At USGBC, we're committed to transforming how our buildings are designed, constructed and operated through LEED, the world’s most widely used green building system, with more than 120,000 buildings participating today.
Our vision is that buildings and communities will regenerate and sustain the health and vitality of all life within a generation. Our mission is to transform how buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.
LEED-certified buildings are proven to save money, improve efficiency, lower carbon emissions and create healthier places for people. They are critical to addressing the climate crisis, meeting ESG goals, enhancing resilience, and supporting more equitable communities.
We're working on expanding our coverage of priority topics and industry strategies, and we're taking action to advance each one in the market. Explore definitions, reports, articles and a description of the topic's nexus with LEED: decarbonization, electrification, equity, ESG, green finance, human health, net zero and resilience.
The history of LEED
In April 1993, Rick Fedrizzi, David Gottfried and Mike Italiano convened representatives from 60 firms and several non-profits in the American Institute of Architects’ boardroom for the founding meeting. It was then that ideas were shared for an open and balanced coalition spanning the entire building industry and for a green building rating system, which would later become LEED.
Green building going strong
"Doing well by doing good" is something that’s very important to USGBC — and this catchphrase is even more relevant today. We are responsible for designing a healthier, more sustainable and resilient future. For USGBC and our members, that goal is at the heart of our work. Our members are leaders at the forefront of building sustainably through LEED. We don’t have to choose between sustainability, health and a thriving economy. The future will require all to thrive.
LEED has always been essential to companies’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts. Today, the value proposition for LEED is higher than ever, as green building strategies provide a foundation that supports people and businesses and helps us adapt during a crisis. Commitments to increase green building efforts remain strong and a global priority, driven by extreme events and despite rising concerns like the pandemic and the climate crisis.
LEED v4.1 is more inclusive with updated referenced standards and allows projects to earn LEED points through building performance monitoring. It also continues to drive performance, fully integrating performance outcomes supported by new methodologies and a simple data-driven path to measure performance on an ongoing basis. Lessons learned from those using LEED have led us to look deeper at existing buildings, residential projects and cities to develop solutions that address unique markets.
LEED v4 came in 2015 with many new improvements over the previous systems, including increased flexibility, a performance-based, smart grid approach, an emphasis on materials and resources, a comprehensive approach to water, and streamlined documentation. LEED v4 continued to raise the bar for green buildings.
USGBC launched LEED v2009 in April 2009. Among the many improvements over its predecessor, LEED v2.2, LEED v2009 introduced weightings for credits based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s TRACI (Tool for the Reduction and Assessment of Chemical and Other Environmental Impacts) and weightings developed by the National Institute of Standards. This advancement made LEED much more rigorous and indicated the most important credits. For the first time, objective scientific intentions were behind the assigned credit values.
That same year, USGBC moved into its new headquarters at 2101 L St. NW, a Platinum-certified LEED for Commercial Interiors space, the first project to certify under LEED v2009 and a showcase of sustainable interior design. In 2010, GBCI certified the 5000th LEED project.
A green building explosion
2003 saw several significant developments for LEED. USGBC had grown and matured from its start as a fledgling non-profit, gathering strength, staff and resources, and it had launched LEED v2.1 the previous year. In April, LEED for Existing Buildings and LEED for Commercial Interiors began pilot testing, while LEED for Core and Shell launched in October. In November, the National Geographic Society building in Washington, D.C, became the first LEED-certified existing building.
In April 2004, LEED reached a significant milestone: 100 certified projects.
LEED v2.0 and Greenbuild
In March 2001, drawing on lessons learned from the pilot program, USGBC launched LEED 2.0.
Furthering its movement into new market sectors, USGBC saw the first elementary school achieve LEED Gold, Third Creek Elementary in Statesville, N.C., in November 2002. Meanwhile, as a reflection of the excitement and demand within the green building industry, USGBC hosted the first-ever Greenbuild International Conference and Expo that same month in Austin, Texas, with approximately 4,000 attendees.
By 1998, USGBC had successfully developed LEED 1.0 and began pilot testing 19 projects.
Following the pilot program's success, LEED for New Construction saw a public launch in March 2000.
The early years
The 1990s saw a growing realization of the need to optimize these systems—with people and nature in mind—to create better buildings.
LEED’s development grew from the formation of USGBC in 1993 by three individuals: David Gottfried, Mike Italiano and Rick Fedrizzi, who served as president, CEO and founding chair of the organization.