WRITTEN BY Alison Gregor

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.


The Stockholm Waterfront building is the first building in Sweden to achieve LEED for New Construction v.2009.

The Stockholm Waterfront building is the first building in Sweden to achieve LEED for New Construction v.2009.


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.

“Globally, urbanization is occurring at a rapid pace, bringing enormous challenges, and at the same time, tremendous opportunities to shape our urban environment,” he says. “We seek buildings that are healthy, safe, productive, and comfortable. We aspire to enable urban landscapes that are vibrant and exciting. After all, it is in cities where most of us live and work and raise our families. Certainly, part of the equation involves smart buildings.”


The Sweden Green Building Council recently formed a strategic partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council—the first of its kind in Europe. “LEED moves us—the United States, Sweden, all of Europe—in the right direction,” Ambassador Brzezinski says. “It brings together stakeholders, companies, and consumers to deliver smart and healthy buildings, whose effects are profound.”


Clark can unfold the history of LEED in Sweden as if she knows it by heart, which she most likely does, having experienced most of it. The first buildings in Sweden to be LEED-certified were in Stockholm: existing buildings owned by Nordea, a forward-thinking financial services group, in late 2009. LEED offered an internationally recognized environmental standard for Nordea, which owns buildings in various countries.


“They were the first organization to certify projects in Norway and Denmark as well,” says Clark, “and they were certainly amongst the first organizations to certify in Finland. They continue to do really quite progressive work on environmental certification.”


The first LEED for New Construction v.2009 certification was of the Stockholm Waterfront, the downtown complex with office, conference center, and hotel next to Stockholm’s Central Station. That was awarded in mid-2012.



Skanka’s headquarters in Stockholm are distinguished as a Core and Shell triple Platinum v.2009 project. The building has also obtained LEED for Commercial Interiors v.2009 Platinum certification as of last August.

The Waterfront’s Gold certification is in large part due to its energy solutions. The buildings, with glass facades acting as huge solar collectors, share an energy system and employ a unique technology whereby 250 tons of ice are stored for use with canal water in regulating temperature. An advanced media center factors in water temperature, insulation values, weather forecasts, and statistical weather data to regulate heating, cooling, and lighting to minimize energy consumption in the buildings.


The dedication to green building in Stockholm, where three other certification schemes besides LEED are regularly used, has developed quite naturally out of a set of environmental objectives defined by the Swedish government, one of which is to develop a good-quality built environment, Clark says.


“That’s basically where environmental certification got its foot in the door in Sweden,” she says. “The building industry was looking for methods that allow them to address this Swedish environmental objective. Certification also allows buildings to address some of the government’s other objectives, like energy conservation and preserving a non toxic environment.”


With no real fossil-fuel resources of its own, Sweden saw itself significantly challenged during the energy crisis of the early 1970s. Thus, the Swedish government also instituted a series of energy conservation measures, and in complying with those, buildings can do “very well on LEED’s criteria for energy,” Clark says. “The excellent public transportation system in Stockholm also gives buildings seeking LEED certification a great running start.”


“We’re building to a fairly high density in the urban core, so all of this means there’s about 30 points out of 60 needed for Gold certification that are fairly straightforward for a Stockholm LEED project to achieve,” Clark says.


Frequently, the companies seeking LEED certification for their buildings in Stockholm are companies that operate in an international milieu, like Nordea, or have international tenants like Vasakronan, which owns or operates more than half of all LEED-certified projects in Stockholm.


“If a building owner wants to attract an international client, and also when the company has properties in multiple countries, they want one certification that will be universally recognized and work similarly across all of those countries, and LEED is often chosen in that case,” Clark says.


One good example is Skanska, a multinational construction and development company based in Sweden but operating throughout the United States, Europe, and Latin America. Entré Lindhagen, Skanska’s headquarters in Stockholm, received the 2014 LEED Award at the third annual Sweden Green Building Awards and has the unique distinction, with a little help from Nordea, of being known as the “triple Platinum” project, Clark says.


