This summer, the Minneapolis City Council approved a measure to make all future city-funded building projects LEED certified. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the national standard for green buildings developed by the United States Green Building Association.
In doing so, Minneapolis joins 56 other cities and 16 states (Minnesota is not one of them) that require the certification.
Statistics on current energy use show why this is an issue we must address. Buildings account for 36 percent of all energy use in the United States, including a whopping 65 percent of all electricity. Twelve percent of all clean water is consumed by buildings, and 30 percent of greenhouse gases are produced by buildings. We have the technology to reduce this, and it’s high time we put it to use.
LEED strategies include large efficient windows that insulate from heat and cold, and utilize natural instead of artificial lighting, bathrooms that reduce water consumption with low-flush toilets, as well as the use of green roofs – literally, roofs with plants growing on them that reduce the heating and cooling costs by keeping the temperature stable.
While the use of natural resources to meet our energy needs is inevitable, the decision by the council is a remarkable step forward in reducing consumption.
But we shouldn’t stop here. The council resolution has authority only on city-funded projects with Minneapolis, needless to say a small percentage of all future construction. The state should embrace LEED certification for all publicly funded projects. Not only is green technology better for the environment, but, with ever-increasing energy costs, it makes economic sense as well.
The University has a wealth of research knowledge about green technology, and through its “Sustainability and U” project, is making encouraging progress in renovating old buildings to make them more efficient, and construct new ones with sustainability in mind, such as the St. Paul campus’ new water chiller plant. The rest of the state should follow the Minneapolis City Council and University’s lead and embrace green construction.