architecture

The 13 buildings that are highlighted in this post are among the greenest building and renovation projects of recent years. They include Living Building Challenge certified projects (and a couple of projects that are currently pursuing that certification), as well as some of the highest-scoring LEED Platinum certified projects around the world. (Bear in mind that many traditional and indigenous structures were built using more sustainable materials and methods than those that are typically used in these modern times, so many of the world’s greenest buildings were constructed long before the advent of green building certification systems.) The following projects were all built or renovated within the past decade.

Living Building Challenge Projects

The Living Building Challenge, administered by the International Living Future Institute, is widely recognized as the most rigorous certification system for green buildings; it can also be applied to infrastructure and other types of development projects. It goes beyond most of the LEED requirements. In their own words, “It calls for the creation of building projects at all scales that operate as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature’s architecture. To be certified under the Challenge, projects must meet a series of ambitious performance requirements, including net zero energy, waste and water, over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy.”

So far (as of late 2013), these are the only four buildings to have achieved the full Living Building certification:

Bertschi School’s Living Building Science Wing
Seattle, WA

More Info

Hawai’i Preparatory Academy’s Energy Lab
Kamuela, HI
This building also achieved LEED Platinum certification under LEED for Schools v2007.
More Info

Omega Center for Sustainable Living
Rhinebeck, NY
This building also achieved LEED Platinum certification under LEED NC v2.2.
More Info

Tyson Living Learning Center
(at Washington University’s Tyson Research Center)
Eureka, MO

More Info

[February 2014 Update: A fifth building has now achieved the full Living Building certification:
Smith College Environmental Classroom
, Northampton, MA]

These two ultra-green buildings have also been completed and their project teams are currently pursuing the Living Building Challenge certification:

Bullitt Center (Bullitt Foundation office building)
Seattle, WA

(Living Building certification pending)
More Info

Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes
Pittsburgh, PA

This building achieved LEED Platinum certification under LEED NC v2.2.  (Living Building certification pending)
More Info

 

Top-Scoring LEED Platinum Certified Buildings

So far (as of late 2013), the following projects have achieved the highest scores among all LEED certified projects with the Platinum rating (LEED’s highest rating level). Some are new buildings; some are renovations. And a couple of the projects involve interior spaces (office or store interiors) only.

In the United States

LaraSwimmerPhotoSt. Martin’s University, Cebula Hall Engineering Building
Lacey, WA

LEED Platinum NC (New Construction) v2009
(97 out of 110 points)
Info
More Info

Integral Group’s Deep Green Office (remodel)
Oakland, CA

LEED Platinum CI (Commercial Interiors) v2009
(102 out of 110 points)
Info
Video Tour

The Bridge Building (historic renovation)
Nashville, TN

LEED Platinum CS (Core & Shell) v2009
(99 out of 110 points)
Info
More Info

502 Second St. NW office building (historic renovation)
Grand Rapids, MI

LEED Platinum NC (New Construction & Major Renovation) v2.2
(66 out of 69 points)
Info
More Info


In other countries

Pixel office building
Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

LEED Platinum NC (New Construction) v2009
(105 out of 110 points)
Info
More Info

The Change Initiative store
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

LEED Platinum Retail CI (Commercial Interiors) v2009
(107 out of 110 points)
Info
More Info

ITC Green Centre office building
Gurgaon, Haryana, India

LEED Platinum O&M: EB (Existing Buildings) v2009
(99 out of 110 points)
Info

To see other Platinum projects, check out our listing of LEED Platinum Certified Buildings, Offices, and Homes worldwide.

This post has provided a selected, not a comprehensive, list of super-green buildings.  If you know of another completed, ultra-green building that you’d like others to know about, please mention it in the Comments, with a link to information about the project.

Related posts:

LEED Platinum Leaders: January 2012 Update of Top-Ranking States and Countries

Model Sustainable Neighborhoods: LEED ND Developments in the U.S., Canada, and China

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December 11, 2013
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Below is a listing of companies that offer green dwellings in the form of modular, prefab/manufactured, compact and/or mobile structures. These days, there are many such options available that are not only green, but also beautiful, well-made, and often low-cost. Some of these structures are homes or cabins/cottages, while others can be used as an addition, a backyard studio, office, in-law unit/guest house, or some other type of “accessory dwelling unit.”

