Although most people would probably concede that there is cause for concern for protecting the environment from human development, not everyone chooses to or is able to prioritize this imperative equally. Unfortunately, concerns for the earth often take a back seat to concerns over profits- money speaks much louder than a healthy Earth. Therefore, at the local level, efforts to implement projects that are more Earth-friendly depend on the ability to balance interests and fiscally incentivize people to utilize energy efficient designs.
One way of encouraging this is to offer financial rewards if a project meets the standards for a green building certification, such as a certificate from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. This program, run by the nonprofit United States Green Building Council (USGBC), awards projects with points for green features in the areas of sustainability, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environment quality, and the innovation and design process. What falls under these categories can be quite broad, from proximity to a transit station to storm water management. They give ranks of gold, platinum, and silver depending on how many points a project attains. The fact that the type of Green building required to meet LEED standards adds expense to the original construction cost of a unit is offset by the long-run cost-cuts that an environmentally friendly building provides, the boost that a certificate gives a company’s image, and the fact that a LEED certified project is more eligible for tax breaks, density bonuses, and other financial incentives. (Levy)
Examples of the success of programs like LEED abound. The Station House, located in Maplewood, NJ, is a 50-unit mid-rise multifamily rental property that was granted LEED certification as the result of efficient water management, green power, and use of recycled materials. That certification lead to the initial loan’s eligibility for Fannie Mae’s Multifamily Green Building Certification Pricing Break, which has had the effect of saving Prudential Real Estate Investors more than $101,000 in interest payments over the life of the loan. The existence of this tax break shows the effectiveness that government support can have in promoting environmental concern.
Another example of companies using environmental performance to improve their image or benefit business is L’Oreal’s global sustainability program. Their USA distribution center in South Brunswick’s has a LEED Gold Certification for its solar and carbon achievements. In Newark city, RPM Development Group is opening “60 Nevada”, a 75-unit affordable housing development, and their emphasis on the fact that their buildings have a platinum LEED certification reveals that this is an important part of their image.
Overall, the creation of a standardized system like LEED has helped to encourage and facilitate environmental protection in an important way, showing the power that government and policy can have on shaping a country’s growth and development.
Levy, John M. Contemporary Urban Planning. 10th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Education, 2013. Print.