Skanska’s building received a LEED for Core and Shell v.2009 Platinum certification in April 2014, and Skanska built out its offices to obtain a LEED for Commercial Interiors v.2009 Platinum certification last August. In the meantime, Nordea, a tenant in the building, achieved a LEED for Commercial Interiors v.2009 Platinum certification for the build out of their offices in the building in June.


As a significant champion of LEED in Stockholm, and internationally, Skanska is constructing what may be one of the first university hospitals in the world to be LEED-certified: the New Karolinska Solna, located in Stockholm’s suburbs, which is the world’s largest public-private partnership project and the first in Sweden, Clark says.


“Nordea has also been a large driver of LEED in Stockholm and Sweden in general. The company will be a tenant in a new office building that is pursuing Stockholm’s first Platinum certification under LEED for New Construction v.2009.”


It hasn’t been awarded yet, but this is what the developers are targeting. “I think Nordea is an important player in the LEED market in Sweden, and they’re helping to drive some property owners to use LEED on their projects when Nordea’s a major tenant,” she says.


Another compelling project being watched due to its size and central location is Urban Escape Stockholm, Clark says. AMF Fastigheter, a large property investment and development company based in Stockholm, will build almost 1.4 million square feet of space, including offices, hotels, shops, and restaurants, in the heart of the city. The Urban Escape will be LEED certified and built around Gallerian, an existing collection of more than 80 shops, restaurants, cafes, and other services, currently managed by AMF Fastigheter.


“This is an up-and-coming LEED project from an organization that’s new to LEED,” Clark says, “so we’re quite excited about this in the LEED community in Sweden.”

São Paulo

Anderson Benite had his first taste of green building in 2006, when his company’s client, Tishman Speyer, asked for consult on the Ventura Corporate Tower in Rio de Janeiro.


Benite worked for Centro de Tecnologias de Edificações (CTE), a consulting and management company to Brazil’s construction industry, formed in 1990. The experience of consulting on the Ventura tower, which was the first Brazilian project to be registered in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Core & Shell and eventually was certified Gold, opened Benite’s eyes to the potential for green building in Brazil.


Anderson Benite is a leading sustainability consultant in Brazil.

Anderson Benite is a leading sustainability consultant in Brazil.

“After that, our team developed some new competencies, providing LEED AP exams and hiring some professionals that were required, such as energy modeling and HVAC specialists,” says Benite, a civil engineer with a master’s in management systems from São Paulo University who developed and now directs CTE’s green building consulting practice.


Benite has become one of the leading green building specialists in Brazil, and CTE has consulted on 100 projects nationwide that have been certified as green buildings, a substantial number of them through LEED, leading the Brazilian market.


“CTE also helped a group of professionals to establish the Green Building Council Brasil and presented the LEED certification in many construction congresses and seminars nationwide,” Benite says.


However, LEED achievements can be easily overlooked in a place as colossal as São Paulo, a vibrant, diverse, electric city of almost 12 million residents. São Paulo is at the heart of the world’s seventh-largest metropolis with more than 21 million people, and owes much of its character—and many of its problems—to unrestrained and unplanned growth.


As such, there may be few places where LEED achievements are needed more, and green building consultants say São Paulo leads the country in its LEED achievements. With 74 LEED-certified projects for a total of more than 13 million square feet, most certified Gold, São Paulo is the home of 35 percent of the LEED projects in Brazil. In a country that is more than holding its own in the world’s green building arena, with 209 LEED-certified projects, São Paulo is a natural leader, says Maria Carolina Fujihara, the technical coordinator for the Green Building Council Brasil.


“São Paulo is the biggest city in Latin America, and it’s where all the problems and solutions are established,” she says. “It’s the richest city in Brazil, and where all the international companies are based. As a result, São Paulo is a natural leader in a lot of subjects, including building certification.”


