City Creek Salt Lake City Urban Land Institute

A newcomer to USGBC’s annual Top 10 States fort LEED list is Utah, illustrating how LEED is expanding beyond states with densely populated urban areas.

The USGBC has released its annual Top 10 States for LEED, the world’s most widely used and recognized green building rating system. The per capita ranking highlights states throughout the country that are making significant strides in sustainable building design, construction and transformation.

“Green construction is quickly outpacing conventional construction in the U.S.,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair of USGBC. “LEED has become an essential tool for the transformation of building design and construction. By recognizing these states excelling in the use of LEED, we are celebrating the green building professionals, architects, business, policy and community leaders who work tirelessly to design and develop innovative solutions toward a healthier, more sustainable future.”

Now in its sixth year, the ranking looks at total square feet of LEED-certified space per resident, based on U.S. Census data, and includes commercial and institutional green building projects certified throughout 2015. Illinois retained its top national position for the third year in a row, with 161 LEED certifications representing 3.43 square feet of certified space per resident. Illinois and Colorado are the only two states to have made the list every year since 2010.

A newcomer to the Top 10 list is Utah, illustrating how LEED is expanding beyond states with densely populated urban areas. And after a three-year hiatus, Texas, Washington and Nevada are again on the list.

A continued strong performance from Maryland and Virginia has reaffirmed the mid-Atlantic region, which includes Washington, D.C., as the epicenter of green building. While D.C. is not included in the list of top states due to its status as a federal territory, it is notable, as it continues to lead the nation with 19.3 square feet of LEED space per resident certified in 2015.

This year’s list has the highest average (2.47) per capita space LEED-certified among the top 10 states since 2010. Four of the six states included in the 2014 list increased the square feet of space they certified per resident in 2015 (Ill., Md., Mass. and Calif.).

The full ranking is as follows:

2015 Top 10 State for LEED 
Rank State Gross Square Footage (gsf) Per Capita Certified GSF Total No. Projects
1 IL* 43,979,595 3.43 161
2 MD* 17,659,881 3.06 127
3 MA* 19,850,624 3.03 112
4 WA 17,450,321 2.60 101
5 CO* 12,218,992 2.43 95
6 NV 6,534,960 2.42 30
7 CA* 87,358,563 2.34 618
8 TX 52,445,321 2.09 237
9 VA* 13,005,968 1.63 121
10 UT 4,494,301 1.63 31
** DC 11,612,237 19.30 84

*Included in 2014 Top 10 States for LEED list

**Washington, D.C. is not ranked because it is a federal district, not a state

Notable projects certified in 2015’s Top 10 States for LEED include:

  • Illinois: Virgin Hotel Chicago; LEED Gold
  • Washington: University of Washington Husky Stadium, the largest stadium, college or professional, in the Pacific Northwest, in Seattle; LEED Silver
  • California: Los Angeles Convention Center Recertification; LEED Gold
  • Utah: U.S. District Courthouse in Salt Lake City; LEED Gold

Collectively, 1,633 commercial and institutional projects became LEED-certified within the Top 10 States for LEED in 2015, representing 274.9 million square feet of real estate. Worldwide, 4,837 projects were certified in 2015, representing 818.9 million square feet.

USGBC calculates the list using per capita figures as a measure of the human element of green building. This also allows for fair comparisons among states with significant differences in population and number of buildings.

In 2015, LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance was once again the most popular rating system within the top 10 states, representing 49 percent of the total square footage certified. LEED for Building Design and Construction was the second most popular rating system in the top 10, representing 46 percent of the square footage certified, and LEED for Interior Design and Construction was the third most popular rating system, representing 5 percent of total square footage certified in these states in 2015.

According to USGBC, green construction is a large economic driver. The 2015 USGBC Green Building Economic Impact Study claims that green construction will account for more than 3.3 million U.S. jobs—more than one-third of the entire U.S. construction sector—and generate $190.3 billion in labor earnings. The industry’s direct contribution to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) is also expected to reach $303.5 billion from 2015–2018.