They come in a wide range of sizes, from teeny-tiny one-room spaces (e.g., 100 sq. ft.) and small units (see the Tiny/Compact Structures section below) to conventionally sized homes. They are also available in a wide variety of styles; some have traditional designs, while others have a very modern look. Some are available as plans and/or DIY kits, and others have designated builders. Many can be modified or customized.

Prefab (factory-built) homes have many benefits. They can be built more efficiently (e.g., less material waste), more quickly, with more precision and durability (i.e., higher quality), and they typically have more predictable costs (and often cost less) than site-built homes.

The levels of greenness vary among the following options, but all of them tout some green features.

This is not a comprehensive listing; there are many other companies that make similar types of green structures. I’ve provided links below to other directories that list additional options. If you know of another green modular, prefab, mobile, or small home designer or manufacturer that you would recommend, please share it in the Comments.

Note: The asterisk (*) shown after certain listings indicates that those companies seem to offer at least one low-cost/affordable option. Some of the other companies might also offer such options, but specific pricing isn’t available on all of the websites; in some cases, one must contact the company for pricing information.

Blu Homes (offices in CA, MA, and MI)

BlueSky MOD (based in Toronto, Canada)

Clayton i-house

Clever Homes (based in CA)

Eco-Infill (based in CO)

EcoMod Structures (based in WV) *

FabCab

IdeaBox (based in OR)

Jot House *

Lindal Cedar Homes (see Mod.Fab and Lindal Architects Collaborative; Lindal has an international network of dealers) *

Living Homes (based in CA)
C6 = their low-cost option*

Marmol Radziner Prefab (based in CA)

Method Homes (based in WA)

New Old Green Modular Home (from New World Home)

OHOME (Healthy Buildings Technology Group; based in CA)

OMD (Office of Mobile Design; based in CA)

Piece Homes (Davis Studio Architecture + Design; based in CA)

Rocio Romero LV series (based in MO) *

Stillwater Dwellings (based in WA) *

Studio 101 Designs (based in CA)

2morrow Studio (based in VT) *

weeHouses (Alchemy Architects, based in MN, with factories around the country) *

Xtreme Green Homes (based in NC, SC, and VA)

ZETA Communities (modular multi-family developments; based in CA)

For a listing of MANY other types of modular/manufactured homes (some of which have green features), see this compendium.

Books on green prefab homes:

Prefabulous + Almost Off the Grid: Your Path to Building an Energy-Independent Home, by Sheri Koones

Prefabulous + Sustainable: Building and Customizing an Affordable, Energy-Efficient Home, by Sheri Koones

Prefab Green, by Michelle Kaufmann

Prefab, by Allison Arieff


Tiny / Compact Structures  *
(some of which are mobile)

Many of the companies listed above offer one or two options for small dwellings, while the following companies specialize in small structures:

Ecopods (based in Ontario, Canada)

GreenPods (based in WA)

kitHAUS (based in CA)

L41 Home (based in BC, Canada)

Leaf House (based in the Yukon, Canada)

Little Green Buildings (made w/ SIPs; based in WA)

Little House on the Trailer (based in CA)

Modern-Shed (based in WA, with dealers in all states)

Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. (house plans and some pre-built homes; some are mobile)

Wee Cabins (based in MN)

weeHouses (Alchemy Architects, based in MN, with factories around the country)

YardPods (based in CA)

m-ch (Micro Compact Home; based in Germany)

For a listing of many other types of small homes (some of which have other green features), see this Tiny House Directory.

Resources on small homes:

Tiny House Blog

Small House Society

The Small House Book, by Jay Shafer

Little House on a Small Planet: Simple Homes, Cozy Retreats, and Energy Efficient Possibilities, by Shay Salomon

And here’s a listing of other books on compact design.

 

* Low-cost/affordable option(s) available

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July 30, 2012
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Platinum is the highest rating in the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building certification program. Building projects that have attained this rating are among the greenest in the world.*

I recently added newly certified Platinum-rated projects (buildings, homes, offices, and stores) to my online listing of LEED Platinum Certified Building Projects Worldwide, which I had last updated a year ago. The listing is organized by country and—within the U.S.—by state. Some of the listed projects are linked to online case studies. The listing includes projects of all types, from every LEED rating system: New Construction (and Major Renovations), Existing Buildings/Operations & Maintenance, Neighborhood Developments, Commercial Interiors, Core & Shell, Homes, Schools, and Retail.

