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Greenest Buildings in the U.S.

Table of Contents
  1. LEED Certification
  2. Green Buildings
    1. 11 Times Square - New York, NY
    2. Adobe Systems Towers  - San Jose, CA
    3. Alberici Corporate Headquarters - Overland, MO
    4. Audubon Center - Los Angeles, CA
    5. Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park - New York, NY
    6. Banner Bank Building - Boise, ID
    7. California Department of Education Building - Sacramento, CA
    8. California Environmental Protection Agency Headquarters - Sacramento, CA
    9. Clinton Presidential Library - Little Rock, AR
    10. Cor - Miami, FL
    11. The Empire State Building - New York, NY
    12. Greenway Self Park - Chicago, IL
    13. Hearst Tower - New York, NY
    14. Inland Empire Utilities Agency Office - Chino, CA
    15. Lewis And Clark State Office Building - Jefferson City, MO
    16. Morrisania Homes - New York, NY
    17. National Resources Defense Council Office - Santa Monica, CA
    18. Perkins + Will Seattle Office - Seattle, WA
    19. Phillip Merrill Environmental Center - Annapolis, MD
    20. Portland, Oregon National Guard Annex - Portland, OR
    21. The Riverhouse - New York, NY
    22. Rocky Mountain Institute Boulder Office - Boulder, CO
    23. San Francisco Civic Tower - San Francisco, CA
    24. Sweetwater Creek State Park Visitor Center - Lithia Springs, GA
    25. Transbay Tower - San Francisco, CA
    26. US Green Building Council Offices - Washington D.C.
    27. The Visionaire - New York, NY
    28. Visitor and Administrations Center, Queens Botanical Garden - New York, NY
  3. Related Links

LEED Certification

As environmental issues intensify, businesses are beginning to covet LEED certification for their buildings more and more. Green buildings save money on energy costs and attract new tenants. The LEED certification point system is very simple - some would argue that it's so simple, it's flawed. Each eco-friendly feature gets one point, no matter how significant in terms of sustainability. (For example, a bike rack gets one point, as does photovoltaic panels and waterless urinals.) The LEED certification system consists of four levels - certified (at least 26 of 69 points), silver, gold and platinum (at least 52 of 69 points.) Big cities in New York and California make up most of the trend, though many midwesterners are also jumping on board. Below is a list of some of the greenest buildings in the U.S. Most of these have achieved at least a Gold LEED rating.  

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Green Buildings

11 Times Square - New York, NY

11 Times Square NYC LEED

This building's center, a 600-foot-high concrete core, serves as its command center with extra-wide stairways, elevators and utility risers. Air intake monitoring and filtration, water collection, and sustainable construction justify a Gold LEED rating for 11 Times Square.

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Adobe Systems Towers  - San Jose, CA

Adobe Systems Towers LEEDAdobe Systems is the first corporation to have three LEED Platinum rated buildings. The East and West towers were renovated in 2001 to reduce energy usage and feature an irrigation system that's linked to local weather stations and automatically adjusts to real-time weather conditions. The third building - Almaden Tower - was built in 2003. All three towers received Platinum LEED certification in 2006. Bathrooms feature waterless urinals, automatic flush valves, faucets, soap dispensers and paper towel dispensers which minimize waste and improve sanitation. Adobe utilizes an Intelligent Building Interface System (IBIS), which allows staff to monitor and operate various building controls, such as lighting or temperature adjustments in one or multiple towers, within a single computer program.

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Alberici Corporate Headquarters - Overland, MO

Alberici Corporate Headquarters LEEDIn 2004, Alberici converted their 50-year-old manufacturing facility into a sustainable corporate headquarters building. Renovations include features such as an outdoor courtyard; two retention ponds to prevent stormwater runoff; a rainwater catchment system; a raised floor and natural ventilation system and a wind turbine that generates 20 percent of the building's total energy needs. In addition to "going green," Alberici formed Vertegy - a company that focuses on building and renovating to green standards.

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Audubon Center - Los Angeles, CA

Audubon Center LA LEED

This was the first Platinum LEED Certified building in the nation and functions entirely off of the electrical grid, via on-site solar systems. The Audubon Center was constructed with over 25 percent locally-harvested and over 50 percent locally-manufactured materials and was also awarded points for water conservation.

