gold
  • Hawaii: City Financial Tower in Honolulu, LEED Gold
  • California: Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, LEED Gold
  • Georgia: The Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, LEED Silver
  • Minnesota: Wells Fargo Center in Minneapolis, LEED Gold
  • Arizona: Arizona State University Health Services renovation in Tempe, LEED Platinum
  • New York: Golisano Institute for Sustainability at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, LEED Platinum
About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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