As awareness of the threats facing the environment has increased, more and more of us have begun paying attention to eco design and greening our home environments. Of course, green public buildings and planning to enable greening of whole neighborhoods is just as important. The issue that came up is this: how do you measure it? What are the standards and criteria that need to be a dhered to, as minimum requirements and as benchmarks to aspire to?

LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, came into being to address this problem. Participants in member organizations around the world have come together in the last decade or so, to formulate a rating system for eco design. It’s a wide ranging initiative that covers construction, architectural design (interior and exterior), green technology and the way in which buildings are operated. LEED guidelines and standards also cover how we deal with existing buildings constructed before green issues became vital, not just new developments.

Eco design is all about sustainability in building and planning, in cities and residential areas around the world. The project aims to guide new developments in the direction of achieving excellence in eco design, not just squeaking past the environmental regulations that already exist. The criteria and guidelines crosscut all sorts of areas, and as well as being geared to ecofriendly development are also aimed towards producing healthier environments for us to live and work in. Many state and local authorities have joined the initiative, offering incentives (such as subsidies and tax cuts) for building and development that meets LEED standards of excellence.

Scoring in the LEED rating system can be demanding, and achieving the desired standards often means going well beyond the cheapest available options. The integrated criteria cover all aspects of development, from the suitability of the site through energy consumption to the quality of the indoor environment. This is not for fly by night operators or greedy developers, and raises the bar for thoughtful and intelligent eco design. A holistic approach means that all sorts of additional relevant factors, from local transport to urban green spaces, are included as elements for LEED assessment.

Achieving LEED certification and a high score on the rating system is truly something to aspire to. The Philip Merrill Environmental Center in Annapolis, Maryland, was the first building to achieve the prestigious LEED ‘Platinum’ rating by the United States Green Building Council. Built back in 2001, it set new standards for ecodesign and sustainable building. As a cutting edge green development, it was built to make maximum use of recycled materials, renewable resources and energy sources (solar power), as well as in environmental harmony with its site.

Recent recipients of the honor include sports stadiums in Chicaco and Denton, Texas.

LEED has faced challenges but remains a vital and  evolving initiative that paves the way for a greener future.

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