While high-density living helps curb urban sprawl, the activities associated with the construction of these buildings have serious impacts on the environment. According to the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC), about 35% of all greenhouse gases are attributed to buildings. The waste generated from the construction and demolition of buildings comprises 35% of the waste in landfills, and 70% of municipal water is consumed inside and around buildings. With environmental protection and sustainability becoming a top political priority in many countries, developers are looking at ways to make their buildings more green.

Manitoba Hydro Place in Winnipeg, North America's most energy efficient building, image retrieved from Google Street View

We've often referred to LEED in our articles, an acronym standing for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED is an international rating system — initially developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in 1994 — which recognizes green building excellence. The points-based system can be applied to many construction types:

  • Building Design and Construction
  • Interior Design and Construction
  • Building Operations and Maintenance
  • Neighbourhood Development
  • Homes

Taipei 101 was built to LEED Platinum standards, image retrieved from Google Street View

There are four levels of certification; the more points, the higher the level attained. Points can be awarded for construction practices like diverting waste from landfills, choosing water- and energy-efficient features, and for including amenities like bike parking that encourage sustainable behaviour in building occupants. Projects that achieve a LEED Platinum standard, the highest level of certification, most often produce significant water and energy savings, excellent indoor air quality, and utilize environmentally-friendly materials throughout the construction process. Building to LEED standards is generally a more expensive endeavour, though most upfront costs are recouped in the future through utility bill savings. 

Typical LEED certification thresholds, image via the U.S. Green Building Council

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