South Florida has reached a milestone in eco-friendly construction: 200 commercial buildings have been certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program.
Coming in at No. 200: The Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, a 100,000-square-foot laboratory and office building at Florida Atlantic University's campus in Jupiter. It received gold-level certification through the U.S. Green Building Council, according to the group's South Florida chapter.
LEED certification is based on a point system, with points given for such green features as water efficiency, energy efficiency, recycling, eco-friendly paint and carpets and access to mass transit. Buildings can be rated as LEED certified or LEED silver, gold and platinum.
In South Florida, growing awareness about LEED has meant a spike in building certifications. There have been a record 61 so far this year. And that's only counting commercial buildings and not residential projects or those buildings certified whose owners or developers want to keep their status confidential, the chapter said.
"We applaud the companies, owners, municipalities and everyone who played even a small part in this effort to deliver environmentally responsible, healthy and resource-efficient buildings in 2012 and prior," local chapter president Paul Carty said in a statement. "It's unquestionably the right thing to do for the communities in which we live, work and play."
Many of the buildings LEED certified nowadays are government structures and high-end office buildings developed by large companies. That contrasts with more small, private ventures that sought certification before the recession, said engineer Mike Pella of Kamm Consulting based in Deerfield Beach.
Governments are encouraging green building, partly to keep their operating costs down. More efficient water and energy use can slash electric bills, and eco-buildings require less maintenance, engineers say.
Some high-end developers also see LEED certification as a competitive edge, allowing them to charge higher rents or lure more tenants, said Pella, whose firm now is working on more than a dozen projects seeking LEED certification from federal government buildings to medical facilities.
Even so, some developers are opting to install LEED-style features on their buildings but forgoing the actual certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED certification can be time-consuming and expensive -- taking up to a year and costing 3 percent of building costs by some estimates.
The council is streamlining and improving the process, users say. But some developers are opting for certifications elsewhere that are less costly to obtain.
The Progresso Point apartments hi-rise in Fort Lauderdale, for example, recently received its certification from the Florida Green Building Coalition, a nonprofit in Tallahassee. Its standards are similar to LEED but tailored to Florida's hot and humid climate -- for example, prioritizing windows that keep heat out, not in.
Even with this year's gains, South Florida still trails areas in California and elsewhere in the United States and overseas in green building certifications. As of Nov. 30, there were more than 15,200 LEED-certified commercial projects nationwide and in 135 countries.
Some LEED certified commercial buildings in South Florida
Project name, city, LEED type
American Maritime Offices headquarters, Dania Beach, gold
Seminole Trails Elementary classroom add, West Palm Beach, certified
Crown Center Building 1451, Fort Lauderdale, silver
TD Bank branch, Lake Worth, platinum
City Furniture store, Boca Raton, silver
Broward County Convention Center, Fort Lauderdale, gold
Environmental Services Laboratory, West Palm Beach, gold
PNC Bank branch, Riviera Beach, gold
Miami Marlins ballpark, Miami, gold
St. Marks Episcopal gym, Palm Beach Gardens, silver
Dania Beach nonfiltration water plant, Dania Beach, silver
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