Green Building: A Real Estate Revolution? Green building now accounts for close to one-third of new U.S. construction. That's up from 2 percent in 2005, according to McGraw-Hill Construction, which tracks the industry. The U.S. Green Building Council, and its LEED rating system, have changed construction practice -- and policy -- around the country.
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Green Building: A Real Estate Revolution?

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Green Building: A Real Estate Revolution?

Green Building: A Real Estate Revolution?

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


There are many factors, and many players, in this move toward green building. But one company and its rating system have played a key role, as NPR's Franklyn Cater reports.

U: Oh, there we go, yes, some motion detectors on the sinks.

FRANKLYN CATER: The new Ross School of Business building at the University of Michigan is full of environment-friendly technology.

P: One of humorous things about studying this kind of topic is you can talk about dual-flush toilets and waterless urinals in polite company.

CATER: Andy Hoffman is a professor of sustainable enterprise. He teaches a course in green construction. And along with facilities manager John Bresette, he's giving me a tour. Among the highlights, oddly enough, is this men's room equipped with dual-flush toilets.

BLOCK: Saves a little water if you pull up, opposed to pushing down.

CATER: Point 8 in 1.6 gallons?



BLOCK: So even with the full flush, you're just getting the 1.6.

P: It's pretty intuitive. I think this is the more culturally challenging issue for some people - is a waterless urinal. People immediately think, oh, this is going to stink. But it doesn't smell. You can't smell it right now.

CATER: As long as the filters get changed regularly.

BLOCK: That sector was practically nonexistent in 1993, when the U.S. Green Building Council got its start. The USGBC created the LEED program, and Hoffman gives them a lot of credit for helping to create demand.

P: They created a cachet around the LEED certification. And they got people to want to do this as a marketing pitch. And I think that was really a stroke of genius, to get a rather inertial industry to start to shift.

CATER: Hoffman thinks this is now key to attracting top students.

P: College campuses, they're all starting to go this way. If you want to keep up with the Joneses, you kind of got to do that.

CATER: The Ross building achieved silver. The company dumped its bronze rating a while back and renamed it simply certified.

BLOCK: They're one of the most savvy nonprofits when it comes to how do you reach out to the press, how to do marketing, and how to communicate their message.

CATER: Michele Russo is director for green research at McGraw-Hill Construction in Washington.

BLOCK: The word L-E-E-D meant nothing, you know, 10-odd years ago. And now, that is literally like Kleenex is to tissues. I mean, you think of a LEED building and people think, oh, it's a green building.

CATER: Russo says the USGBC has been smart to network in every sector. And there's a growing army of people with LEED credentials.


U: Tackling the new LEED exams is an intimidating challenge for many professionals. But our proven methods and...

CATER: Michele Russo says as an industry observer, the LEED AP gives her added credibility.

BLOCK: It helps my team. I have a new staff person; he's getting the LEED credentialing. So you know, it is nice to have on the business card when handed out, just adds that additional, you know...

CATER: Yeah, it kind of looks cool. It's almost like Ph.D. after your name.


BLOCK: I would not go that far.

CATER: Franklyn Cater, NPR News.

SIEGEL: One big question about LEED buildings is whether it's worth the added cost. You can find more about the University of Michigan's answers to that at

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