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Cambria Hotel Washington DC Capitol Riverfront | LEED Gold

Cambria Hotel Washington DC

Addressing opportunities to reduce emissions

Building decarbonization policies can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the building sector and improve health and equity.

Decarbonization: This term refers to the goal of ending our dependence on oil and gas as power sources to reduce the carbon dioxide (or CO2) emissions that raise global temperatures.

Nexus with LEED

For over a decade, LEED has aimed to reduce the GHG pollution of buildings, and USGBC intends to address all opportunities for reducing carbon emissions, including operational carbon, embodied carbon, refrigerants, electric mobility options and carbon sequestration.

Project teams working to decarbonize a project can apply LEED as a holistic framework, helping not only to develop an integrated approach for climate but also to ensure baseline consideration of human health, clean water and other vital outcomes. 

  • Aim for Gold or Platinum levels while maximizing Energy and Atmosphere points to emphasize decarbonization results to improve energy efficiency; implement grid optimization to reduce contribution to peak demand and its typical higher GHG intensity; and utilize renewable energy credits. 
  • With the Energy Optimization credit, LEED v4.1 adds the metric of GHG emission improvement with the intent to push all projects toward decarbonization. Projects should also use credits supporting low-carbon outcomes, such as the Whole Building Life Cycle Analysis credit, and those that reduce non-energy sources of carbon emissions, including water, materials use, building-related transportation and waste generation.
  • Bringing projects into LEED for Operations and Maintenance and pushing operational performance is critical. For example, a University of California at Berkeley study of the GHG reductions from non-energy categories for LEED-certified existing buildings in the state found that the LEED-certified buildings were associated with 50% fewer GHGs from water use, 48% fewer GHGs from solid waste and 5% fewer GHGs from transportation. Learn more from our brief, “How green buildings can support climate mitigation.”
  • To go further, LEED Zero recognizes buildings that demonstrate net zero carbon operations through one year’s data. Jurisdictions can use LEED and LEED Zero with directed credits and levels as a component of decarbonization policies. 


Decarbonization Issue Brief #1: Building Decarbonization
USGBC’s Issue Briefs explain current trends in buildings policy and technology with a focus on decarbonization, sustainability, and health. This brief explains what building decarbonization is about, how LEED supports decarbonization, and key policies.
Read the brief.


News & insights about decarbonization

Free education course in May: Decarbonization and LEEDEducation/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/free-education-may.jpg?itok=U_T79efF1May 01, 2023hbenjamin_1HeatherBenjamin14773390
2023 BCSE Factbook highlights progress in the clean energy t…Industry/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/2023-bsce-factbook.jpg?itok=Cetw0EvW3Mar 01, 2023dverdinezDeisyVerdinez14664669
Businesses win at decarbonization with TRUE certificationUSGBC+/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/true-decarb-feature.jpg?itok=VDpyvXQx6Feb 28, 2023marialycep@gmail.comMarialycePedersen14662388
San Francisco’s proposed policy update could accelerate deca…Advocacy and policy/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/san-franciscos-proposed-policy.jpg?itok=4O-JqHNY3Feb 27, 2023EBeardsleyElizabethBeardsley14660094
How the integrated process can make decarbonization easierIndustry/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/how-the-integrated-process.jpg?itok=64mj8Pwx3Feb 24, 2023nterrillNatalieTerrill14655366
Turning the health care sector toward decarbonizationIndustry/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/turning-healthcare-sector.jpg?itok=2e1pvYln6Jan 06, 2023sguttmannStevenGuttmann14568535

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