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Which States Build the Greenest?


As the Trump administration works to loosen environmental regulations, some states are moving to strengthen them. In New York, lawmakers have devised a plan to nearly eliminate carbon emissions by 2050.

But which states are building in the greenest way? The nonprofit United States Green Building Council recently answered that question, ranking states according to the number of square feet of new construction per capita that were awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification in 2018, under the group’s commercial rating system. Buildings considered included mixed-use high-rises, condominium and apartment buildings, as well as institutional and commercial properties, but not single-family homes.

LEED is the most widely used environmental rating system for buildings. To achieve certification, buildings must have systems and components designed to work synergistically to achieve various sustainability goals, including high energy and water efficiency, low carbon emissions, a healthy indoor environment and cost savings. Certain prerequisites must be met, and credits may be awarded for additional elements or building techniques, raising certification to silver, gold or platinum levels.

Illinois ranked first among states, with 5.31 square feet of LEED-certified construction for every resident — a total of more than 68 million square feet in 172 projects. Massachusetts was a close second, with 5.3 square feet per capita, and Washington was third, with 4.25 square feet.

But the biggest winner isn’t a state, so it didn’t make the list: Washington, D.C., had nearly 62 square feet of LEED-certified construction per resident, with more than 37 million square feet in 145 projects.


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