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LA, DC, NYC Are the Greenest Cities in the US


Think green building is just a fad? Not according to some of the biggest cities in the country. A recent study by ABODO Apartments looked at the greenest cities and states in the US. Based on the number and size of LEED-certified projects, both residential and commercial, many areas are turning green building into more than just a passing trend.

Residential LEEDers

Overall, there is 1,318,730,894 residential square feet of LEED-certified living space in the US. That’s enough to cover about 89% of Staten Island, or about 23,000 football fields. That translates into 38,353 projects.

That’s enough to cover about 89% of Staten Island, or about 23,000 football fields. 

The top three states in number of LEED projects are Texas, California, and New York. Texas has 6,945 LEED-certified residential projects, and more than half of them are in the Dallas area. In second place, California has 5,255 projects, thanks largely to Los Angeles and surrounding communities with 2,251 projects. New York also ranks highly -- with 2,215.

When it comes to square footage, two urban areas are in the lead for residential LEED construction: Chicago and Boston. In the Chicago area, the average size of a residential LEED project is 131,689 square feet; Boston is close behind at 131,109. Silicon Valley comes in with the next two spots, with San Francisco, CA (122,096 square feet), and San Jose, CA (107,198 square feet) bringing up a distant third and fourth. New York City rounds out the top five, with an average residential LEED project square footage of 102,322.

Only one urban area has an average LEED square footage lower than the average for projects within the state it is located in: Seattle, WA. At 76,301 square feet, LEED-certified residences are, on average, about 12,000 square feet smaller than in the rest of Washington. The trend towards smaller living spaces and tiny houses has really taken off there, contributing to this statistic.

The trend towards smaller living spaces and tiny houses has really taken off there, contributing to this statistic. 

Leading the pack of urban areas with the most LEED projects per capita is Jacksonville, NC, with 4.6 residential LEED projects per 1,000 people. Close behind is Santa Fe, NM, where there are 3.7 projects per 1,000, followed by Fairbanks, AK (2 per 1,000), Edwards, CO (1.9 per 1,000), and Taos, NM (1.9 per 1,000). With the exception of the Martha’s Vineyard community of Vineyard Haven, MA (1.4 per 1,000), all of the top 10 urban areas for residential LEED projects per capita are in the South, Southwest, or West. 

The states with the most LEED projects per capita — by a considerably wide margin — are Alaska (0.88 per thousand) and New Mexico (0.87 per thousand). The next closest state is Hawaii, where there are 0.5 residential LEED properties for every thousand people.

Commercial LEEDers

The top three cities in commercial LEED certification look a lot like the residential list: Washington, DC (1,886 projects; 310,943,375 square feet), New York City (1,672 projects; 306,428,775 square feet), and Los Angeles (1,093 projects; 224,091,671 square feet).

Other cities on the commercial list include Chicago (1,263 projects; 289,632,455 square feet), San Francisco (1,093 projects; 185,842,618 square feet), Seattle (708 projects; 110,850,956 square feet), San Diego (580 projects; 58,360,993 square feet), Boston (821 projects; 139,154,238 square feet), Dallas (612 projects; 135,799,519 square feet), and Houston (653 projects; 168,055,002 square feet).

Overall Winner

The overall greenest city, considering both residential and commercial LEED projects, is Washington, DC (183,363,548 residential square feet; 310,943,355 commercial square feet). 

"On a national level, it's not a surprise to see some of the largest US cities leading the charge in green construction. Cities like Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and San Jose are all at the forefront of innovation when it comes to city growth and expansion. These large cities, which are home to millions of people, have continued to progress and innovate as their population grows each year. In order to maintain a sustainable environment for all residents, cities of this size must find a way to implement eco-friendly developments for both residential and commercial construction projects."

"On a national level, it's not a surprise to see some of the largest US cities leading the charge in green construction." 

The US Green Building Council developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification in 2000 to provide a framework for businesses and organizations with an eye for sustainability. LEED certification standards strive to reduce the carbon footprint, energy costs, and overall negative environmental impacts of commercial and residential building projects, during both construction and building operation.

LEED certification currently comprises about 40 per cent of green construction’s contribution to the economy, according to the USGBC’s Leticia McCadden. By 2018, it is expected to directly contribute nearly $30 million to the nation’s GDP. A 2016 study by Dodge Data and Analytics projected that green building around the globe doubles every three years. With these kind of numbers, it certainly seems that green building, and LEED, are here to stay.

If you liked this article, here are a few eBooks you may enjoy: 

The Future of Green Building

Is Green Building Worth It?

Where is Green Building Headed?


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