Green concept building.
  • Vladimir Zotov
  • Green concept building.
Last week, the U.S. Greening Building Council, the creator of the environmental building rating known as LEED—Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design—released its annual top ten list (which now goes to 11, seriously), and for the first time in years, Oregon did not make the cut.

In Oregon we love being green. We love our public transportation, we bike to work in weather that would make over state’s residents cringe, and now we even compost. Last year we were number five on the LEED list, so why the poor rating this year?

The LEED top ten list is based on the per capita number of new energy efficient buildings that have earned LEED certification in one year’s time. This means new buildings and retrofits count, while preexisting LEED-certified buildings don’t. In 2011, the District of Columbia had the largest number of buildings certified by LEED with 22 new LEED buildings totaling 18.9 million square feet. Oregon clocked in with only 6.8 million new officially green square feet.

Part of DC's green building boom is thanks to it being the seat of federal power—30 percent of all LEED projects are government-owned or occupied projects with the federal government alone operating about 500,000 buildings.

Since 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—otherwise known as the stimulus bill (that wasn’t very stimulating)—authorized approximately $5.5 billion to the U.S. General Services Administration to spend constructing and retrofitting government buildings for LEED certification.

Just as the Republican Congress resurrected the styrofoam cup in the U.S. House reversing a moratorium Democrats had imposed on the pernicious polystyrene packaging, so to have they chosen to attack government support of LEED.

According to Treehugger, in December of 2011 Congress acted to ban the Department of Defense from LEED-certifying its buildings. If the federal government stops supporting LEED, that could mean lost funds for LEED certified government buildings everywhere.

Also let’s face it, the stimulus bill might have stimulated green government building, but it certainly didn’t get us out of the Great Recession, and without the private sector growing, which compromises 70 percent of LEED-certified buildings, green building might not grow at all.

According to the Oregon Employment Department, seasonally-adjusted construction employment is still down from the high it reached in 2008 and hasn't even reached the level it was at in the late 1990s.

But who knows, maybe once again Oregon can get back to number five.

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