NREL Laboratory Earns LEED Platinum, a Federal First

April 18, 2007

Photo of the new building, which features two building wings diverging from a central inverted and truncated cone.

NREL's new Science & Technology Facility is the first federal facility to earn a LEED Platinum certification.
Credit: Mike Linenberger, NREL

The new Science and Technology Facility (S&TF) at DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is the first federal facility to earn LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The LEED Green Building Rating System, short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings, and LEED Platinum is the highest certification level in the LEED rating system. The 71,000-square-foot S&TF, completed in June 2006, consumes 41 percent less energy than comparable buildings through the use of daylighting, evaporative cooling, and efficient motors, ventilation fans, windows, and lighting. The building's architect and construction contractor also emphasized the use of recycled and locally sourced materials for the building and took care to avoid disturbing the natural terrain while constructing the facility. See the NREL press release and the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Web page.

Local governments and organizations throughout the United States are finding ways to encourage green building. In the District of Columbia, the Green Building Act of 2006 went into effect in early March, setting new standards for district-owned buildings and privately owned non-residential buildings. Los Angeles is encouraging green building by expediting the process for providing water and electrical connections for new LEED-rated buildings. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) has also committed to build new facilities to a minimum of the LEED Silver rating. And in Cleveland, Ohio, the city's two largest foundations—The Cleveland Foundation and The George Gund Foundation—have decided to award capital grants only to building or renovation projects that seek LEED certification. These local efforts are important on a global scale, as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently noted that buildings account for 30 to 40 percent of global energy use and can play a key role in combating global warming. See the DC bill by selecting "View Status of Bill or Resolution" on the DC Legislative Web site and entering "B16-0515" as the bill number, and see also the LADWP press release, the announcement from the Cleveland Foundation, and the UNEP press release.

Looking for a green building that you can call home? LivingHomes, the company that built the first LEED Platinum home, began offering the first pre-fabricated LEED-certified homes to consumers in late January. At costs of more than $215 per square foot, the homes are by no means cheap, but the company considers the pre-fabricated homes as a relatively low-cost approach to owning a high-design home from a highly acclaimed architect. The two designs currently offered are meant to achieve a Silver LEED certification. See the LivingHomes Web site, the press release about its platinum-rated model home, and the press release announcing the new pre-fabricated homes (PDF 174 KB). Download Adobe Reader.