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Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park - New York, NY

Bank of America One Bryant Park NYC LEEDThis 54-story building is 1,200 feet tall, making it the second tallest building in New York (next to the Empire State Building), housing 2.1 million square feet of office space. Its $1 billion construction was done with renewable, recycled raw materials within 500 miles of New York. The floor to ceiling windows maximize heat from the sun and flood the building with natural light, boosting worker efficiency. LED lighting and perimeter daylight dimming also reduce electricity. A 5.1 megawatt cogeneration plant produces about 70 percent of the building's energy needs. Climate control is achieved by a groundwater heat exchanger that makes ice to cool the building, supplementing the air conditioning system. Waste and rainwater are reused and waterless urinals and low-flow fixtures save water. An air filtration system removes 95 percent of particulates and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), so that the air vented back into the city is cleaner than the intake, making the building, essentially, one giant air filter. Overall, the building reduces energy consumption and water usage by 50 percent and produces net zero carbon dioxide emissions. It is the first skyscraper of its kind to receive a LEED Platinum rating. 

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Banner Bank Building - Boise, ID

Banner Bank Building LEED

This is the first building in Idaho to receive a LEED Platinum rating. The Banner Bank building collects storm water from its surrounding seven acres and reuses it in its sewage system. Other "green features" include: individual computer controls instead of light switches; a biodiesel fuel backup generator; under floor air distribution with evaporative pre-cooling; geothermal heat system; convenient location near public transportation access; indoor bicycle storage; individual shower rooms; drought-tolerant vegetation; automated irrigation system with motion sensors; water reclamation system and conserving water fixtures. The building was constructed using locally-sourced and 40 percent recycled materials.

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California Department of Education Building - Sacramento, CA

California Dept of Education LEED Building
The LEED Platinum Certification given to the California Department of Education building marks the first of this honor awarded to a state-owned office. The building features a highly energy efficient heating and cooling system and applicances. After the building was retrofitted to meet green standards, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an executive order for a 20 percent energy reduction in state-owned buildings by 2015.

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California Environmental Protection Agency Headquarters - Sacramento, CA

California EPA Headquarters LEED

This 25-story office tower has a LEED Platinum rating with a building design that maximizes natural day light and perimeter light sensors that automatically dim the lights inside when the sun shines in brightly. Other features include photovoltaic panels on the roof, low-flow toilets, zero-VOC paints throughout the building's interior and fan rooms on each floor that can flush in fresh outside air on command. The building composts 10 tons of cafeteria waste a year, saving $10,000.

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Clinton Presidential Library - Little Rock, AR

Clinto Presidential Library LEED Platinum
This library was constructed, dedicated and opened in 2004, with significant "green" renovations made in 2007 which earned it a LEED Platinum rating; The recently-added rooftop garden absorbs carbon, reduces rainwater runoff and regulates temperatures. The architect has also implemented the use of green cleaning chemicals, increased recycled content for paper products, and waste reduction through local sourcing and the carbon offsetting of all non-renewable energy.

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Cor - Miami, FL

Cor Miami LEED

This sustainable mixed-use condominium is slated to be completed in 2011 and will house 20,100 square feet of office space, 5,400 square feet of retail units and 113 residential units. The $25 million innovative design features photovoltaic panels, solar hot water generation, armatures for wind turbines, thermal mass for inslulation, shading for natural cooling, enclosure for terraces and loggias for congregating on the ground.

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The Empire State Building - New York, NY

NYC Empire State Building LEED Platinum

After a $120 million renovation, the Empire State Building joins the ranks among the long list of buildings that have "gone green" and sought LEED Platinum certification to obtain more tenants during the economic recession. The improvements include retrofitting all 6,500 windows for added insulation and upgrading the lighting, cold water and ventilation systems.

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Greenway Self Park - Chicago, IL

Greenway Self Park LEED
As Chicago's first eco-friendly parking garage, this 11-story, 15,000 square-foot unit houses 725 individual parking spaces, along with bike racks, plug-in stations for electric vehicles and spaces for car-sharing services. The entire structure is powered by a series of six wind turbines requiring winds travelling at 2 miles per hour to provide electricity for its exterior lighting. The green roof provides a solution for the problems of urban heat and rainwater runoff.

