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Green Buildings in the United States—Regulations, Programs, and Trends: an Interview with William Sanders

bridges vol. 11, September 2006 / Green Buildings Focus
by Sonja Strohmer


The following is an interview with William H. Sanders III, who serves as the US EPA senior executive representative to the Federal Green Building Council, and as the executive champion for green building at EPA.

sandersportrait_captionsandersportrait_captionbridges: What is the current number of "green buildings" in the United States? Are there specific goals that the US has set in terms of the increase in sustainable construction?

Bill Sanders: There are a wide variety of approaches to green buildings, from organizations sponsoring Web sites and other resources with principles of green building and green materials, to certification programs for products (e.g., the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) Green Label program, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) wood certification program, Green Seal, etc.), to evolving certification programs for entire buildings and neighborhoods (such as the US Green Building Council (USGBC) LEEDTM certification program). But many green buildings that most would consider to be sustainable were constructed before there were such certification programs around to stamp them "green." And structures are being built today that have many, if not most, of the attributes we would define as sustainable, yet they elect not to pursue an "official" green certification.


So, there is no universally accepted, quantitative number that constitutes the state of green building in the United States. There is, however, ample evidence of a growing foothold in the building market, particularly via programs such as the USGBC's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDTM) certification program. The rapidly growing numbers of practitioners (e.g., LEEDTM Accredited Professionals), the number of buildings certified as to various levels of greenness, and the expanding number of new projects undergoing the certification process at the USGBC and other organizations, do provide good qualitative indications of the past and future of green building in the US over the past few years. But even at these venues, where we have actual numbers of certified projects and a much larger number of projects undergoing certification, we recognize that these lists do not constitute a true and accurate representation of green buildings completed and under construction.

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