Improving the quality of our built environment is an increasingly appealing factor in new development. In fact, in the U.S., as many as half of the top office projects due for completion in 2022 reflect interest in sustainability oriented building practices. Such practices are guided by a wide array of certification standards and rating systems that aim to ensure that our buildings observe essential considerations, such as: human health, responsible energy consumption and any effects on our natural environment.

Therefore, in order to gauge the “state of green” across office space in the U.S., we focused on one of the world’s most widely used green building rating systems — the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). To that end, we analyzed CommercialEdge research data on LEED-proposed and LEED-certified office construction in cities that are home to both major and emerging office markets. Specifically, our analysis delved into the details of LEED office construction in the U.S. between 2010 and 2020 to identify the greenest cities in the country in terms of office space, as well as a breakdown of local sustainable building practices by LEED certification level in each of the 93 cities we surveyed.

Key Takeaways

See the methodology section for details on data presented throughout this article.

Top 20 US Cities by Share of LEED Office Space

At the close of 2020, there was 1.1 billion square feet of both proposed and certified LEED office space across the cities in our analysis. In particular, roughly 80% of that total — about 926 million square feet of green office space — was concentrated in the top 20 cities in our ranking.

Ranked by the percentage of local LEED office space at the close of 2020, this select group features major cities — such as New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago — but also includes smaller locations, like Plano, Texas, as well as Irvine, Calif.

Washington, DC; San Francisco; Chicago Top List of US Cities for Green Office Space

The three cities at the top of the chart follow each other very closely, as green office space accounts for around 63% of office square footage in each.

At the end of 2020, just under 64% of Washington, D.C. office space was green — the highest percentage among the U.S. cities we analyzed — which ranked the national capital as the greenest city in the country. Between 2010 and 2020, D.C. added the third-largest volume of green office square footage of the cities we analyzed: Developers here delivered 13.6 million square feet of new proposed and certified LEED inventory. This brought the local total to nearly 81 million square feet of green office space by the end of 2020 — up from 68 million square feet in 2010, which accounted for roughly 60% of the city at the time.

Meanwhile, office space in San Francisco was 63.63% green at the close of the decade, which placed the city second behind Washington, D.C. Here, the city added nearly 7 million square feet of new space across 22 LEED-certified and LEED-proposed buildings since 2010. While this expansion increased green office totals from 56.8 million square feet in 2010 to 63.8 million square feet in 2020, the share of green office space in San Francisco remained at roughly 63% throughout the decade.

Likewise, green construction accounted for 63.26% of Chicago office space in 2020, ranking the city third on this index. Since 2010, developers here completed 13.4 million square feet of new office space across 31 LEED-certified and -proposed buildings. For instance, in 2020, the city had a total of nearly 111 million square feet of green office space — up from 97.5 million in 2010, which represented 62% of inventory at the time.

Located at 444 West Lake St., River Point is the largest LEED Platinum-certified office building in Chicago. Designed by Pickard Chilton and completed in 2017 by Hines, the property incorporates 1.1 million square feet across 52 floors.

Boston ranked fourth, with green developments accounting for 58.85% of office space in Boston in 2020. Here, the city added 6.5 million square feet of new LEED-compliant inventory during the 2010s, rounding out to a total of 44.2 million square feet across 114 proposed and certified office buildings.

In fifth place was Seattle, where green office assets amounted to nearly 39 million square feet and accounted for 49.88% of total office space here in 2020. The number of LEED-compliant buildings also went up from 96 in 2010 to 137 in 2020, adding 10.3 million square feet of new green Seattle office space in the process.

Denver office space was 47.06% green at the close of 2020, which placed it sixth among the country’s greenest cities, according to this metric. The Mile High City was home to roughly 29 million square feet of LEED-compliant space in office buildings sized at least 25,000 square feet, following an expansion of 5.1 million square feet during the preceding decade. Compared to 2010 (when office space in Denver was 45% LEED-proposed and -certified), the city recorded a two-percentage-point increase by the end of the decade.

