Green Building Is Booming

Once a fringe movement, born of the 1970s energy crisis, green building is going mainstream with a vengeance. Through its four-year-old Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, the U.S. Green Building Council has certified 149 million square feet of commercial and high-rise residential space as green, up from 8 million in 2000. The economic benefits are clear: According to a recent study by the California Sustainable Building Task Force, green building raises upfront construction expenses by 2 percent, but yields tenfold savings over 20 years by reducing energy and waste costs. Even those upfront expenses are decreasing as companies like Home Depot jump into the market with more eco-friendly, sustainable materials, driving prices down. Green building techniques range from the high-tech, like installing motion sensors that turn off lights when no one’s in a room, to low-tech, like situating buildings to receive maximum natural light. More and more cities require new government buildings to meet LEED standards.