The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has announced a new strategy, "Healthy People in Healthy Places Equals a Healthy Economy," intended to leverage LEED and the community implementing the rating system to support buildings and communities in a post-pandemic world. The strategy is guided by the idea that prioritizing the health of people, communities and the planet is the fastest way to rebuild a healthier, more sustainable economy. A series of actions are underway, including launching emergency guidance and upgrades to the LEED green building program to ensure that it reflects the realities that buildings, and more importantly, the people inside them, will face in the near future.
For more than a quarter century, USGBC has defined global best practices for designing, constructing and operating sustainable buildings and spaces through LEED. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the world’s most widely used green building rating system and promotes the use of strategies that reduce environmental impact, enhance human health and support economic development.
“USGBC and its thousands of member organizations are focused on getting the economy back on track and on demonstrating that we can provide a foundation that supports people, businesses and communities,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of USGBC. “By helping everyone understand the role a LEED-certified building can have in creating healthy spaces, we can help rebuild public trust, stimulate the economy and ultimately bring about a healthier standard of living for all.”
Under the new "Healthy People in Healthy Places Equals a Healthy Economy" strategy, USGBC will update current LEED strategies in LEED v4.1 that support indoor environmental quality, cleaning, occupant comfort, operations, better materials and risk management, while finding opportunities to introduce new approaches given the current public health crisis. USGBC will also be taking the following actions:
1. Introduce new LEED strategies: In May, LEED will launch new pilot credits to support social distancing, nontoxic surface cleaning, air quality and infection monitoring.
2. Form CEO Advisory Councils: USGBC will form Regional CEO Advisory Councils to advise and support USGBC’s CEO on how the organization, its programs and the building and construction industries can prioritize sustainability in a post-pandemic world.
3. Accelerate USGBC Equity: Announced at Greenbuild Atlanta in 2019, USGBC will accelerate the implementation of its USGBC Equity program to better address the social, health and economic disparities within communities. A listening event is scheduled for May 28-29 to kick start this effort.
4. Call for ideas: USGBC will launch a call for ideas in May to hear perspectives from the broader market on how LEED and healthy spaces can evolve given the current public health crisis.
5. Adapted review process: GBCI, the certifying body for LEED and other green business certification programs, will amend its LEED review process immediately to incorporate the lessons learned from the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure projects that are currently undergoing LEED certification can dynamically transition and make their spaces healthier. Guidance will be published in May.
6. Guidance reports: USGBC will publish a series of best practice guidance reports to help project teams assist their occupants as they reenter their spaces.
USGBC is a leader in convening influential voices to help address some of today’s toughest societal challenges. In June, the organization will hold a virtual event to hear from global stakeholders on how sustainable practices can help transform new and existing spaces to be healthier and have a positive impact on people and the economy.
“We know that LEED is the key to a prosperous future,” said Ramanujam. “Sustainability is central to creating jobs, saving energy and saving money, all of which are part of the backbone of a strong economy. But strong economies must also support the people who make them run. Going forward, we will prioritize our efforts to build trust in people that their buildings and spaces are healthy and positively impacting their communities.”
While COVID-19 has changed the landscape forever, a strong global foundation for sustainability will help businesses and governments prepare to recalibrate and recover from this vulnerable moment. USGBC will rapidly adapt and act to prioritize all efforts to help restore the global economy and realize the vision that healthy people in healthy places is the fastest way to build a healthy economy. Refining LEED strategies and providing guidance that clearly communicates the economic, health, and environmental benefits of sustainable buildings, communities and cities to people will be a priority.