The high-rise towering above the corner of 16th and Chestnut is the largest green office building completed in Denver between 2010 and 2020. Built by Hines in 2018, 16 Chestnut incorporates 440,000 square feet of LEED Platinum LoDo office space and, according to project designer Gensler, is one of only three core and shell buildings in Denver to achieve this certification.

Although among the smaller cities in terms of total office inventory, Oakland, Calif., ranked seventh in the country for percentage of green office space. Specifically, office space in Oakland was 44.6% green at the close of 2020, which represented roughly 8.2 million square feet across 34 buildings. Similar to Denver, this followed a two-percentage-point increase from 2010, when 6.9 million square feet of Oakland office space was green (42% of local office inventory at the time).

In eighth place was Los Angeles, where 39.87% of office space was green in 2020. Following a decade of development in which the city added 4.6 million square feet of LEED-oriented inventory, green office space in Los Angeles amounted to nearly 45.6 million square feet across 120 buildings.

At 39.3% green office space, Houston came in ninth. Between 2010 and 2020, developers added 18.7 million square feet of green office space in Houston — the second-largest 10-year green office construction total among the cities we surveyed. This expansion brought local LEED-proposed and -certified office space to 85 million square feet.

Located in Houston’s central business district, 609 Main at Texas was completed in 2017. Incorporating more than 1 million square feet, the 48-story, Platinum-certified tower was the largest local green office development of the decade. Of the five largest green office buildings completed in Houston between 2010 and 2020, four achieved LEED Platinum certification.

New York City rounded out the top 10 with a 38.45% share of green office space. This was certainly no small feat, considering that the city is home to the largest office market in the country. And, although there’s still a lot of existing office space to turn around, the city has taken great strides in steering local building practices toward more sustainable ways.

Specifically, between 2010 and 2020, developers delivered 25.7 million square feet of green New York City office space, which represented the largest such expansion among the cities we analyzed. In 2010, the local total was roughly 182 million square feet and accounted for about 37% of office space in the city. Then, by the close of 2020, green office space in New York City amounted to nearly 207 million square feet and made up more than 38% of its overall inventory.

Nearly Two-Thirds of LEED Office Stock in 2020 Aimed for the Gold

Notably, most of the existing green office space at the close of 2020 was proposed or certified LEED Gold. More precisely, the Gold tier amounted to roughly 684 million square feet and made up 60% of the 1.1 billion square feet of green office space across the cities we tracked for this report. Meanwhile, roughly 233 million square feet was proposed or certified LEED Silver, which accounted for 20% of green office space. Finally, Platinum office space came in third, accounting for roughly 12% of green office space in 2020, which represented just under 140 million square feet at the time.

Granted, as sustainability- and health-oriented building concepts increasingly become the desirable norm, the allocation of these tiers could very well change by 2030. Below, we look at construction data for each certification level between 2010 and 2020, with a focus on how much office space was added per city in each category: Platinum, Gold and Silver.

Houston & Plano, Texas, Make Splash in LEED Platinum Office Construction

Houston added nearly 5 million square feet of LEED Platinum office space — the largest such inventory expansion among the cities we analyzed. To the west, San Francisco was a close second, with construction activity here yielding 4.5 million square feet of new Platinum office space from 2010 to 2020.

In third place was Washington, D.C., which added roughly 3.5 million square feet of office space that was either proposed or certified at the Platinum level. Fourth in this category was Boston, where developers completed 2.6 million square feet of new office space designed for this tier. Chicago came in fifth, following an expansion of 2.5 million square feet in this category.

Next up was a Dallas suburb that has grown into one of the most attractive headquarters destinations in the country: Office space in Plano, Texas, went Platinum with the completion of Toyota’s 2.1-million-square-foot, LEED-certified headquarters campus at Legacy West, which placed the city sixth in this category.

