The Green Building Movement in Arizona

Patti Mason
USGBC Mountain West Regional Director, U.S. Green Building Council


The green building industry has come a long way – both here in Arizona and throughout the world – since the launch of LEED less than 20 years ago.
LEED has quickly become the world’s most widely used green building rating system and is on pace to directly contribute $29.8 billion to the U.S. GDP by 2018, while supporting nearly eight million jobs.  In Arizona, green construction projects significantly impact the state of our economic vitality, in addition to our environmental health. Between 2015 and 2018, LEED projects contributed $6.8 billion to the state’s GDP, creating 78,000 jobs, $4.56 billion in labor income, and $204.6 million in tax revenue. Arizona currently has more than 1,100 building projects registered with LEED, and of those, 562 have earned LEED certification, totaling more than 64,800,000 certified square feet of space.
These are impressive numbers – but given the momentum behind the green building movement, there is so much more we can accomplish together.
We are continuing to push LEED forward with its latest version. LEED v4 is designed to offer a more flexible, performance-based approach that features goal-oriented credits, measureable results and a more user-friendly experience.


What does that mean for commercial projects?


  • All buildings are different and LEED v4 offers flexibility with different strategies available to fit unique projects.
  • LEED brings smart grid thinking to the forefront by rewarding projects that participate in demand response programs.
  • LEED offers a more comprehensive approach to water efficiency by evaluating a building’s total water use.
  • The new version of the rating system features an expanded focus on materials – not just how they affect buildings, but also how they affect human health and the environment as well.
  • The documentation is streamlined, providing better customer experience.
LEED continues to raise the bar with each new version. It encourages projects that have met earlier LEED standards to push the performance of their buildings even further. USGBC believes that buildings are a lot like living, functioning organisms – like the human body, all systems of a building need to be operating well together in order to ensure peak performance. LEED v4 represents the best approach yet to ensuring that these systems are integrated and providing optimal standards.
We’re also moving into a new digital era focused on performance and measurement with Arc, a state-of-the-art performance platform developed by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), the credentialing and certification body for LEED and a portfolio of other rating systems and programs.  Arc allows any project to begin collecting data and calculates a performance score out of 100, measuring across five categories: energy, water, waste, transportation and human experience. The score creates a holistic picture of a project’s sustainability efforts, and allows benchmarking against other buildings using Arc, promoting continual improvement.
This is a powerful tool, as it creates an opportunity for projects to compare with other projects throughout the world. And it streamlines internal operations so that buildings are running at their peak efficiency.
Projects don’t have to be LEED certified to use Arc. Arc gives any project an immediate entry point toward greater sustainability, no matter where they are on their journey. Arc empowers building owners and facility managers with an innovative and powerful tool that will transform the way green buildings operate and perform.
Today, the green building movement relies on technology and data more than ever before. Arc incorporates all the progress we’ve made with LEED over the past 17 years and brings it to a new level.
A number of other USGBC initiatives will affect the commercial market for building infrastructure in the next year and beyond, with an upturn in the drive for citizen engagement and a broader awareness of the range of green building practices. As U.S. residents’ concern with the environmental impact of the products they purchase and companies they support continues to grow, the commercial market will have to adapt with parallel growth in transparency and a commitment to sustainable development.
Today, as the green building movement continues to evolve with advancements in technology, bench-marking and transparency, the state remains at the forefront in the U.S. in the sustainability of Arizona built environment.