Mahesh Ramanujam will move into the role of CEO in 2017, where he will bring more than 16 years of diversified enterprise management to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and its sister organization, Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI)
GHB: As you see it, what is the most pressing reason to focus on green building and development?
MR: At the U.S. Green Building Council, we have a strong vision of a sustainable environment within a generation and are transforming the places, communities and cities where we live, work, learn and play. This vision is simple—that buildings, communities and cities will be green within a generation.
Each and every day, we are striving to build a healthy, smart, productive, efficient, and, above all else, sustainable society. We believe that health and wellness is a universal right, not a privilege. And we are focused on advancing and supporting human health all over the world through our LEED green building program, so that we can develop a sustainable future for all—a future that is inclusive regardless of your economic or social background. LEED is a key solution to our current environmental challenges and a tool that improves human health.
GHB: Do you think other countries are ahead of the game in terms of sustainability and efficiency? If so, in what way? If not, where do we excel?
MR: While market transformation happens one project at a time, LEED is a full-scale global movement and the numbers speak for themselves—there are more than 79,600 commercial projects totaling 15.3 billion square feet in all fifty states and more than 161 countries and territories. Every day 1.85 million square feet of construction space become LEED certified.
For the last two years, USGBC announced the Top 10 Countries for LEED, which ranks countries in terms of gross square meters and numbers of LEED projects to date, highlights countries outside of the U.S. that are making significant strides in sustainable building design, construction and transformation, illustrating the ever-growing international demand for LEED green buildings. The 10 countries that made the list for 2015 are geographically and culturally diverse, representing seven of the world’s 20 largest single-nation economies by gross domestic product (China, Germany, Brazil, India, Canada, South Korea and Turkey), as well as six of the top 11 emitters of greenhouse gases (China, India, Germany, South Korea, Canada and Brazil). The U.S., the birthplace of LEED, is not included in this list but remains the world’s largest market for LEED.
A recent report from the Dodge Data & Analytics World Green Building Trends 2016 SmartMarket Report, to which USGBC is a contributing partner, conducted in nearly 70 countries, found that global green building continues to double every three years. The report also finds emerging economies like Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa will be engines of green growth, with development varying from twofold to sixfold over current green building levels.
As for LEED Homes, which includes single and multi-family, the United States is leading the charge. Between 2005 and 2013, the number of LEED Homes has grown from just 2 percent to 23 percent and continues to rise. Currently, there are more than 106,000 resident units certified under the LEED Homes rating system.
LEED Homes are built to be healthier and safer, which is especially important as we spend 90 percent of our time indoors and the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that indoor air is two to ten times more polluted than outdoor air. LEED-certified homes are designed to maximize the quality of indoor air and minimize exposure to airborne toxins and pollutants. They require proper ventilation, high-efficiency air filters and measures to reduce mold and mildew. LEED Homes are also extremely resource efficient and use an estimated 30-60 percent less energy than conventional homes, which leads to monthly leading utility savings and a reduced environmental impact. In addition, LEED Homes maintain value over time and are selling faster and for more money than comparable, conventional homes. Visit USGBC’s Green Home Guide to learn more.
GHB: With a background in technology, how have you seen technology affect the green building movement?
MR: The technological advancement of automated systems is a huge component of LEED but the LEED Dynamic Plaque, a near real-time performance scoring system, is the next step in tracking performance. Projects can elect for a near real-time performance scoring system, through the LEEDon platform, which provides a LEED Performance Score based on foundational practices and measured building data input that monitors energy, water, waste, transportation and human experience, and displayed on LEED Dynamic Plaque.
Performance scoring through LEEDon platform is the next wave in integrated design and operations, helping building owners and operators measure the sustainability performance of assets of their portfolio, and as well as compare their portfolio against other portfolio owners globally. The Performance Score is helping to drive the green building market into a new era of accountability and data transparency. By grading all buildings according to the same performance-based scale, building owners, operators and users can effectively set benchmarks that ensure greater cost certainty, profitability and environmental impact.
We also believe that in order to continue to develop a sustainable future, the next generation of green building must focus on the development of smart cities. We believe that sustainable, smart cities are paramount to securing the health and wellbeing of millions around the world—and ensuring a more sustainable future for all.