Seattle landed seventh in line, with nearly 1.8 million square feet of Platinum office space added between 2010 and 2020. On the opposite coast, Philadelphia office space leveled up with the addition of 1.6 million square feet of Platinum-certified inventory. This total ranked the city eighth and was almost entirely represented by the state-of-the-art Comcast Technology Center.

Atlanta came in ninth for most Platinum office space added. Developers here delivered nearly 1.5 million square feet of new space in this category between 2010 and 2020. And, last but not least, New York City ranked 10th on our list, with only 1.4 million square feet of new Platinum office space delivered during that same timeframe.

NYC Added 18MSF of LEED Gold Office Space, Nearly on Par with Next 2 Cities Combined

Not to be outdone, New York City added 18 million square feet of LEED Gold office space between 2010 and 2020 — the largest inventory expansion in this certification tier among the cities we analyzed. Next in line was Houston, with 9.3 million square feet of office space completed between 2010 and 2020.

Washington, D.C. ranked third for Gold, with developers here delivering nearly 9.2 million square feet of LEED Gold office space last decade. Chicago followed in fourth, adding roughly 8.5 million square feet in new Gold-tier assets. Not far behind, Seattle welcomed 7 million square feet of new office space in this category and placed fifth.

At the close of 2020, office space in Charlotte, N.C., was nearly 37% green, which ranked the city 12th among the greenest in the country. Queen City added 6 million square feet of new green office space during the previous 10 years, 4.3 million of which was proposed or certified LEED Gold. As such, Charlotte ranked sixth for most Gold office space added.

During the same timeframe, Los Angeles stock increased by 4 million square feet of Gold office space — the seventh-largest expansion in this category. Boston ranked eighth, with nearly 3 million square feet of new office space added in this tier, followed closely by Denver’s 2.8 million square feet of new LEED Gold office space (ranked ninth).

Rounding out the top 10 was California’s southern-most city: Developers delivered nearly 2.5 million square feet of LEED Gold San Diego office space between 2010 and 2020, which accounted for 64% of green office space built here during last decade.

NYC Leads Silver Tier, 4 Texas Cities Rank in Silver Top 10

New York City’s sustainable building turnaround efforts also ranked the Big Apple first for most LEED Silver office space added between 2010 and 2020. Notably, developers here delivered 4.8 million square feet of new office space in this category, which accounted for nearly 19% of local green office space added during that decade. Houston came in second, with a Silver-tier office space yield of just under 3.7 million square feet. Meanwhile, Chicago added 2.3 million square feet, placing third.

At the end of 2020, office space in Atlanta was nearly 38% green, which ranked the city 11th among the greenest in the U.S. The city added nearly 5.4 million square feet of new green office space during the preceding 10 years, 2.2 million of which was proposed or certified LEED Silver — the fourth-largest expansion of the decade in this category.

Similarly, the 2.1 million square feet of new LEED Silver Austin office space delivered between 2010 and 2020 ranked the Texas city fifth, just ahead of Plano, Texas, which landed in sixth place. Nashville, Tenn., followed close behind in seventh place after adding just more than 1.6 million square feet of office space built to LEED Silver standards.

Additionally, nearly 1.1 million square feet of LEED Silver-tier Columbus office space was added between 2010 and 2020, ranking the city eighth in this category.

And, green office space in Irvine, Calif., totaled 15 million square feet and accounted for nearly 35% of total local inventory in 2020, which ranked the city 15th among the greenest in the U.S. Of the 1.7 million square feet of LEED office space completed here during the last decade, 1 million was built to LEED Silver specifications — the ninth-largest expansion in this category.

Finally, San Antonio was the fourth Texas city to make the cut in this ranking and wrapped up the Silver-tier top 10. Of the 2.3 million square feet of green San Antonio office space delivered between 2010 and 2020, nearly 1 million square feet represented stock built to achieve LEED Silver certification.