As of my latest review of the data (at the beginning of January 2012), it appears that there are now more than 1,045 LEED Platinum rated projects worldwide.

While the vast majority of these LEED projects—about 950 of them—are located in the United States (where LEED was created), Platinum rated projects now exist in 25 countries; a year ago only 16 countries had LEED Platinum rated projects. The nine countries that gained their first LEED Platinum projects over the past year are: France, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Turkey. The other countries with LEED Platinum projects are: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, and of course the United States. After the U.S., India is the country with the most Platinum projects, with about 35 projects so far (up from 20 a year ago). Canada and China also have many Platinum projects.

Within the United States, 49 of the 50 U.S. states (all states except North Dakota)—plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico—now have building projects that have achieved the LEED Platinum rating. A year ago, Alabama and West Virginia did not yet have any LEED Platinum projects, but now they do.

In terms of the absolute number of LEED Platinum certified projects in each state, here are the top 5 states with the greatest number of LEED Platinum projects (at last count):

So California has more than 2.5 times more Platinum projects than any other state—but that’s not too surprising since it’s the most populous state in the country.  On a per capita basis (i.e., as a percentage of population size), Washington D.C. has more LEED Platinum rated projects than any of the states. And when you add in the 50 states, here are the Top 5 with the greatest number of LEED Platinum projects per capita:

  1. Washington, D.C.
  2. Oregon
  3. Montana
  4. Vermont
  5. New Mexico

The range of Platinum project types is very broad. In addition to high-profile projects (such as the iconic TransAmerica Pyramid in San Francisco, which got the Platinum rating for its upgrades under the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance rating system) and a number of high-end offices, retail spaces, and luxury residences, LEED Platinum projects also include several public buildings and many modest homes and affordable housing developments. For example, there are dozens of Habitat for Humanity-built LEED Platinum homes around the country, and more than 75 affordable Platinum homes built in New Orleans alone through various initiatives, including Make It Right.

* Another green building certification, which is widely considered to be an even higher bar to reach than LEED Platinum, is the Living Building Challenge. To date, four projects have achieved the Living Building Challenge certification: the Tyson Living Learning Center in Eureka, Missouri; the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, New York (which also got a LEED Platinum certification); and the Eco-Sense home in Victoria, British Columbia. The latest project to achieve this certification (along with a LEED Platinum certification) is the Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Lab in Kamuela, Hawaii.

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January 19, 2012
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UPDATE: The post below has been superceded by a newer post with updated data.
Please click here for the more recent (2012) update and analysis of LEED Platinum projects.

This is the older post:

Platinum is the highest rating in the LEED green building rating system; it’s one level higher than Gold. Building projects that have attained this rigorous level of certification are among the greenest in the world.

I recently added the latest set of Platinum-rated projects (buildings, homes, offices, and stores) to my listing of LEED Platinum Certified Building Projects Worldwide. This unique listing is organized by country and—within the U.S.—by state. Some of the listed projects are linked to online case studies. The listing includes projects of all types, from every LEED rating system: New Construction (and Major Renovations), Existing Buildings/Operations & Maintenance, Commercial Interiors, Core & Shell, Homes, Schools, and Retail. It is primarily compiled from the data provided in the USGBC/GBCI’s directory of LEED certified projects and the USGBC’s most recently posted list of LEED for Homes certified residences.

There are now hundreds of LEED Platinum certified projects. As of my latest review of the data (at the very beginning of 2011), it appears that projects in 47 of the 50 U.S. states (all states except Alabama, North Dakota, and West Virginia) have achieved the LEED Platinum rating to date, along with projects in Washington DC and Puerto Rico.

California has more than 130 LEED Platinum certified projects (at last count), which is more than twice as many as there are in any other state, and it’s also more than twice as many as California had only a year ago.  In terms of the absolute number of LEED Platinum certified projects in each state, California is followed by Oregon (with almost 60 projects), and then Texas, New York, and Massachusetts (each of which has between 30-40 projects). If you take state populations into account, Oregon clearly has the lead (for the greatest number of LEED Platinum certified projects per capita).

