The US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) membership has passed a vote for all Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified projects to achieve at least two “Optimize Energy Performance” points within LEED, which will improve the energy performance of all LEED-certified green buildings by 14 percent for new construction and 7 percent for existing buildings.

Buildings are an important and often overlooked solution to climate change: They are responsible for nearly 40 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the United States due to energy use, water consumption and other operational issues. And, CO2 has increased 18 percent since 1990 due to the rise in energy consumption.

“Improving energy performance will immediately increase the LEED Green Building Rating System’s impact in reducing building energy-related greenhouse gas emissions,” said Tom Hicks, vice president, LEED, U.S. Green Building Council.

All newly registered commercial LEED projects will be required to achieve the two “Optimize Energy Performance” points within LEED. To help projects achieve the new energy-reduction requirements, a prescriptive compliance path currently is under development as an alternative to energy modeling. The two mandatory points will count toward a project’s LEED certification.

Last November, USGBC’s Board of Directors passed an eight-point agenda to address climate change and buildings.

“Each of the eight specific actions will have an immediate and measurable impact on C02 reduction,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair. “When implemented in concert, they comprise a powerful leadership initiative that sets a high bar for the building industry.”

The points are as follows:

1. The 50 percent CO2 reduction goal—All new commercial LEED projects are required to reduce CO2 emissions by 50 percent when compared to current emission levels.

2. Increased energy reduction prerequisites in LEED—All LEED projects must achieve at least two energy and optimization credits.

3. A carbon dioxide offset program must be implemented.

4. Continuous process improvement incentives—All LEED for new construction and core and shell buildings that reach certification will automatically (at no cost) be registered for LEED for Existing Buildings.

5. Pushing the envelope on performance—Certification fees rebates exist for platinum-rated buildings.

6. A Carbon-neutral USGBC—By the end of 2007, USGBC, as an organization, will be 100 percent carbon neutral.

7. Portfolio Performance Program—The long-term goal of this program is to recognize companies for high environmental performance across their portfolios.

8. Carbon Reduction Education and a Challenge to the Industry—USGBC will be launching an important new educational program designed specifically to help industry professionals gain the knowledge they need to apply design and construction practices that are energy efficient and have immediate and measurable impact on CO2 emissions. In addition, by 2010, there will be 100,000 LEED-certified commercial buildings and one million certified homes. By 2020, there will be 1 million LEED-certified commercial buildings and 10 million certified homes.   EC