A Look at the First LEED Buildings

A Look at the First LEED Buildings

LEED Certification assumes the distinction of becoming the green building certification standard. When designing a building with LEED Certification and energy efficiency it produces lower utility bills and greater sustainability. Preemptively seeing a need in 1993, LEED began to hash out standards. Now after over twenty years and more than 4 revisions, LEED muscled in on more buildings. As the prestige and acceptance of LEED flourishes, many designers are advertising buildings which are the first LEED Certified buildings in their categories.

With Superbowl Sunday coming, the venue, Levi stadium, completed in 2014, holds the distinction of the first stadium to house a professional football team with LEED Gold certification. The stadium contains over 1,000 solar elements including solar arrays covering three NRG Energy Bridges and automatic sensors coupled with a highly efficient energy management system. The designers took great care to develop a building to reach net zero energy. The goal of all 10 49er home games is to receive power from active and stored solar energy.

A 12,000 sq ft project in Fairfield, Wisconsin was the first LEED Platinum certified carbon neutral complex. It was built for Aldo Leopold, an early forest conservationist. In remembrance of the work of Leopold, the complex designers and builders used nearly 100% reclaimed wood. After completion, the complex earned a remarkable 61 out of 69 possible points. The ability to generate 15% more energy than the complex uses aided in achieving a carbon neutral rating.  The cost of the 12,000 square foot complex was $4 million, but the designers project a rapid return on investment.

The energy efficiency of the project arrives from a 39.6 Kilowatt solar electric system. The heating is done with radiant heating and cooling. Radiant heating uses piping to pump heated or cool ground water through the floor of the building. To further complement the radiant heating, the windows and overhangs are angled to shield the interior from the sun in summer, yet in winter, are angled to allow the warming rays of the sun through using passive solar design. Industrial complexes are also becoming LEED Certified and leading the way.

In 2014, the city of Gary, Indiana certified its first LEED Building with a renovated corporate airport hanger located within the Gary/Chicago International Airport. Through careful designs, the hanger achieved a LEED Gold Certification, ranking it among to top 17 airports in the United States. The hanger managed to reduce energy use up to 33 percent. The builders used recycled materials for 53% of the total material used. The hanger owners committed to purchasing 70% of their power through green energy over the following two years.

pearlriver_1575x900_timgriffth_09LEED also serves an international benchmark for Green Building. The Pearl River Tower, a skyscraper in Guangzhou, China, also boasts the first LEED platinum certified skyscraper in the country. As the greenest building in China, the 71 story skyscraper drew various international companies to lease offices. The Pearl River Tower is the largest radiant cooled office building and the most energy efficient super-tall building in the world. Many skyscrapers prior have used the various different technologies. The Pearl River Tower has;

The largest radiantly heated and cooled office building in the world

  • Double glazed curtain walls
  • Demand based ventilation
  • Highly efficient solar arrays

The substantial difference, however, is that in the Pearl River Tower, all of these technologies are incorporated and designed to function in harmony making it the most energy efficient super tall building in the world. The skyscraper was built with LEED in mind, however a LEED platinum rating does not require the construction of an entirely new building.

There is a category of existing building with this goal in mind. Many buildings, even some incredibly old buildings, are retrofitted to become compliant with LEED. In 2003, Warren Wilson’s EcoDorm opened a student hall that houses about 36 students. The EcoDorm was the first building on a college campus to achieve any type of LEED certification by tackling energy efficiency, indoor air quality, water conservation and local and recycled materials. The dorm conserves water with a most unique feature, a 10,000 gallon salvaged train tanker to collect and store rainwater. The rainwater is used to flush the dorms toilets and irrigates the permaculture (plants which mimic natural ecosystems and grow food) landscape.

These are only a few examples of buildings that achieved the first advanced LEED certifications in their categories. These projects were undertaken by pioneers. The designers, architects and builders forged ahead and delivered great benchmarks and examples of the built environment. There are great opportunities and selling points to being the first LEED certified building.

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