Sustainable buildings, LEED certification

Brief guide to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification which evaluates the environmental sustainability of buildings

The green transition and the fight against climate change necessarily also pass through energy efficiency and the reduction of the environmental impact of the building sector. So, in summary, we need to focus on sustainable buildings. Consider, in fact, that globally, buildings are responsible for more than half of total energy consumption. Not to mention that they produce about 40% of CO2 emissions, while 38% of waste is produced by the construction sector. Data that indicate a single viable path: the radical transformation of the construction sector. starting fromintelligent use of materials that are as natural as possible or in any case with a low environmental impactatapplication of the principles of green building and green architectureuntil the implementation of a circular economy model.

With a view to the evolution towards sustainable buildings, the role of certifications is becoming increasingly important which, on the basis of certain protocols, make it possible to establish the ecological footprint of a building, but which also represent a guide for those involved in the design, construction and building management to apply the right requirements. To certify the sustainability of buildings, over the years, various protocols with international value have been developed, including the LEED certification it is one of the most widespread and complete, as it takes into consideration a wide range of factors that go far beyond the simple energy performance indicated by other certifications. Specifically, LEED, acronym of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Designit’s a voluntary certification protocol that allows the level of environmental sustainability of buildings to be assessed. This protocol arrived in our country in 2009 thanks to Green Building Council Italia, a non-profit association of reference for sustainable construction, but it was developed for the first time in 1993 in the United States by the US Green Building Council.

Before understanding how it works, it must be said that LEED certification is adapted by different countries on the basis of their own regulations. In general, it can be assigned to any type of building, residential or commercial, newly built or to be renovated, to which it assigns a score based on the sustainability characteristics considered under various aspects: energy and water consumption, CO2 emissions, materials and resources employees, ecological quality of the internal environments, project and site selection. For each requirement a score is assigned which determines the achievement of a certain level of certification. They range from the minimum score of 40 points to obtain basic LEED certification up to a maximum of 110 points which corresponds to LEED Platinum. In between there are two intermediate levels: Silver, with a score between 50 and 59 and Gold, between 60 and 79 points. In determining the score, the different evaluation aspects have a different weight: the energy aspect is the one that has the greatest impact for 30%.

LEED certification can therefore help reduce consumption and emissions from buildings, improving the environmental performance of buildings. According to LEED framework estimates, it is possible to reduce a building’s energy and water consumption by up to 40%, reduce C02 emissions by up to 40% and solid waste produced during construction by up to 70%. Without forgetting that the application of certain design and construction criteria makes it possible to achieve greater levels of living comfort, for example by improving the quality of the air in the internal environments. Last but not least, LEED buildings have found a higher evaluation on the real estate market with an average of 21.4% more on the price per square meter compared to buildings without certification.

In our country today there are about 1,200 buildings that have received or are waiting to receive LEED certification. Not only newly built properties, but also historic and ancient ones, such as the recently renovated headquarters of the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice dating back to 1453.