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Illinois buildings leading the way in the climate crisis

Daily Herald

Friday, October 8, 2021  |  Article  |  Taryn Holowaka

After 17 months of the COVID 19 pandemic, we have learned just how important indoor spaces are and their connection to our health and wellbeing. But what many people may not know is the connection those indoor spaces have to the climate crisis. In fact, the design, construction and operations of our buildings is responsible for 40% of CO2 emissions, directly impacting climate change.

 

The good news? It also means our buildings have the potential to be 40% of the solution. And here in Illinois, our buildings are leading the way through green building.

 

Today, the state of Illinois is home to more than 3,000 LEED certified green buildings, putting the state at number three in the nation for LEED certified green buildings per capita. That's nearly three-square feet of green building space per person!

 

The benefits of LEED and green buildings go far beyond reduced water and energy usage, affecting the health and prosperity of entire communities. LEED-certified projects save money for families, businesses and taxpayers, in addition to reducing carbon and creating a healthier environment in which people can thrive. From an investor perspective, they are also a critical component of demonstrating progress toward achieving ESG commitments.

 

Just last month, Illinois passed the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (SB2408). The first of its kind, this law is designed to fight climate change, create good-paying jobs, improve the health of Illinoisans and support underserved communities.

 

Illinois is also among top states to receive the most funds from President Biden's infrastructure bill. The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved the $1 trillion infrastructure bill earlier this month in an effort to rebuild the nation's crumbling roads and bridges and fund new climate resilience and broadband initiatives. The administration touts that the infrastructure plan "will grow the economy, enhance our competitiveness, create good jobs" and improve a variety of other metrics. This infrastructure will offer our state even more opportunities to take advantage of green building strategies.

Additionally, in 2018, Chicago achieved LEED for Cities Platinum certification, the highest level of certification, making Chicago one of the first cities in the world to be certified using LEED. LEED for Cities and Communities helps local leaders create responsible, sustainable and specific plans for natural systems, energy, water, waste, transportation and many other factors that contribute to quality of life.

 

The certification programs revolutionize the way cities and communities are planned, developed and operated in order to improve their overall sustainability and quality of life. The LEED framework encompasses social, economic and environmental performance indicators and strategies with a clear, data-driven means of benchmarking and communicating progress. Today, more than 100 cities across the globe are LEED certified.

 

This summer, the village of Northbrook, Ill., adopted a plan in line with LEED for Cities. Northbrook's Climate Action Plan (CAP) aims to reduce carbon emissions and foster a sustainable community for all. This is a Village-wide goal of 35% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and 80% by 2040, in alignment with the Paris Climate Agreement and LEED for Cities.

 

LEED buildings save tax dollars on utility bills and support local economic development. As more state and local governments seek to increase resilience, mitigate climate risks and reduce emissions, improving the performance of their buildings is a critical and effective strategy. States like Illinois are an example of how to create holistic and integrated approaches to sustainability. By embracing programs like LEED and sustainable planning, Illinois is leading the way in green building and the climate crisis.