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Evaluating Buildings: 12 Green Building Certifications to Know

The Brundtland Report, 1987 - "Our Common Future" - introduced the notion that the sustainable use of natural resources must "meet the needs of the present generation without affecting the ability of future generations to meet theirs." Since then, the term sustainability has been popularized and, often, trivialized in our daily lives. In the construction industry, this is no different. As much as we know that to build, we need to destroy, how is it possible to mitigate the effects of construction during the useful life and demolition of buildings? A sustainable building, in its design, construction, and operation, must reduce or eliminate negative effects overall and may even generate net positive impacts on the climate and environment – preserving resources and improving the quality of life of the occupants simultaneously. To say that a building is sustainable is easy and even seductive. But what exactly makes sustainable construction?

Answering this question is not a simple exercise. That is why, in the last 30 years, several building sustainability certifications have been created. Through outsourced and impartial evaluations from different sources, they aim to verify the sustainable aspects of any construction. Each of them addresses particular building elements and is typically focused on certain regions of the world. While there are some certifications that verify whether the building meets certain efficiency criteria, others create different classifications, assigning a score based on these evaluations. Below, we list some of the primary sustainability certifications around the world – ranked alphabetically – and include their main architectural applications alongside a brief explanation:

Brandon Haw Imagines a New High-Tech Office Tower in Pittsburgh

JMC Holdings unveiled images of a 21-story office building in Pittsburgh’s 1501 Penn Ave. Designed by Brandon Haw Architecture, an international architecture studio based in New York, in collaboration with the AM/Woolly Group, the new commercial structure is LEED-certified.

Courtesy of Focus StudioCourtesy of Focus StudioCourtesy of Focus StudioCourtesy of Focus Studio+ 9

Determine Which Sustainable Building Rating Systems are Best for You

The variety of sustainable building rating systems promoting health and wellbeing can be confusing. With so many standards, how do you determine which are suitable for your project? How do you take advantage of the synergies between these rating systems to pick the right building materials? By increasing your knowledge of all the available options, you can make a more informed decision and achieve the best possible results for your building. In AEC Daily’s online course you can explore health and wellbeing credits across sustainable building rating systems and study the many options for creating optimal conditions for building occupants.

Is Integrating Building Performance Difficult at Your Firm?

In a study recently published by AIA, less than 13% of architectural firms have incorporated building performance as part of their practice. With buildings contributing 40% of total carbon emissions leading to climate change, just 25 projects are roughly equivalent to planting 1 million trees each year. In addition to that, teams that are able to showcase data-driven and performance-driven decision-making and feature an energy analysis in every pursuit are able to increase fees and generate more revenue. Although integrating building performance sounds like a no-brainer, it proves to be difficult at many firms, because in addition to the practical changes, it requires a culture shift. That culture shift can only happen if the tools are easy to use, accurate, and mesh well with current workflows. Right now is the perfect time to tackle these culture changes due to a few reasons:

5 Ways to Discuss Building Performance for Your Next Project Pursuit

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Today in the United States, buildings account for nearly 40% of carbon emissions (EESI) and 78% of electricity usage. The most sustainability-focused firms run energy simulations for less than 50% of their projects (10% for a typical firm) and only doing so late in the process when design changes are limited and insufficient to combat red flags found in the performance report (AIA 2030 report). We can make building performance widespread once we help the entire community discuss the subject in terms of investment and return. Especially during a project pursuit, since having the buy in from the whole team helps ensure the key project metrics are met. Owners are seeking out teams who are using actual metrics and data driven processes that affect their bottom line. This new approach to practice is what makes the younger teams’ standout and will benefit both the climate and the bottom-line. Here are 5 ways to talk about building performance in your project pursuits: 

West Hollywood Library / Johnson Favaro

© Benny Chan© Benny Chan© Benny Chan© Benny Chan+ 30

West Hollywood, United States
  • Architects: Johnson Favaro
  • Area Area of this architecture project Area:  48000
  • Year Completion year of this architecture project Year:  2011
  • Manufacturers Brands with products used in this architecture project
    Manufacturers: Arper, Gordon International, MOSO, Dakota Johnson, SMI Architectural Millwork, +2

