People, Planet and Profit: LEED Certification in Arizona

Mary Wolf-Francis

Mary Wolf-Francis
Chair, Market Leadership Advisory Committee
U.S. Green Building Council Arizona
Community Outreach Liaison for DIRTT Environmental Solutions


A symbol of excellence in green buildings, LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building strategies.

LEED certification acts on the triple bottom line – people, plant and profit. Over a three-year period, LEED-certified buildings in the United States are estimated to have $1.2 billion in energy savings, $149.5 million in water savings, $715.2 million in maintenance savings and $54.2 million in waste savings. In addition, LEED is designed to meet key areas of human and environmental wellness and create healthy spaces that increase recruitment, retention and productivity rates among employees in commercial spaces.

Currently, there are more than 78,600 LEED commercial projects, comprising 15 billion square feet of space and more than 1.2 million residential units participating in LEED, in all 50 states and more than 160 countries and territories worldwide. And those numbers are expected to double every three years on a global scale1.

On the state level, Arizona currently boasts more than 500 LEED-certified projects totaling more than 57 million gross square feet – the equivalent to 51 Empire State Buildings – across each space type and sector. Arizona was named one of the top ten states for LEED for the first time in 2014 – an annual ranking of states in terms of square feet of LEED space per state resident, which highlights the state’s commitment to a sustainable-built environment.

Green building construction also serves as a major economic driver in the United States. A recent USGBC economic study found that the green building sector is rapidly outpacing overall construction nationwide. Green building is responsible for 2.3 million American jobs in 2015 alone. By 2018, green construction will account for more than 3.3 million U.S. jobs – more than one-third of the entire U.S. construction sector – and generate $190.3 billion in labor earnings. The industry’s direct contribution to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is expected to reach $303.5 billion between 2015 and 2018.

The study also projects significant growth in contributions from green building to individual states’ tax contributions and environmental asset indicators at both the national and state levels. Between 2015 and 2018, green construction in Arizona will contribute $29.93 billion to the GDP, generate 352,000 jobs and produce $20.06 billion in labor earnings. In particular, LEED construction projects in the state will be responsible for $6.8 billion of the GDP contributions, as well as 78,000 jobs, $4.5 billion in labor earnings and $204.6 million in tax revenue.

LEED works for all buildings—from homes to corporate headquarters—at all phases of development. Projects pursuing LEED certification earn points across several areas that address sustainability issues. In addition, projects can elect for a near real-time performance scoring system, through the LEED-on platform, which provides a LEED Performance Score based on foundational practices and measured building data input that monitors energy, water, waste, transportation and human experience and displayed on LEED Dynamic Plaque.

LEED is continuously evolving and improving– LEED v4, our newest rating system, is more specialized and designed for a better user experience. LEED was developed with a philosophy that recognizes that buildings function more like living, breathing organisms. LEED v4 represents the most innovative approach to integrating building systems in order to ensure optimal standards in human health and environmental sustainability.

At the local level, USGBC Arizona and our stakeholders continue to engage the community in the opportunity to expand LEED, prioritize sustainable leadership in the public and private sector and grow the culture of sustainability and environmentalism statewide. Through our outreach, USGBC Arizona strives to engage, educate and encourage our community to support the advancement of a sustainable, environmentally responsible and economically prosperous built environment for where we live, learn, work and play.

USGBC Arizona is committed to transforming the way buildings are designed, constructed and operated through LEED certification, the most globally recognized and widely used green building program.


Mary Wolf-Francis has been a volunteer with USGBC Arizona since 2014. She has 25 years of experience building public-private partnerships in the education, workforce and economic development arena at the local, state and national levels. Mary is also actively involved in the community proliferating messages of environmental and social responsibility. Mary can be reached at 602-628-5246 or at


1Dodge & Data Analytics World Green Building Trends 2016 SmartMarket Report.