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Building construction in Colorado 7th greenest in U.S.

Eric Galatas

(Colorado News Connection) Colorado ranks seventh nationally when it comes to addressing climate change in its building practices, according to the latest U.S. Green Building Council report.

Charlie Woodruff, mountain regional director for the council, said Colorado certified 12.5 million square feet of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design buildings in 2022. He added the state will have opportunities to expand the footprint through the Inflation Reduction Act and the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in the last Congress.

"But also creating economic opportunity for underserved communities as well," Woodruff pointed out. "And rural areas, directing some of those resources to areas that maybe don't have as much green infrastructure or high-performance LEED certified buildings."

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Buildings contribute about 40% of the nation's climate pollution. The LEED rating system is considered to be the world's most widely used green building program defining best practices for healthy, high-performing green buildings. It covers how buildings affect everything from extracting and transporting raw materials, operational energy efficiency, greenhouse-gas emissions, local water resources and worker health.

Cost is seen as the biggest barrier when developers consider adopting LEED standards.

Woodruff countered green buildings are designed to help reduce operational and maintenance costs, which boosts bottom lines for building owners and occupants. Any higher upfront costs can typically be recovered within five to fifteen years in the life of the building.

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"And so what is your benchmark?" Woodruff asked. "Are you looking at the cheapest possible building for day one, or are you looking at the most valuable and highest performing -- financially -- building over a life of 20 or 30 years?"

LEED buildings also do not contain hazardous materials, which can act as endocrine disrupters and lead to lost production and more worker sick days. Concrete, bricks and steel all come with a lot of what's called embodied energy, the energy needed to mine raw materials, refine them and bring them to job sites.

Woodruff added to address climate disruptions at scale, it is important to adapt existing buildings.

"The majority of buildings out there are existing buildings," Woodruff noted. "So no matter how many new buildings we're building, and how efficient they are, we have to address the existing building sector. That is going to be the biggest area that we can focus on to make the most amount of gains."