Pinellas County has been selected by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for cities and communities this year, one of 15 cities or communities added to the list.
The council works with Bank of America to award this title to places that commit to “reduce climate change and advance resilience and social equity,” according to a press release. More than 120 cities and regions have achieved this certification so far.
Hank Hodde, sustainability and resiliency coordinator for Pinellas County, says his team will use the program to weigh their own green initiatives against LEED’s national standards.
LEED certification will be “one of the tools in the toolbox,” Hodde said, noting that much of the program’s benefit comes in the form of “technical assistance” for eco projects and planning.
Pinellas already had accreditation from the Sustainability Tools for Assessing and Rating, or STAR, system, but Hodde says LEED offers uniformity that will make it easier to advance their initiatives.
Most notably, it will help the county track water use and develop clean-energy goals, like converting the county’s vehicle fleet to hybrid or electric.
The department currently has a five-step plan to approach sustainability and resiliency, which mostly includes taking carbon inventory and planning for future programs. Now, the plan will be bolstered with biweekly calls from the USGBC’s staff as part of the LEED certification.
Base prerequisites for LEED for Cities include people’s access to water, power and the overall socio-economic conditions of a community. According to the USGBC’s website, further evaluations also measure the intersection of eco-friendly initiatives with standards of living to determine candidacy.
Pinellas County had most of the requirements already in place from the STAR system, but needed an updated greenhouse gas emissions inventory, which the sustainability department is finishing now.
The larger advantage behind LEED for Cities and Communities is to support collaboration between global regions and to fulfill goals in the Paris Climate Agreement, said Alex Liftman, global environmental executive at Bank of America, in the USGBC press release.
“Cities are at the forefront of climate change, so building LEED-certified cities can accelerate the transition to more low-carbon communities and helps to ensure the wellbeing of the citizens that live and work there,” he said.
“It’s an opportunity to make sure we’re thinking about the right things,” Hodde concluded.
Hillsborough County also achieved LEED certification last year after applying with a portfolio of achievements, like land preservation and green energy programs.
Here are the 14 other cities/regions the USGBC selected for the program this year:
- Atlantic Beach, Fla.
- Billings, Mont.
- Claremont, Calif.
- Coral Gables, Fla.
- Durango, Colo.
- Hattiesburg, Miss.
- Houston, Texas
- Jupiter Inlet Colony, Fla.
- Kansas City, Mo.
- Long Beach, Cali.
- Racine, Wisc.
- Tempe, Ariz.
- West Palm Beach, Fla.
- Wilmington, N.C.
Note: The title for this story has been updated from Pinellas County receives LEED environmental certification