From now on, large building construction by Los Angeles County must be LEED Gold certified, thanks to a motion by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl that the Board adopted unanimously on Tuesday.

The US is the second largest contributor to climate change in the world, behind only China. Buildings, which use a great amount of energy, water, and other resources, are responsible for nearly forty percent of the United States’ carbon dioxide emissions, a key contributor to global climate change.

Green buildings, however, use significantly fewer natural resources and provide significant cost savings over the life of a building’s operations. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building standard, by the US Green Building Council, provides third-party verification of buildings to ensure that they are truly sustainable. Before the Board’s action on Tuesday, all LA County new construction of buildings 10,000 gross square feet or more in size were required to be LEED Silver or higher. The “or higher” rarely was proposed by companies bidding on the County’s many new construction projects. Kuehl’s Gold LEED requirement is effective immediately for those new large County buildings.

Although there may be increased initial capital improvement costs associated with pursuing higher levels of LEED certification, studies performed by construction firms and the United States General Services Administration have shown that the incremental capital cost increase from the LEED Silver to Gold level is minimal, ranging from approximately 0.5% to 5%. Several analyses make clear that the increased upfront costs are more than offset over the useful life of a building due to lower operations and maintenance costs, as well as savings from increased productivity and health. In fact, these additional upfront costs are often recouped within just a few short years due to reduced energy and water bills.

A LEED Gold policy for new buildings will not only enhance environmental resource conservation, but it will also support the County’s building and energy efficiency industries that are part of our growing green economy.

“This new Gold standard will help LA County become a national leader in environmentally-friendly construction, and it also supports our growing green economy and the good paying jobs that come with it.” said Kuehl.