ARIA Resort and Casino / Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects

© Jeff Goldberg© Jeff Goldberg© Jeff Goldberg© Jeff Goldberg+ 14

Las Vegas, United States

Shoreham House / Tim Spicer Architects

© Willem Dirk© Willem Dirk© Willem Dirk© Willem Dirk+ 13

  • Area Area of this architecture project Area:  540
  • Year Completion year of this architecture project Year:  2018
  • Manufacturers Brands with products used in this architecture project
    Manufacturers: Cheminees Philippe, Daikin, Wignells, Future Windows, Gladstones Granite, +1

Maple Street School Preschool / Barker Associates Architecture Office + 4Mativ Design Studio

© Lesley Unruh© Lesley Unruh© Lesley Unruh© Lesley Unruh+ 15

Lè Architecture / Aedas

© Aedas© Aedas© Aedas© Aedas+ 14

Nangang District, Taiwan (ROC)
  • Architects: Aedas
  • Area Area of this architecture project Area:  11449
  • Year Completion year of this architecture project Year:  2017

BIG's Relocated Serpentine Pavilion Nears Completion in Toronto as Landmark Tower Tops Out in Vancouver

The collaboration of Bjarke Ingels Group and Westbank are celebrating two milestones in Canada, as the topping out of their innovative Vancouver House coincides with the advanced construction of their relocated Serpentine Pavilion in Toronto.

The two BIG-designed structures, located on opposite coasts, have both been recognized for their architectural innovation. The LEED-Platinum Vancouver House was awarded the World Architecture Festival’s Future Building of the Year in 2015, while the “unzipped wall” is the first Serpentine Pavilion to embark on a multi-city tour of this kind, before ultimately landing in a permanent home on the Vancouver waterfront.

Vancouver House. Image Courtesy of WestbankVancouver House. Image Courtesy of WestbankUnzipped Toronto. Image Courtesy of WestbankUnzipped Toronto. Image Courtesy of Westbank+ 9

HOK's Mercedes-Benz Stadium Will Be the First LEED Platinum-Certified Pro Sports Stadium in the US

HOK's Mercedes-Benz Stadium is officially the first LEED Platinum certified professional sports stadium in the United States. The new home to the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons boasts the highest sports venue LEED score at 88 total points.

There is much more to learn from this stadium than just its unique retractable roof system. The two-million-square-foot venue is an unprecedented model for sustainability and performance innovation. Its notable design solutions conserve water, lighting, and energy.

via HOKvia HOKvia HOKvia HOK+ 24

Vertical Village - SOM Leads Design of Major Mixed-Use District in Bangkok

Chicago-based Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) has unveiled plans for One Bangkok, a new 16Ha mixed-use development in the heart of Bangkok, Thailand. Working in collaboration with architects, engineers, sustainability experts and landscape architects, both local and international, SOM seeks to create the single largest private-sector development in Thailand to date - a vertical village providing homes and places of work for an estimated 60,000 people. Through One Bangkok, SOM challenged themselves to translate the vibrancy and energy of Bangkok's neighborhoods into a vertical environment, whilst promoting a 'sense of place' and district-level sustainability.

One Bangkok will provide retail, hotels, offices, as well as homes for 60,000 people. Image Courtesy of SOM via AtchainSituated adjacent to Lumphini Park, the scheme offers 8Ha of public space. Image Courtesy of SOM via AtchainStreetscapes, public plazas and greenspaces all contribute to a welcoming sense of place. Image Courtesy of SOM via AtchainA variety of towers will feature individual identities such as green terraces and sky gardens. Image Courtesy of SOM via Atchain+ 4

WELL Building Certification - An Architectural Aid for Human Health

Architecture continually evolves to meet societal demands. Recently, a global effort to tackle climate change, and to achieve optimum energy efficiency in buildings, has brought standards such as BREEAM and LEED to the fore. However, as scientific analysis and awareness of human mental health has increased, architects are once again required to place humans at the centre of the design process. This growing trend has led to the development of WELL Building Certification – considered the world’s first certification focused exclusively on human health and wellbeing.

