UN names LEED group ‘Champion of the Earth’

The role energy efficient buildings can play in reducing carbon emissions was highlighted yesterday when the United Nations (UN) named the US Green Building Council (USGBC) as one of the winners of this year’s top environmental accolade, the Champions of the Earth award.

The award, which is usually received by an individual, was won by USGBC for its outstanding contribution to sustainable building through its LEED green building rating system, currently the most widely used green building program worldwide.

"We see it as a signal that the sustainability of buildings is increasingly being treated as a critical environmental and socio-economic issue, not just in the U.S. but across the world," said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair, USGBC.

LEED certifies 1.7 million square feet of building space daily in 150 countries and territories – the equivalent of about 45 football fields, USGBC said in a statement, adding that in the US buildings account for 40% of energy use and that leaky, inefficient buildings incur losses of $130bn every year. 

Worldwide, USGBC said, buildings are contributing as much as one third of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

"In little over two decades the USGBC has gone from 60 firms and a few not-for-profit organizations, to 76 chapters, nearly 13,000 member companies and organizations, and more than 198,000 LEED certified professionals today," said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. "This is a truly remarkable success story of community partnership where all sectors of society benefit through sustainable entrepreneurship – leading to improved quality of life for millions of people, while also making significant contributions to climate change mitigation."

Winners of the award were honoured by UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon at a ceremony at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC. 

See more winners here.

Photograph: Home to Citibank and the World Bank, 1225 Connecticut Avenue NW, in Washington DC., achieved LEED Platinum status with a $32 million renovation in 2009 (Wikimedia Commons)

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