Red, Blue, and Green States

Green architecture in the United States is as geographically polarized as the political landscape—and a look at  future eco-building sites suggests the trend will continue. The good news? More LEED projects on the horizon. Lots more.

Using data supplied by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), we plotted the 1,120 LEED-certified projects (and the 7,981 applying for cer­tification) worldwide, the lion’s share located in the continental U.S. Although the map’s colors are red and blue, the geographic distribution of green buildings doesn’t follow partisan political lines. What LEED-cluttered regions have in common are high population densities, stringent government mandates, and strong local USGBC chapters—all of which help explain California’s nationwide high of 173 LEED-certified projects, with 1,217 more in the pipeline. The state’s urban population, nearly 32 million, is almost double that of Texas or New York, and its government has encouraged green architecture through a variety of incentives.

The largely rural states in the center of the country, often lacking big-city infrastructure and broad professional networks, lag behind the coasts. “From a sustainability standpoint, it’s greener to develop in urban areas,” says Max Zahniser, LEED program manager. “That doesn’t mean just Man­hattan. You don’t need a Manhattan in South Dakota for LEED to catch on.” And as eco-building spreads beyond the margins, it is likely that less populated regions will find ways to adapt LEED (and per­haps other green benchmarks) to their moderately dense cities. After all, if it can work in Mumbai, why not Pierre?

Click here for a printable version of the map.

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