Last month, in part one, we took a look at what’s been going on with the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) green building rating/certification program since the first LEED Update article appeared in this column in September.

2005. The USGBC announced that it planned to go from only 600 LEED-certified projects (as of November 2006) to 100,000 commercial projects and one million homes by 2010. The “2030 Challenge” seeks to reduce operating energy for new buildings by 50 percent, along with “carbon-neutral” buildings by 2030. This accelerated agenda was announced at Greenbuild ’06 in Denver, Colo. where “global warming” was the main topic of discussion. Talk about action speaking louder than words, the Cascadia Region Green Building Council (CRGBC ) announced their “Living Building Challenge,” challenging the USGBC and the green building movement as a whole to move beyond the current pinnacle, LEED Platinum certification, to this higher standard. This month, we’ll continue our review of the world of LEED with a look at how the USGBC intends to mass market LEED and the progress of the LEED for Homes (LEED-H) program.


To achieve its aggressive goals, the USGBC was not about to take any half-measures. A year earlier, at Greenbuild ’05, the USGBC announced its intentions to create the Portfolio Program to allow for more efficient LEED certification of corporations, institutions etc., who build, own and operate multiple buildings based on volume.

At Greenbuild ’06 the group announced the launching of the Portfolio Program, with pilot projects for the program to begin in 2007.

PNC Bank, a subsidiary of PNC Financial Services Group based in Pittsburgh, Pa., is participating in the pilot phase of the program. In many of the small towns throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio, the local PNC bank branch has a good chance of becoming the first LEED certified and/or “Green” building in town.

Although 17 PNC branches had previously achieved the lowest level of LEED certification, Certified (formerly Bronze) using volume certification, PNC is planning on a “cookie-cutter” branch plan to achieve LEED Silver certification for over 100 branches in the three states they serve. Five variations of the 3,700 square-foot “footprint” of each branch will be included, requiring PNC to submit “scorecards” and documentation for each branch building based on a scaled fee.

However, PNC may consolidate its documentation submittals for same and/or similar features in all the branches seeking LEED certification. Upon submittal, the USGBC audits all submissions and chooses specific buildings and features to scrutinize in detail. Only then, will they issue a “Portfolio” certification.

Since every branch will be located on a different site with differing topography, site conditions etc., PNC has foregone seeking Sustainable Sites (SS) credits/points under LEED. Rather, it is focusing on those elements which are most duplicated in each branch: indoor air quality (IAQ), water use reduction, daylight and energy optimization.

The Portfolio Program is not limited to LEED-NC (new construction & major renovation). On the contrary, it will be used for the operations & maintenance (O&M) of existing buildings under LEED-EB (existing buildings). The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) is seeking Portfolio certification each year of a minimum of five of its hundreds of existing buildings under LEED-EB. For any/all new buildings, the UCSB has instituted a policy of a minimum LEED Silver certification.

Under the pilot phase of the Portfolio Program, six universities, three real estate firms, two banking institutions and the California Dept. of General Services are participating. LEED certification will include: LEED-NC, LEED-EB, LEED-CI (commercial interiors), LEED-CS (core & shell).

At a later date, volume certification for large-scale homebuilders could become part of LEED for Homes (LEED-H).

LEED for Homes

LEED-H received a $375,000 grant from the Home Depot Foundation. The grant promotes initiative in the area of affordable housing. The grant stipulates that the annual Greenbuild Conference serves as a venue for the foundation’s Awards of Excellence for Affordable Housing Built Responsibly. In the summer of 2005 (early August), the USGBC launched the year-long LEED-H pilot program.

LEED-H promotes the use of environmentally friendly building products by earning the applicant up to four points for using products listed in the GreenSpec Directory ( and/or based on a product’s specific environmentally preferable characteristics. Unlike other LEED “Products” (LEED-NC/CI/EB/CS), LEED for Homes’ certification process will be decentralized. Rather than the USGBC headquarters in Washington D.C. processing certification applications, as has been the norm since the LEED programs’ inception, regional providers will:

• Verify that homes built under LEED-H meet all requirements.

• Test the LEED-H pilot rating system to ensure its practicality and effectiveness.

• Train home-raters and builders in green building techniques and LEED requirements.

The regional provider list includes the following:

• Northeast: The Vermont Energy Investment Corp.; Conservation Services Group, Inc.; The Center for Ecological Technology; Fore Solutions; Horizon Residential Energy Services, LLC; What’s Working, Inc.

• Pennsylvania: The Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia; Philadelphia University School of Architecture.

• Texas: Contects Consultants; Architects & the Metropolitan Partnership for Energy .

• Colorado: E-Star Colorado; Built Green Colorado.

• New Jersey: McGram Assoc.

• Michigan: The Alliance for Environmental Sustainability.

• Georgia: Southface Energy Institute.

• California: Davis Energy Group, Inc.

• Arizona: The Scottsdale Green Building Program.

• Florida: The Florida Solar Energy Center; University of Central Florida.

One can check out the LEED for Homes program

Next month, in part three, we’ll continue our overview with a look at the long-standing controversy between the USGBC/LEED program and the timber industry and what’s being done to try and resolve it.