Since the Industrial Revolution, the world's greenhouse gas emissions have skyrocketed, leading to lasting impacts on the global environment, including rising temperatures. In both the U.S. and the UK, buildings account for 40% of each country's carbon footprint. Because the demand for buildings isn't going anywhere, focus has shifted onto making buildings more "green" or eco-friendly. The UK and the U.S. have developed certifications that buildings worldwide can achieve to prove their dedication to limiting environmental impact. The American program is called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), while the UK program is the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method, or BREEAM. Both are international certifications.
We wanted to explore how buildings in both the U.S. and the UK are adapting to earn these certifications, how many have already earned them, and why. To do this, we explored data from both programs about their inspected buildings. Read on to learn more about how these two countries are working to combat climate change.
Levels of Green
Since both of these certifications can be earned worldwide – and therefore in either location – we combined them to explore the total number of certified green buildings in both countries. In the UK, 13,842 buildings are certified. In the U.S., nearly five times as many buildings have the same qualifications. This makes sense, considering that the U.S. has almost five times the population of the UK and, therefore, more buildings to potentially qualify for green certification.
In the UK, England is the region with the most certified buildings with 12,756 and 4,185 of those are in Greater London, which is also the county with the most certified buildings. In the U.S. the West has the greatest number with 22,447 followed closely by the Midwest's 21,909 buildings. Texas and California are the states with the most certified buildings with 11,553 and 9,842 respectively. But the rest of the states trail far behind, with third place New York only having 3,580.
By the Numbers
We know that the U.S. is larger and more populous than the UK. So to look at these countries a little more evenly, we explored certified green buildings per 100 square miles. The results showed that the UK has just over seven times more green-certified buildings per 100 square miles than the U.S.
While the UK produces about 1% of the world's carbon emissions, the U.S. emits about 15%, making it responsible for the world's second-largest share of carbon emissions after China. While this is due in part to the country's larger size, it could also be explained by the UK having more certified green buildings both overall and in every category.
In the U.S., residential buildings were the most likely type of building to be certified, while educational buildings were the greenest category in the UK.
By Population Size
When you consider the number of certifications by population size, the U.S. and the UK rank more evenly with just over two buildings certified as environmentally friendly per 10,000 residents.
In the U.S., green-certified residential buildings were roughly 4.5 times more common per 10,000 residents than in the UK. Proportionately, the UK had more green-certified buildings than the U.S. in the education, retail, industrial, health care, and "other" categories.
In the UK, London had more green buildings, by far, than any other region nationally. In 2016, London was named as one of the world's top three cities for the integration of green buildings, along with Paris and Singapore.
In the U.S., there are numerous tax benefits to encourage owners to get their buildings green certified and work toward long-term sustainability. Outside of D.C., which has the most green-certified buildings per resident, New Mexico has more than double the amount of buildings per 10,000 residents than the next mainland state (Maryland, with 4.23). New Mexico has been at the forefront of green certifications in the U.S., being the first state to incentivize LEED Zero certifications. This is just one of a variety of ways in which New Mexico is blazing the trail toward a neutral carbon footprint.
Helping the Environment, Globally
It's clear that both the U.S. and the UK are working to help protect and rebuild our environment as the global population grows. At Buildworld, our mission is to connect people with quality building materials at competitive prices they can rely on. Whether you're making upgrades to meet green certification requirements or building something new, we have the supplies and resources you need to be green. Ready to start shopping for the best-known brands in homewares? Visit us online at Buildworld.co.uk today!
For this study, we aggregated and analyzed publicly available data on LEED- and BREEAM-certified assessments. This data was sourced primarily from the ‘Explore BREEAM' certified assessments listing and the U.S. Green Building Council. Population and area data was sourced from the UK Office for National Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau.
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