Some may argue that Mexico City is slightly larger than São Paulo, but few question the role that São Paulo has played as a green building pioneer. The first LEED-certified buildings in Brazil were in or near São Paulo: a bank building by Banco Real was certified in 2007 in Cotia, a city near São Paulo; a medical laboratory, created by the company Delboni Auriemo, received Silver certification under LEED for New Construction in June 2008 in São Paulo; and then a couple of months later, Morgan Stanley received Silver certification for its São Paulo offices under LEED for Commercial Interiors.


Currently, leaders in São Paulo’s municipal government, at the behest of the Green Building Council Brasil, are seriously considering instituting tax incentives for LEED-certified buildings, which would be the first initiative of its kind in Brazil.



São Paulo is the world’s seventh largest city with almost 12 million residents. The LEED-certified Ecoberrini building stands in the center of this vibrant metropolis.

“If this is approved for next year, for sure LEED certifications will grow at an exponential rate,” Fujihara says.


Tax incentives aside, private companies and their investors have been the catalysts behind São Paulo’s LEED achievements, Benite says. More than half of the LEED-registered projects in Brazil are related to commercial activities, and São Paulo, as the business and economic center of Brazil, is where powerful multinational companies with environmental mandates tend to locate, he says.


“The main driver for LEED in São Paulo is that many international companies, and even important Brazilian companies, require LEED for their buildings and offices due to their sustainability policies and goals,” he says, offering countless examples, such as the Odebrecht Group, Camargo Corrêa Group, Barclays, Google, General Motors, Renault, Petrobras, and others.


Indeed, a LEED certification is so important to most corporations that it’s seen as an essential in an office building, not just a perk, Benite says.


“Today, an office building without a LEED certification is not ranked as a top building—which is a triple A classification in Brazil—and that has an adverse impact on its occupancy, selling, and rental prices,” he says.


The LEED-certified buildings in São Paulo tend to run toward commercial office buildings ranging from about 100,000 square feet to about 1.25 million square feet. Most of the certifications are for new construction, though the number of certifications for operations and maintenance of existing buildings is growing, Fujihara says. The only two office towers in Brazil to achieve a Platinum certification are in São Paulo: the Eldorado Business Tower, certified for Core & Shell in 2009, and Eco Berrini, certified for Core & Shell in 2012. Both are over a million square feet. “They both sold all their units in the day after launching,” Fujihara says.


Benite agrees that São Paulo’s Platinum certifications were a watershed: “These certifications skyrocketed LEED in the media—the news, technical magazines, TV—and increased the demand of LEED consulting services.”


There are other types of LEED structures as well in São Paulo, especially if the much larger domain of LEED-registered buildings is included. Structures range in size from the small coffee shops of Starbucks, working through the LEED Volume Certification program, to the huge Allianz Parque arena, a multipurpose arena with 43,600 covered seats that was completed in 2014 to stringent environmental standards, Benite says.


One area LEED hasn¹t dominated in Brazil is the residential construction market for various reasons. However, Parque da Cidade, an approximately 20-acre site in southern São Paulo that will be part city park and part mixed-use development being done by Odebrecht Realizações Imobiliárias, was recently awarded a Stage 2 Pre-Certified LEED for Neighborhood
Development Plan.


The plan calls for about 5.5 acres of the Parque da Cidade site to remain green space, while about 15 acres will be open to the public. There will be five corporate towers, an office tower, two multifamily residential buildings, a shopping mall, and a hotel, which will all aim for LEED certification. The first buildings to be delivered—a corporate tower and the office tower—should open around September, while the entire project is forecast to be completed in 2019.


With entire green neighborhoods now being created, the pace of projects being LEED-certified in Brazil—which has grown from 17 in 2011 to 75 in 2014, Benite says— continues to grow each year, and that’s expected to be reflected in its ebullient commercial center, São Paulo.


“São Paulo is where we concentrate the know-how, the knowledge, the money, the pollution, the bad air-quality, the stress, the leader initiatives, and so on,” says Fujihara. “It couldn’t be different from what it is.”