Top 10 States for LEED Certification

The real estate industry’s commitment to sustainability is stronger than ever, despite a decline in projects earning the certification.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The latest annual Top 10 States for LEED Green Building is out—and, for the first time, the U.S. Green Building Council included a ranking of states with the most LEED professionals. The turbulent 2020 reinforced the need for certified healthy, green buildings, and the built environment across the country took note: Combined, the 2020 rankings encompass 1,171 certified LEED buildings and spaces totaling 281 million square feet, and more than 100,000 green building workers.


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USGBC’s ranking includes commercial and institutional projects certified throughout 2020 and is based on gross square feet of certified space per person using 2010 U.S. Census data. The bulk of certifications were awarded to office, education and healthcare projects, with warehouses, distribution centers, multifamily and retail projects accounting for 20 percent. Nearly half of the listed projects were certified to the LEED Gold level, pointing to a commitment to substantial increases in sustainability measures. However, the number of projects awarded LEED certification in 2020—as well as the total square footage—decreased by almost 50 percent compared to the previous year, when 2,209 projects totaling 501 million square feet received a level of LEED awards.

Chart courtesy of the U.S. Green Building Council

Leading the ranking for top 10 LEED green buildings in 2020 is Massachusetts, which switched positions with the previous year’s leader, Colorado, now ranked fourth. Massachusetts had 76 projects certified in 2020, for a combined 19 million square feet, or 2.9 per capita.

Next in line are Washington, Illinois, Colorado, New York, Maryland, California, Virginia, Texas, and Nevada. Washington, D.C., which was treated separately due to its status of Federal District, had 129 certified projects totaling nearly 24 million square feet of space, which translates into 39.5 square feet per capita.

Visual courtesy of the U.S. Green Building Council

California emerged as the U.S. state with the most LEED professionals, with 26,906 green workers. New York took the second position with 12,575 green building professionals, followed by Texas, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Virginia, Colorado, Washington, and Pennsylvania.

In addition to the standard LEED certifications, the USGBC also tracks LEED Zero, which focuses on a higher level of green building performance. Specifically, this certification recognizes zero performance in buildings and spaces focused on achieving net-zero carbon, energy, water and waste. Since 2018, more than 25 projects globally have been certified to LEED Zero level. Six U.S. states, including Virginia, California, Illinois, New York, Colorado and Maryland, are home to LEED Zero projects.

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