Just prior to the annual Greenbuild conference in Chicago last week, the U.S. Green Building Council reports that this month the total footprint of commercial projects certified via the LEED green building rating system surpassed 1 billion sq ft.

The USGBC says another 6 billion sq ft of projects are registered and currently working toward LEED certification around the world.

�This traction demonstrates the transformation of the way we design, build and operate buildings,� says Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, USGBC. �Not only does green building contribute to saving energy, water and money, it also creates green jobs that will grow and energize our economy.�

�The impact of these 1 billion sq ft can be seen in communities around the world,� says Peter Templeton, president of the Green Building Certification Institute, the certifying body for LEED projects. �The use of LEED represents a growing global commitment to improving our built environment for future generations.�

Since it was first introduced to the marketplace in 2000, more than 36,000 commercial projects and 38,000 single-family homes have participated in LEED.

In other green building news, McGraw-Hill Construction has released two new reports, �Green Outlook 2011: Green Trends Driving Growth� and �Business Benefits of Green Buildings SmartMarket Report.�

According to �Green Outlook 2011,� the value of green building construction starts was up 50% from 2008 to 2010 -- from $42 billion to $55 billion-$71 billion -- and represents 25% of all new construction activity in 2010. According to projections, the green building market size is expected to reach $135 billion by 2015.

Green building is the bright spot in an otherwise tough economy, says the report, and in some sectors, that rate of growth has been remarkable. In nonresidential building, for example, the green building market share is even higher than the overall market. Today, a third of all new nonresidential construction is green -- a $54 billion market opportunity. In five years, nonresidential green building activity is expected to triple, representing $120 billion to $145 billion in new construction (40%-48% of the nonresidential market) and $14 billion to $18 billion in major retrofit and renovation projects.

�It�s an amazing area of opportunity at time when the construction market is extremely challenged,� says Harvey M. Bernstein, vice president, Global Thought Leadership and Business Development, McGraw-Hill Construction. �In today�s economy, firms that specialize in green or serve this market are seeing a tremendous advantage -- and they�re doing good at the same time. Green building leads to healthier places for us to live and work in, lower energy and water use, and better profitability.�

Aside from market size estimates, the 32-page �Green Outlook 2011� report provides insights into key trends, perceptions and motivators in the green building space. For example, building owners cited three business benefits as the main drivers for building green:

    � Reduction in operating costs of 13.6% on average for new buildings and 8.5% for retrofits;
    � Increase in building values of 10.9% for new buildings and 6.8% for retrofits; and
    � Increase in return on investment (ROI) of 9.9% for new buildings and 19.2% for retrofits.

Teaming up with CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) and the University of San Diego�s Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate, the SmartMarket report offers a comprehensive look at how commercial building owners, managers, tenant firms and occupants perceive the benefits of green buildings and reveals bottom-line and human factor (health and well-being) benefits that are driving green building growth in the U.S. The findings show that sustainable buildings generate stronger investment fundamentals than their traditionally managed competitors.

From a financial perspective, owners of sustainably managed buildings anticipate a 4% higher return on investment; 5% increases in building value and occupancy; 8% drops in operating costs; and 1% rise in rental income, according to the report. Roughly 79% of owners surveyed believe that green helps them attract and retain tenants, a distinct competitive advantage in a difficult economy.

Furthermore, over 70% of surveyed office building owners are already engaged in greening a significant percentage of their portfolio.

�This study underscores the viability of sustainable buildings as smart investments,� says Dave Pogue, national director of Sustainability, Institutional and Corporate Services, CBRE. �In addition to the higher occupancy and rental rates we�ve seen throughout the study�s two-year history, the study demonstrates that sustainable practices yield measurably better investment fundamentals. CBRE is proud to work with McGraw-Hill Construction and USD to support greater change within the industry and promote the positive future green building provides.�

To order copies of the reports, go to http://construction.com/market_research.