How LEED Certification Advances the Circular Economy

The construction industry is the most prominent material consumer industry in the world. It’s not that surprising when you think about how cities worldwide have developed and spread out throughout the decades. With consistent building, learning more about how construction impacts our environment has been on the minds of many industry leaders.

Buildings account for almost 50% of total energy use, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). They also account for approximately 40% of all raw materials used worldwide, over 70% of electricity consumption, and almost 40% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Armed with this knowledge, more companies within the construction sector are looking at ways to improve sustainability and have a better environmental impact. LEED certifications help the construction industry produce sustainable and efficient spaces that are still high-quality, advancing the circular economy.

What’s the Circular Economy?

Almost everything we do in our world involves taking things from the Earth like minerals, building materials, etc. Construction workers almost always throw away these materials when finished, creating excess waste. In the circular economy, moving towards sustainability and eliminating waste is the idea. The circular economy has three principles or goals:

  • To eliminate pollution and waste
  • To circulate products and materials (recycle) at their highest possible value
  • To regenerate nature

Overall, the circular economy is the move towards sustainability, recycling, and reduction before ultimately stopping our planet’s use of finite resources.

What is LEED?

LEED, also known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, was developed in 1993 by the USGBC. Still, it wasn’t until the following year that they developed a certification that companies could obtain.

The LEED certification helps provide a guideline for buildings to advance the circular economy by using sustainable materials, reducing carbon emissions, combating climate change, keeping people safe in the buildings, and more. You can apply LEED’s framework and foundation to existing buildings and new projects.

The framework also works on helping construction companies save money by using renewable and sustainable resources, which can reduce the harm they’re causing the environment. While this is all great, they ensure that their practices outlined in the guidelines aren’t driving the safety of the building to be compromised or that it will cause health issues for people inside.

Almost 30 years after the launch of LEED, the idea of green building has become a trillion-dollar industry. With the help of LEED, some of the most remarkable milestones we’ve seen in the green building include:

  • Over 100,000 projects following LEED’s framework
  • Over 610 million square feet of residential space
  • Over one billion square feet of LEED space (commercial and residential combined)
  • More than 24 billion square feet registered and certified with LEED

Why Get LEED Certified

There are several reasons why more companies and people are getting LEED certified. Our planet is beautiful, but the climate crisis is real and continues to worsen as the years go on. With this, the demand for green living spaces and commercial spaces is growing.

So, not only should you get LEED certified to keep up with the demand for green buildings, but it can also significantly benefit the environment. Overall, LEED certifications help everyone involved. Here are some of the most valuable benefits of LEED certification:

  • It supports renewable energy
  • It builds equitable communities
  • It provides credibility and accountability
  • It combats climate change by lowering greenhouse gas emissions
  • It encourages others to commit to sustainability
  • It creates healthier living, working, and other spaces
  • You’ll have significant financial advantages
  • It supports your ESG goals
  • It will increase the building’s value as the demand for green buildings increase

When you join LEED and follow the framework, people will recognize your building as sustainable, and you’ll gain a reputation for wanting to create healthier and more sustainable buildings.

Getting LEED certified will help you lower your carbon emissions by over 30% and use less energy and water. Thanks to industry leaders using their LEED certification since the 1990s, over one million tons of coal have been saved, and 80 million tons of waste are not going to landfills. The fewer materials sent to landfills, the better for the environment.

How LEED Certifications Advance the Circular Economy

The primary way LEED certification advances the circular economy is because it aligns with the main goals of the circular economy. The LEED evaluation process aligns with climate mitigation, resource reduction, energy efficiency, sustainability, and waste reduction.

Construction significantly contributes to waste, carbon emissions, and energy consumption worldwide. So, by following LEED guidelines, construction companies can reduce their carbon footprint by building green buildings and earning points for various aspects. For example, LEED gives credit for construction waste not going to landfills and incineration sites.

Another way LEED helps advance the circular economy is by awarding points to companies that provide adequate and easily accessible recycling facilities on new construction builds or the addition of these sites on older buildings.

Since most construction materials are wasted and end up in our landfills, LEED awards a Construction and Demolition Waste Management credit, these credits go to those who can divert these materials from ending up in landfills. They can be recycled or used on other projects, as long as they’re not sent directly to a landfill or incineration site.

LEED’s v4.1 represents advancing the closed-loop economy to help increase the demand for recycled building materials. Doing this will inspire more people to want healthier materials and renewable building materials and halt using finite materials in our buildings.

Final Thoughts

LEED certification is one of the best ways to ensure that the construction sector is advancing the circular economy. With detailed guidelines outlining sustainable material sourcing, high-quality and safe building codes, and reducing carbon emissions, LEED is leading the way in green building.

The circular economy is about the revolving door of production and consumption, so LEED can help advance this by using more sustainable practices and less non-renewable resources to further construction. You can find more information here if you’re interested in getting LEED certified.

About Dylan Garton

Dylan Garton is a co-founder, video producer and editor for the Skill Builder social media platforms.

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