December 2012

Volume 21, Number 12

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LEED in Public Buildings Sparks Private-Sector Demand

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A new study finds that adopting LEED for public buildings, like this LEED Silver fire station in Fremont, California, increases private-sector LEED registrations.

Photo: WLC Architects, Inc.

By Erin Weaver

Cities that require LEED certification for new municipal building construction see the adoption of LEED double in the private sector, according to a new study from Harvard Business School.

Based on data from 735 California cities, the authors of “Public Procurement and the Private Supply of Green Buildings” estimate that cities requiring LEED certification for municipal buildings between 2001 and 2008 saw 2.3 private-sector LEED registrations per year, on average, with an average total of 15.8 private LEED registrations compared to 8.3 in other cities—or 90% higher. Neighboring cities without their own municipal LEED standards experienced a boost, too, with a 61% bump from 1.5 to 2.4 private LEED registrations per year. The authors conclude that establishing a government standard can overcome the inertia of developers waiting for suppliers to offer LEED expertise, while suppliers wait for evidence of demand.

Along with variables such as market size, income, and education, the study took into account cities’ environmental preferences by measuring hybrid vehicle ownership and support for environmental ballot questions; the effect of green procurement policies on the private sector was similar across cities regardless of those factors.

The study excluded several cities—including San Francisco, where, as HOK’s Mara Baum, AIA, told EBN, legislation requiring LEED for privately owned buildings would make the effects of municipal building policies impossible to track. This is likely to be the case in an increasing number of cities as building codes become more stringent: Colin Rohlfing, Assoc. AIA, of HOK Chicago told EBN that Chicago’s requirement of LEED for any project receiving public money has greatly increased the availability of LEED services and materials there, and upcoming code changes for all buildings in the city “are taking a cue from LEED” and mandating strategies that include occupancy sensors, daylighting, and green roofs.

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Harvard Business School

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