Symantec HQ - Staff interaction is encouraged as part of WELL standards. Image Courtesy of LittleSymantec HQ - A vibrant collection of spaces encourage movement. Image Courtesy of LittleSymantec HQ - Staff movement and interaction is encouraged to promote wellbeing. Image Courtesy of LittleSymantec HQ - The building has achieved WELL certification. Image Courtesy of Little+ 16

UC Irvine Announces Plan for Sustainable Active Learning Building in the Heart of Campus

The University of California, Irvine has selected LMN Architects and Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction to design and build a new $46 million classroom and office building project. In the campus’s central greenspace, the new 70,000-square-foot building will promote diversity, group learning, and social interaction.

LMN’s creative approach of unlocking the site and rearranging the program led to a bold design solution that enhances the overall experience for both students and faculty, said UCI Campus Architect Brian Pratt, LEED AP. We are delighted with the results.

How University Construction Projects Offer Opportunities to Reform Architecture Education

There is a dichotomy to the business of educating architects. While the real world profession is a collaborative field, one in which projects of even the largest and most publicly-acclaimed offices are team-led initiatives, the study of architecture is often insular, myopic, and devoid of such partnerships. Certainly there is a benefit to this style of teaching - it builds confidence for one thing - but it is troubling to think that in a socially-oriented and practically-minded field like architecture, there can be such major disconnects between the process of designing and the act of building. As many critics of current architectural education have pointed out, incorporating design-build projects into school curriculums is a pragmatic solution oriented towards correcting such imbalances.

The fact that more schools don't have programs for students to both design and build their projects is especially perplexing when most universities, particularly those located in the United States, are in such a prolonged period of institutional and budgetary expansion. With many schools now governed like corporate entities, it’s surprising that architecture programs and students are not treated like in-house resources. Why aren’t architecture students treated like assets, the same way that student doctors and nurses are brought into university led medical facilities or scientists into campus research labs?

Munroe Meyer Institute, Exterior Rendering, Design: Brett Virgl, Ruth Barankevich. Image Courtesy of College of Architecture University of Nebraska–LincolnMunroe Meyer Institute, Exterior Rendering, Design: Lily Cai & Phuong Nguyen. Image Courtesy of College of Architecture University of Nebraska–LincolnUniversity of Kansas, Ecohawks Research Facility, 2013. Image Courtesy of Studio 804University of Kansas, Center for Design Research, 2011. Image Courtesy of Studio 804+ 32

Leonardo DiCaprio, Eco-Tourism, and Blackadore Caye: Has Green Building Jumped the Shark?

In early April 2015, the New York Times reported on Leonardo DiCaprio’s recent purchase of Blackadore Caye, a small island off the coast of Belize that has faced significant environmental degradation and erosion. A patron of several environmental projects, DiCaprio is partnering with Paul Scialla, CEO of the Delos real estate and wellness platform, to create an eco-resort intended to serve as the latest model of cutting-edge, environmentally-responsible tourism development. The development plans include a row of floating guest suites built over the water, 48 private villas (ringing in at $5-15 million), human health and anti-aging wellness programs, and a conservation area. The project is advertised as meeting the ambitious green building standards of the Living Building Challenge and the WELL Building Standard®.

Many Times readers in the comments section sardonically noted that the private jets and the shipment of building materials and daily resources for island development come with large environmental and social price tags that far outweigh the conservation efforts associated with the resort. On the other hand, a few commentators pointed out that the development will employ local labor and save the island from complete degradation. The discussion surrounding the pros and cons of “eco-tourism” development is not a new one, and not one that is easily settled.

But beyond the (important) discussion of the impacts of eco-tourism, the development raises questions about the emergence of alternative green building market standards, which ostensibly aim to transform the building industry by setting measurable targets for the environmental and social effects of the places we live and work.

Steven Holl Architects Unveil Proposal for Shenzhen Art Museum and Library

Steven Holl Architects has unveiled their design for a new public library and museum in a developing area of Shenzhen, China. With the goal of creating a public space with two buildings connected below the plaza level, the massing concept is based on a three-part removal. While the design did win the most votes from the jury in the overall competition, city officials chose a different scheme to continue with.

© Steven Holl Architects© Steven Holl Architects© Steven Holl Architects© Steven Holl Architects+ 22