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Hearst Tower - New York, NY

NYC Hearst Tower LEED

The Hearst Tower has a host of features that contribute to it's gold LEED rating, including low-emitting glass, light sensors to control the amount of artificial light used based on the amount of natural light available from outside, high-efficiency HVAC systems, Energy Star appliances, and the use of outside air for cooling and ventilation during 75 percent of the year. Rainwater collection and reuse provides about half of the watering needs while also humidifying and chilling the 10-story atrium as necessary. Low-vapor and low-toxicity paints are used on walls and concrete surfaces, and furnishings are formaldehyde-free. Floors and ceilings were manufactured with recycled content and wood from sustainable forests.

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Inland Empire Utilities Agency Office - Chino, CA

Inland Empire Utilities Agency LEED
IEUA was constructed with recycled building materials both on its interior and exterior surfaces. Solar roof panels produce 50 percent of the building's energy. The use of recycled water and high-efficiency plumbing, along with the planting of native, drought-tolerant trees, shrubs and bushes throughout the landscape, reduces water consumption significantly. Beyond sustainable construction, the office encourages green practices by offering a 9/80 or 4/10 work schedule to employees, providing bike racks and vehicle charging stations and encouraging participation in a rideshare program.

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Lewis And Clark State Office Building - Jefferson City, MO

Lewis and Clark State Office Building LEED

This building utilizes a rooftop rainwater catchment system to flush toilets. Other green features include climate control via concrete shelves outside the windows which provide shade during the summer and allow the sunlight to penetrate during the winter, and a raised flooring system that allows wiring, heating and cooling systems to run under offices and workstations. This state office building also has a LEED Platinum rating.

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Morrisania Homes - New York, NY

Morrisania Homes NYC LEED

With affordable residential buildings like this one, recovering the costs of going green can be tough, since raising the cost for tenants is not feasible. Still, Morrisania homes saw the benefits of obtaining a LEED silver rating. Recognizing the high asthma rates in the area, the builders installed wall and ceiling fans designed to suck out harmful vapors.

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National Resources Defense Council Office - Santa Monica, CA

National Resources Defense Council NRDC Office LEED

This 15,000-square foot office building features photo sensors that dim according to the brightness of natural light, conference room chairs made from recycled seat belts, waterless urinals and advanced heating and cooling systems in each office that shut off when windows are opened. Water collected from the roof is used to flush toilets. The building looks like a larger version of the beach bungalows nearby and has received a LEED Platinum rating.

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Perkins + Will Seattle Office - Seattle, WA

Perkins and Will Seattle Office LEED Platinum

Nearly 80 percent of the materials used to construct this architectural firm office building came from within 500 miles of its location. The LEED Platinum rated building boasts a natural ventilation system and all workstations have views open to natural daylight.

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Phillip Merrill Environmental Center - Annapolis, MD

Phillip Merrill Environmental Center LEED
The Phillip Merrill Center was constructed with renewable, recycled materials that have little to no impact on its surrounding bay and creek environment. The building features natural ventilation, natural light, insulated panels, a rooftop rainwater catchment and composting toilets. Solar power heats its water and solar energy meets 11 percent of the building's energy needs. Along with its Platinum LEED certification, the Phillip Merrill Center is recognized for being one of the world's most energy-efficient buildings.

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Portland, Oregon National Guard Annex - Portland, OR

Portland Oregon National Guard Annex LEED PlatinumHistoric presevation meets environmental sustainability with this LEED Platinum Certified building. When the National Guard Annex was built, 95 percent of the construction waste was able to be recycled instead of put in a landfill. The building features an under-floor ventilation system that displaces warm air with cool, outside air. The building's rooftop captures rainwater for flushing toilets. Low-flow showerheads and faucets help conserve water. Climate control is achieved through glazed windows that maximize daylight. Lighting inside the building is also controlled by sensors and dimming switches. The building's interior sustainable design was achieved without the sacrifice of its historic exterior features.

