By: Lori Wisniewski Azzara and Jennifer M. Horn
According to a recent report from the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED-certified existing buildings are outpacing their newly built counterparts for the first time. As of December 2011, the square footage of LEED-certified existing buildings surpassed LEED-certified new construction by 15 million square feet on a cumulative basis.
“The U.S. is home to more than 60 billion square feet of existing commercial buildings, and we know that most of those buildings are energy guzzlers and water sieves,” said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO and Founding Chair of the U.S. Green Building Council. “Greening these buildings takes hands-on work, creating precious jobs especially for construction workers. Making these existing buildings energy and water efficient has an enormous positive impact on the building’s cost of operations. And the indoor air quality improvements that go with less toxic cleaning solutions and better filtration create healthier places to live, work and learn.”
Historically, LEED-certified green projects have been overwhelmingly made up of new construction projects, both in volume and square footage. That changed in 2008 when the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (O&M) program began experiencing explosive growth. In 2009, projects certified under that program surpassed those certified under its new construction counterpart on an annual basis, a trend that continued in 2010 and 2011.
Projects worldwide are proving that green building doesn’t have to be synonymous with building new. The recently LEED Gold certified Empire State Building has predicted that its renovation efforts will reduce the building’s energy consumption by more than 38 percent, an annual savings of $4.4 million in energy costs. Similarly, the Taipei 101, the second tallest building in the world, earned LEED Platinum certification after a three year long retrofit successfully enabled the skyscraper use 30 percent less energy, thereby reducing its annual utility costs by $700,000.00.
Lori Wisniewski Azzara is an associate at Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman PC. Ms. Azzara practices in the areas of construction and commercial litigation and has experience in contract negotiation, claims for delay and inefficiency, mechanics’ liens, and all types of contractual disputes.
Jennifer M. Horn is Senior Counsel at Cohen Seglias and a member of the Construction Group. She concentrates her practice in the areas of construction litigation and real estate.