Worldwide, Platinum rated projects now exist in 16 countries. Outside of the U.S., there are projects in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates. Among these, India has the most, with 20 projects so far.

The range of Platinum project types is very broad. In addition to high-profile projects (such as the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, and the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock) and a number of high-end offices and luxury residences, LEED Platinum projects also include several public buildings (such as San Jose City Hall) and a surprising number of affordable housing projects. The following are just a few examples of the many affordable housing projects that have achieved the LEED Platinum rating: 51 single-family, detached homes built by Habitat for Humanity in St. Louis, MO; the General Colin L. Powell Apartments in the South Bronx, NY; Wisdom Way Solar Village homes in Greenfield, MA; Autumn Terrace mixed-use housing development in San Marcos, CA; Vista Dunes in La Quinta, CA; and a variety of affordable homes in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Note: Another green building certification, which is widely considered to be an even higher bar to reach than LEED Platinum, is the Living Building Challenge. To date, three projects have achieved the Living Building Challenge certification: the Tyson Living Learning Center in Eureka, Missouri; the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, New York (which also got a LEED Platinum certification); and the Eco-Sense home in Victoria, British Columbia.

UPDATE: Please click here for The Green Spotlight’s more recent update and analysis (from January 2012).

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January 10, 2011
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I’d like to let everyone know about these important new books, which were written by a few of my esteemed colleagues. Please click on the links below for more information about each tome:

Thriving Beyond Sustainability: Pathways to a Resilient Society, by Andres Edwards (New Society Publishers) — This book will be available in May (2010), but it can be pre-ordered now. Here’s an excerpt from the publisher’s description of the book: “Thriving Beyond Sustainability draws a collective map of individuals, organizations, and communities from around the world that are committed to building an alternative future—one that strives to restore ecological health; reinvent outmoded institutions; and rejuvenate our environmental, social, and economic systems. The projects and initiatives profiled are meeting the challenges of the day with optimism, hope, and results, leading the way in relocalization, green commerce, ecological design, environmental conservation, and social transformation.” Click here to read reviews of the book, the book’s Foreword (by Bill McKibben), Table of Contents, or an annotated bibliography.

Fundamentals of Integrated Design for Sustainable Building, by Marian Keeler and Bill Burke (John Wiley & Sons, 2009)— This book serves as an in-depth textbook for design students and a comprehensive reference for practitioners. It presents the history, issues, principles, technologies, process, and practice of sustainable building design, as well as case studies of model projects. In addition, it promotes active learning by providing design problems, research exercises, study questions, and discussion topics.

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February 25, 2010
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I recently added the latest set of Platinum rated projects to my listing of LEED Platinum certified building projects worldwide. The listing is organized by countries and states, and some of the projects are linked to in-depth case studies. As of this month (October 2009), I know of LEED Platinum certified projects in 44 U.S. states plus Puerto Rico, as well as projects in 9 other countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and the United Arab Emirates. There are all types of Platinum projects: commercial, residential, institutional…new construction as well as renovation.

LEED_platinumPlatinum is the highest rating in the LEED green building rating systems. Building projects that have attained this rigorous level of certification are among the greenest in the world.

I update the listing every month or two. If you know of a project that has officially achieved LEED Platinum certification but is not yet included in the listing, please let me know.

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October 21, 2009
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The new California Academy of Sciences museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park recently opened its doors to the public. The building achieved the Platinum (top-tier) rating in the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building rating system. Designed by Renzo Piano, Stantec Architecture, and Arup, the 410,000-square-foot building is the largest public Platinum-rated project in the world (to date). Featuring a four-story rainforest exhibit, an aquarium, a planetarium, and an enormous (and hilly) “living roof” (AKA a vegetated or green roof) that visitors can access, the museum is proving to be wildly popular. If you go there soon, be prepared for crowds.

For details about the building’s sustainable design features, go to:
www.calacademy.org/academy/building/sustainable_design

If you’d like to know where other LEED Platinum buildings are throughout the country or the world, click here: LEED Platinum Certified Buildings Worldwide. I also developed an interactive Google map of green buildings in San Francisco, and I keep updated lists of green building projects in the San Francisco Bay Area and all LEED certified projects in Northern California.

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February 7, 2009
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