Green Buildings

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Energy efficiency upgrades and design elements in buildings have the potential to drastically lower U.S. energy demand while providing benefits such as cost savings, carbon pollution reduction, and decreased water use. Buildings currently account for nearly 75% of U.S. electricity demand, and incorporating sustainable design into the built environment can help cities become self-sufficient while increasing affordability of buildings, resilience and promoting job creation.

Nationwide, lawmakers are implementing green infrastructure policies that enable communities to become more resource efficient. One of the most ubiquitous standards is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification that recognizes best-in-class buildings demonstrating efficiency from construction to operating to disposal. Several states require adherence to or promote LEED standards as they set new protocol for future developments in the public and private sectors.

Key Points

1) Green buildings cost only marginally more to build, and result in significantly higher sale and rental rates, as well as tremendous savings on energy costs over time.

2) Buildings in the U.S. currently account for 38% of carbon emissions and 73% of U.S. electricity consumption.

3) LEED buildings save taxpayers money. For example, the U.S. General Services Administration LEED-certified government buildings cost 19% less to operate compared to the national average. 

4) LEED buildings consume 25-30% less energy and decrease water use by up to 15% compared with a conventional building, while also resulting in higher occupant satisfaction and carbon emission reductions.


NCEL’s Energy Efficiency Factsheet


State legislators can encourage energy efficiency in the built environment by mandating state buildings meet certain specifications or by enabling rebate and incentive programs that support homeowners and businesses looking to incorporate green building technology.

  • A Montana (HB464) bill would incentivize state agencies and the university system to opt into energy efficiency upgrades for basic operations and maintenance.  
  • A bill introduced in Washington State (HB1278) would encourage private investments in efficiency upgrades by mandating building owners publicly disclose their energy use.
  • Several states provide financial incentives to residents who incorporate energy efficiency measures in new buildings and retrofits, including New York (A10684).



Download the NCEL Fact Sheet with key points and links to legislation here

Download the NCEL Fact Sheet with key points and links to legislation here

Governments have taken a leading role in providing incentives to encourage green infrastructure. Programs include tax incentives, loans, net metering and more. This document provides an overview of each incentive type along with state and local examples of implementation. The full sheet is available here

This toolkit and comprehensive guide is designed to help state legislators who are developing policy solutions that improve the health and efficiency of schools in their state. The full document can be found here.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards are becoming a widespread measure of efficiency across the country in both public and private buildings. This page provides an explanation of the program and details on certification. More information is available here

This legislative update provides an overview of federal, state and local programs that encourage the adoption and implementation of LEED standards. The full update is available here

The Living Building Challenge is a certification program that represents the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment through net-zero energy usage, water reuse systems and more. Several buildings across the country have met the challenge, and more information on certified case studies is available here

This page details LEED project data for each state, including the number of projects, the owner sector and type of space being renovated. The database is available here.  

This page provides resources on funding green building development at the national, state and local levels. Each link includes an overview of the program as well as the intended audience. The full list is available here

This blog serves as a resource on sustainability and environmental law for the business community. The site highlights green building laws and trends, as well as insight into broader environmental industrial trends. The blog is available here


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