See if your state ranks on USGBC’s list of the Top 10 LEED States for green buildings in 2018; also, Top 10 LEED Countries

by Brianna Crandall — February 27, 2019 — The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) recently released its annual list of Top 10 States as well as the Top 10 Countries and Regions for the widely used LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building rating system. Buildings that are LEED-certified create healthier spaces for people, as well as use less energy and water, reduce carbon emissions and save money for families, businesses and taxpayers, says USGBC.

Top 10 States for LEED

Illinois topped the list of the Top 10 States for LEED, which ranks states based on the number of LEED-certified square feet per person. The Top 10 States for LEED are home to 128 million Americans and together include more than 468 million gross square feet of LEED-certified space.

As the number one state for LEED certification in 2018, Illinois certified 172 green building projects representing 5.31 square feet of LEED-certified space per resident. This is the first time Illinois has taken the top spot since 2015. Washington and Texas also made triumphant returns to the Top 10, securing the highest rankings in each states’ history. In addition, Colorado made notable strides in its LEED activity, moving from number 10 in 2017 to number six on this year’s list. The Top 10 list is based on 2010 US Census data and includes commercial and institutional green building projects certified throughout 2018.

The full rankings are as follows:

2018 Top 10 States for LEED
RankStateCertified Gross Square Footage (GSF)GSF Per CapitaNumber of Projects Certified

*Included in 2017 Top 10 States for LEED list

**Washington, D.C. is not ranked as it is a federal district, not a state

USGBC calculates the list using per capita figures to allow for a fair comparison of the level of green building taking place among states with significant differences in population and number of overall buildings.

Notable projects that certified in each state in 2018 include:

  • Illinois: Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital is LEED Silver and part of a redeveloped campus that opened in March 2018 with over 700 physicians providing primary, specialty and emergency care.
  • Massachusetts: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. School, LEED Platinum, served as a prototype for the Cambridge Green Schools Initiative and changed the way the district thinks about building energy while also using its design as a teaching tool for students.
  • Washington: The LEED Platinum Seattle Fire Station 22 was designed to support the well-being of its firefighters while finding ways to reuse and conserve non-potable water to meet the station’s needs.
  • New York: Albany Damien Center Residences is a LEED Gold housing project that has provided over 400 chronically homeless people living with HIV and AIDS with long-term housing stability.
  • Texas: The LEED Silver Austin Animal Kennel expanded its facility to meet the city’s growing “No Kill” community and provides an additional 44 kennel spaces, as well as play yards and adoption rooms.
  • Colorado: Jones Hall at the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind is a historic building that achieved LEED Gold and provides a place for visiting families to stay as well as a repository of resources for students across the state.
  • Hawaii: Hawaii Convention Center achieved LEED Gold and is focused on measuring environmental performance to improve visitor experience and uses Arc to track its sustainability efforts.
  • Virginia: Operation Smile’s Global Headquarters used LEED to reflect its own commitment to make the world a better place during the construction of its new LEED Gold office in Virginia Beach.
  • California: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) achieved LEED Gold for Building 301 using LEED v4.1; LEED is used across JPL’s campus to compare progress and continuously improve building performance while also meeting federal guiding principles for sustainable buildings as a contractor to NASA.
  • Maryland: The Merriweather Post Pavilion Stagehouse is a LEED Silver home-away-from-home for touring artists playing at the iconic venue and reflects many of the artists’ environmental values.

While the Top 10 recognizes progress at the building level, LEED is also now used to measure sustainability performance at the city and community levels. This year, nine of the Top 10 states are also home to LEED-certified cities and communities, including Chicago, Seattle, Austin, San Diego County and more. There are currently more than 137 registered and certified LEED cities and communities around the world, representing more than 50 million people.

Despite Washington, DC, not appearing in the official Top 10 list because of its status as a federal territory, it has consistently led the nation, and in 2018 certified 61.74 square feet of space per resident across 145 green building projects. The nation’s capital has a strong legacy of sustainability leadership, and in 2017 was the first city in the world to be LEED-certified, points out USGBC.

Research shows green building will continue growing through 2021. Client demand remains the top reason to build green in the US, and occupant health and well-being emerged as the top social factor. Through LEED, USGBC pushes the market toward higher-performing buildings that also improve quality of life.

Top 10 Countries and Regions for LEED

USGBC also announced the annual Top 10 Countries and Regions for LEED, outside of the United States. Mainland China topped the list with more than 68 million gross square meters. The list recognizes markets that are using LEED to create healthier spaces for people, as well as use less energy and water, reduce carbon emissions, and save money for families and businesses. The top countries and regions account for nearly 7,800 certified buildings and more than 210 million gross square meters of space.

The list ranks countries and regions in terms of cumulative LEED-certified gross square meters as of December 31, 2018. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the world’s most widely used green building program with 96,275 registered and certified projects in more than 167 countries and territories.

The full rankings are as follows:

RankingCountry/RegionNumber of ProjectsGross Square Meters*
1Mainland China1,49468.83
5Republic of Korea14312.15
9China, Taiwan1447.30
**United States33,632441.60

*Gross square meters are reported in millions. Data is reported as of December 2018.

**The United States, where LEED originated, is not included on the list, but remains the world’s largest market for LEED.


LEED is a recognized symbol of excellence around the world and continues to raise the bar in terms of sustainability for buildings, cities and communities. Recently, USGBC introduced LEED v4.1, the latest update to the rating system, and released beta versions for existing buildings (LEED v4.1 O+M), new construction (LEED v4.1 BD+C) and interiors (LEED v4.1 ID+C). LEED v4.1 emphasizes human health and integrates performance metrics using Arc to encourage ongoing tracking. There are currently more than 96,275 registered and certified LEED projects in 167 countries and regions.

The impact of buildings, cities and communities on people continues to be a priority for USGBC and across industries. In an effort to expand USGBC’s global green building efforts and ensure that LEED is not only the de facto leadership standard, but also the pre-eminent living standard, USGBC launched the Living Standard campaign at 2018’s Greenbuild in Chicago. Focused on the belief that storytelling can lead to a more sustainable world, the campaign aims to highlight stories — big and small — that capture how USGBC, LEED and other sustainability programs are raising the quality of life for people around the world. Individuals and companies can join the campaign and submit stories.