U.S. buildings are responsible for 39 percent of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions each year and consume 70 percent of the U.S. electricity load. In response, many organizations have sought to make their buildings “greener” – that is, increasing their efficiency in energy, water and materials usage and generally aiming to reduce the building’s effect on the environment.
The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Certification is the most popular of such programs, with 35,000 projects employing it. It rewards points to buildings that energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and better stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their effects on the environment.
Some environmental groups, however, have criticized the LEED program for not being stringent enough. They fault the program for rewarding points simply for the inclusion of environmentally friendly elements, disregarding whether they are used efficiently.
Additionally, the federal government offers several grant programs to incentivize more environmentally friendly building.