Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is expanding internationally with about 44 percent of all square footage pursuing LEED certification falling outside the U.S. That growth is not confined to one or two specific geographic regions or economic zones, but is spreading far and wide globally. Among the countries with the largest numbers of LEED registered and certified projects are China, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Brazil, India, the United Kingdom, and Canada, but some cities have also distinguished themselves as areas where LEED has taken hold. Here’s a glimpse at two of them in particular, Stockholm and São Paulo.
When Sue Clark was a student in the early 2000s, she tried repeatedly to get a job with the city’s only green architect, who was making straw-bale houses. “There was not much green work at the time, and she was a one-woman show,” says Clark, who eventually received a master’s of architecture from Canada’s University of Waterloo in 2009. “She must have been tired of this student asking for a job every eight months.”
Clark never did get the job making straw-bale houses, but her passion and persistence did land her a position in 2004 at the engineering firm, Morrison Hershfield, where she did her first LEED project. “I’m very grateful for that early start, because when the real green building boom began around 2007, I was able to jump right in as a LEED consultant,” says Clark, who also has worked extensively with the Canada Green Building Council as a certification review team leader.
It was as a proponent of LEED (though as a follower of her husband, who landed a job opportunity) that Clark ended up moving to Sweden in 2011. There, she has become one of the heavyweights of the green building movement as the LEED manager for the Sweden Green Building Council.
The green building movement has mushroomed in Sweden, particularly in the capital Stockholm, since Clark appeared on the scene. A metropolis built on 14 islands, Stockholm is surrounded by water so crystal and clean that one can swim in the city center, and it was chosen as the European Union’s first “green capital” in 2010. As the largest city in Scandinavia, Stockholm is perhaps no surprise in being among the cities recognized as leaders in LEED throughout the world.
The city itself has just under a million residents but there are more than 2 million people in the greater metropolitan region, so Stockholm’s reach is substantial. As of the middle of December, that metropolitan area had 55 LEED-certified projects, the large majority of them Gold, encompassing more than 18 million square feet of space, most of it within the city limits.
When Clark first started working with the Sweden Green Building Council, which is based in the greater Stockholm area, there were only three staff members and none had experience in LEED—perhaps a reflection of there being only 11 LEED-certified projects in all of Sweden. “It was good timing on both sides,” she says. With the support of experts like Gunnar Hubbard of Thornton Tomasetti who lead early education and training programs, and his colleague Colin Schless, who provided technical consulting services, Vasakronan was able to make good on their large implementation of their green building commitments.
Stockholm continues to achieve firsts, with a large portion of the city’s LEED-certified properties—28 to be exact—being part of the first volume certification ever awarded in Europe. In mid-December, Vasakronan, the largest property management firm in Sweden, certified 48 properties in Sweden, most to the Gold level, in the largest LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance volume certification ever awarded outside of North America.
Obviously, the LEED-certified projects in Stockholm, most of which are commercial office and mixed-use buildings, have yielded benefits that are part and parcel of the city’s long-term approach to building sustainably in the urban environment. Smart buildings are a key part of living in a world that is growing more urbanized, says U.S. Ambassador to Sweden Mark Brzezinski.