News Brief

LEED's Distant Origins

Completed in the spring of 2001, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation headquarters building in downtown Albany recently achieved a LEED™ Silver rating.

Photo courtesy of NYSOGS
Little did we know, when we reported back in September 1992 (

Vol. 1, No. 2) on an obscure ASTM green building subcommittee, that the work of that group would soon become the most significant driving force in the U.S. green building movement. A lot has happened in the ten years since developer David Gottfried founded that subcommittee, E-50.06, under the auspices of Technical Committee E-50 on Environmental Assessment, led by Michael Italiano. “The standard that we were working on in the early days at ASTM was broader than just a rating system,” Gottfried told


“It was more definitional—what is a green building?”

The ASTM subcommittee represented the first integrated effort on green building with representation from different constituents in the building industry. (The other large group active at the time was The American Institute of Architects’ Committee on the Environment.) Gottfried quickly became impatient with the ASTM process, however, and by the end of 1992 he was working towards the creation of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). “The process at ASTM was so slow. It was taking a long time to get the standard together. Out of that frustration, we said, ‘Let’s go with the Council.’”

Founded in April 1993, USGBC soon began working on a green building rating system, which acquired the name Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED™) in 1996 (see


Vol. 9, No. 6 for more on the history and structure of LEED). Its recent exponential growth driven largely by LEED, the Council now has over 1,800 members. There are 23 LEED-certified projects (14 under version 1.0) and 475 projects that have registered for LEED certification, representing over 66 million ft2 (6.1 million m2) of floor space. Other developments with LEED include:

•LEED 2.0 is soon to be appended by a version 2.1 with streamlined documentation (currently available as a public draft).

•LEED for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) is in the midst of a pilot phase.

•LEED for Commercial Interiors (LEED-CI) is just beginning its pilot-phase certifications.

•A residential version of LEED (LEED-R) has been stalled for some time but is expected to begin moving forward again, beginning with an all-day meeting in Washington, D.C. this August (in which

EBN’s Alex Wilson was a participant).

•LEED is being adapted for various building types, such as schools, health-care facilities, and laboratories, and for specific locations, such as Portland, Oregon (see newsbrief on page 6).

But what became of the ASTM subcommittee? In 1994, Dru Meadows (now with theGreenTeam in Tulsa, Oklahoma) took over from Gottfried as chair. Meadows became frustrated, however, with a lack of participation from building industry constituents and withdrew as chair in 1997, effectively dissolving the subcommittee. In 1998 a new subcommittee on sustainability and buildings was conceived, this time under the auspices of Technical Committee E-06 on Performance of Buildings. Meadows was recruited to chair the new subcommittee E-06.71 and was motivated to stay on, given the breadth of participation from a wide range of stakeholder groups.

In 2001 this subcommittee published two standards, one of which fulfills the original goal of helping to define a green building: E2114-01—Standard Terminology for Sustainability Relative to the Performance of Buildings. The second is E2129-01—Standard Practice for Data Collection for Sustainability Assessment of Building Products (see


Vol. 10, No. 11 for further details). Other working groups are developing standards on earthen construction, green roofs, and general principles of sustainable design. Meanwhile, ASTM itself has undergone a name change, from American Society for Testing and Materials to ASTM International.

– NM

For more information:

ASTM International


U.S. Green Building Council


Published September 1, 2002

(2002, September 1). LEED's Distant Origins. Retrieved from

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