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The Riverhouse - New York, NY

The Riverhouse NYC LEED

This 31-story condominium features photovoltaic rooftop cells that convert sunlight into electricity, twice-filtered air and a $1 million wastewater treatment plant in the basement that recycles wastewater in the cooling tower for the building's HVAC system. The building has attracted the attention of the City Bakery's owner, Maury Rubin, who also opened a sustainably-constructed organic bakery on the ground floor of the Riverhouse.

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Rocky Mountain Institute Boulder Office - Boulder, CO

RMI Boulder LEED Platinum
RMI earned Platinum LEED certification for energy efficiency and sustainable construction, along with points for its educational programs. Almost 50 percent of the materials used in the construction of the office were reused, and 17 percent of all furnishings were made from renewable materials. The building features high performance windows, Energy Star office equipment, programmable thermostats, and energy-efficient lighting.

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San Francisco Civic Tower - San Francisco, CA

SF Civic Tower LEED
Constructed with reused materials from the demolished structure that previously stood in its place, this 12-story building consumes 20 percent less power than required by California law and has a LEED Silver rating. Green design features include: integrated solar panels on building's exterior and rooftop; solar greenhouses on each floor; chilled ceilings; a water recycling system in the basement; waterless urinals and faucet sensors and on-demand water heaters to reduce water usage to five gallons per occupant per day. A raised floor ventilation system pulls hot air out of the building and is controlled at each workstation for individual comfort. Wind turbines along part of the facade and roof generate energy and light shelves increase the pentration of natural daylight into the work space. 

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Sweetwater Creek State Park Visitor Center - Lithia Springs, GA

Sweetwater Creek State Park Visitor Center LEED

Onsite renewable sources provide 20 percent of this Platinum LEED certified building's energy. The center features composting toilets and waterless urinals, and low-flow toilets are flushed with rainwater. The building's location and orientation minimizes site disturbances and maximizes solar exposure and control.

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Transbay Tower - San Francisco, CA

Transbay Tower Bus Terminal SF LEED

Slated to be completed by 2017, the new Transbay Bus Terminal in San Francisco will be built from glass with a rooftop park to absorb the carbon dioxide from buses. The 1,200-foot-tall Transbay Tower will be set in the heart of the terminal and will feature: wind turbines on the roof; fresh air ventilation; lightshevles to control lighting and reduce energy use and solid exterior panels near the floor to remove undesirable solar gain along with sunshades to allow for solar control.

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US Green Building Council Offices - Washington D.C.

USGBC Offices LEED Certification

Though the building that houses the offices has a gold rating, the USGBC floor has a LEED platinum rating. The building features a rooftop garden and no-flush urinals which aid in the conservation of water.

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The Visionaire - New York, NY

NYC The Visionaire LEEDThe Visionaire has been labeled one of the greenest high rise residential buildings in the U.S. At first glance, the granite base and glassy surface make the building appear to be energy inefficient, but the insulated spandrel glass panels used in its construction have helped it achieve a LEED Platinum rating. The green roof terraces were designed to be useful spaces, planted with sedums and other grasses, shrubs and small trees, and providing views of the Hudson River and Manhattan skyline. The roof is also equipped with three rings of blue solar panels and a microturbine that generates electricity. The developers designed the building with indoor air quality in mind. Fresh air is filtered and preconditioned with humidity control and supplied to every room. An advanced wastewater reclamation system cleans and reuses water in the building's toilets, green roofs and cooling towers.

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Visitor and Administrations Center, Queens Botanical Garden - New York, NY

Queens Botanical Garden Visitor Center LEED Platinum
When this building was erected in 2007, city officials called it the city's greenest building. With a LEED Platinum rating, it was designed to maximize natural light and ventilation as well as minimize energy consumption. Photovoltaic panels provide almost 20 percent of electricity needs. The green roof above the auditorium absorbs rainwater and a wetland area planted nearby along with waterless urinals and a composting toilet reduce water consumption by 30 percent. Water is cleaned by the landscape and reued to flush toilets. The new structure is nearly four times the size of the previous visitor's center.

Related Links

Map of U.S. LEED Certified Buildings

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