Illinois Climbs Back to Top Ranking for LEED in 2021

U.S. Green Building Council's Top 10 States represent 1,105 LEED-certified construction projects consisting of more than 247 million gross sq. ft. of space.

Blur Bright Building 1143530 5ca3c2144715d
Arun Thomas/PEXELS

After sliding from the No. 1 spot in 2019 to No. 5 in 2020, Illinois has again topped the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) Top 10 States for LEED, demonstrating its leadership in green building. Illinois certified 3.16 sq, ft, of building space per person under LEED in 2021.

LEED is a globally used green building program and was created by USGBC as a leadership standard defining best practices for healthy, high-performing green buildings. USGBC calculates its top 10 list based on 2020 U.S. Census data, using per capita figures to allow for a fair comparison of the level of green building taking place among states with significant differences in population and number of overall buildings. The data includes commercial and institutional green building projects certified to LEED between January 1 and December 31, 2021.

Screenshot 2022 01 31 101031U.S. Green Building CouncilIn 2021, the top 10 states, plus the District of Columbia, certified 1,105 projects and more than 247 million gross sq. ft. under LEED. Washington, Massachusetts, Colorado and Virginia round out the top five, and Utah made an appearance on the list for the first time since 2015.

Despite Washington, D.C., not appearing in the official top 10 list because of its status as a federal territory, it consistently leads the nation in LEED-certified square footage per capita. In 2021, the nation’s capital certified 29.46 sq. ft. of space per resident across 103 green building projects.

“Amidst the challenges of 2021, governments, companies and other organizations committed to taking bold actions to protect the climate, their employees and their communities,” said Peter Templeton, president and CEO, USGBC. “Transitioning our buildings to be healthier and more sustainable is essential to meeting these commitments, and we’re proud to recognize states where that work is well under way.”

Notable projects that were certified in 2021 include:

  • Hines VC Project 20 in Chicago achieved LEED Gold; Hines has over 90 million sq. ft. that have certified, pre-certified or registered under LEED.
  • Union Station in Seattle received LEED Platinum certification and was the highest Platinum-level project of 2021 in Washington state.
  • Harvard University Science and Engineering Complex in Allston, Mass., received LEED Platinum certification and was also a regional award recipient at USGBC Live for outstanding design and long-term sustainability focus.
  • The Denver Water OCR campus of eight buildings achieved LEED certification at various levels: LEED Platinum (1), LEED Gold (5) and LEED Silver (2),
  • The Government Services Administration facility in Winchester, Va., achieved LEED Gold under LEED v4, as well as SITES v2 Silver certification and Guiding Principles Compliance, becoming the first project to certify across all three programs.
  • 1500 Mission Residential in Los Angeles is an affordable and low-income housing project with a rooftop park and wellness features that achieved LEED Gold certification.
  • Glenstone II Art Museum in Potomac, Md., just outside of Washington, D.C., achieved three LEED certifications: LEED Gold for the café, Platinum for the arrival hall and Gold for the museum itself.
  • Porter Portland Hotel in Portland, Ore., achieved LEED Silver certification and became the first hotel in the U.S. to certify under LEED 4.1.
  • Outpatient Clinic and Cancer Center in Provo, Utah, achieved LEED Silver.
  • The City Of Las Vegas Municipal Courthouse was certified LEED Silver.

The 2021 World Green Building Trends report from Dodge Data shows that green building remains a global priority and commitment to sustainable building is strong. LEED provides a framework for designing, constructing and operating buildings that are cost-effective, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, use fewer resources and support human health. The overall growth in LEED certification reflects the increased global adoption of corporate and institutional ESG goals and reporting.

“Green building is projected to continue its rapid growth in 2022, and USGBC remains focused on supporting further market transformation and innovation,” Templeton added. “It is particularly encouraging to see policy leadership at all levels of government promoting green building practice and performance—from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to local code enhancements. USGBC will continue to support efforts in all sectors to accelerate progress and increase accountability for creating sustainable, healthy, resilient and equitable buildings and communities.”