Methodology

Beginning with a list of the 100 U.S. cities that had the largest population counts in the 2020 census, we then excluded those where the completed local office inventory incorporated less than 1 million square feet of office space at the close of 2020. Next, we used detailed CommercialEdge data to analyze all green office projects — developments for which the primary use type was office — that were equal to or in excess of 25,000 square feet each and were completed between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2020.

For the purposes of this article, we considered both granted and proposed LEED certification. Detailed certification-level data included properties for which this detail was available for 2020 local office stock. Certification levels are determined through a verification and review process by GBCI, whereby projects are awarded points depending on their adherence to prerequisites and credits that address carbon, energy, water, waste, transportation, materials, health and indoor environmental quality. LEED Silver certification indicates that the project was awarded between 50 and 59 points; LEED Gold means it earned between 60 and 79 points; and LEED Platinum projects achieved 80 points or more. Visit USGBC to learn more on the LEED rating system.

Property images included in the article are courtesy of CommercialEdge.

LEED Office Construction in the U.S. (2010 - 2020)

The cities in the table below are presented in decreasing order of LEED office space percentage in the market in 2020. Use the horizontal scroll feature to view data in all columns. See the article methodology for further details. Data Source: CommercialEdge.
RankCity2020 LEED %2020 LEED Office Space Sqft2010 LEED %2010 LEED Office Space SqftLEED Office % DifferenceLEED Office SqFt Difference2020 LEED Buildings %2020 Office Buildings2010 LEED Buildings %2010 Office BuildingsLEED Buildings % DifferenceLEED Buildings Difference
1Washington, D.C.63.44%80,710,85359.76%67,094,41520%13,616,43844.20%30640.00%25122%55
2San Francisco, CA63.31%63,448,08163.46%56,489,39512%6,958,68629.30%20128.30%17912%22
3Chicago, IL63.25%110,952,62361.64%97,506,84614%13,445,77722.90%16520.80%13423%31
4Boston, MA58.85%44,253,45256.75%37,725,92717%6,527,52527.20%11423.50%9027%24
5Seattle, WA48.25%37,867,03946.06%27,581,45737%10,285,58223.60%13919.50%9842%41
6Denver, CO47.06%29,086,59444.54%23,943,11421%5,143,48018.90%10915.10%7643%33
7Oakland, CA44.60%8,239,63241.74%6,952,57319%1,287,05920.10%3419.10%3110%3
8Los Angeles, CA39.87%45,568,29139.02%40,954,57911%4,613,71214.90%12013.20%9428%26
9Houston, TX39.21%84,829,42534.60%66,317,35028%18,512,07511.70%2039.20%14540%58
10New York City, NY38.28%206,708,41236.96%180,980,67414%25,727,73812.60%30311.50%25021%53
11Atlanta, GA37.76%46,435,44036.19%41,048,24613%5,387,19413.40%13511.70%11023%25
12Charlotte, NC36.66%24,373,25831.67%18,378,42833%5,994,8309.10%756.30%4856%27
13Sacramento, CA36.33%16,883,08836.67%16,642,4351%240,65313.90%9813.80%962%2
14Minneapolis, MN35.52%16,619,08835.29%14,513,92215%2,105,16612.50%3811.60%3123%7
15Irvine, CA34.73%15,154,29534.21%13,483,54412%1,670,75111.40%849.90%7020%14
16Plano, TX32.52%12,285,91923.32%6,365,71093%5,920,20910.80%487.70%2966%19
17Portland, OR31.36%13,481,00727.56%10,370,47530%3,110,53215.10%8412.30%6138%23
18Philadelphia, PA29.80%20,231,86025.87%15,795,17328%4,436,68711.70%438.20%2759%16
19Dallas, TX27.38%33,495,56426.25%30,362,47510%3,133,0898.80%788.10%6815%10
20Miami, FL26.91%11,164,80025.90%9,658,18016%1,506,6208.00%416.40%3037%11
21Jersey City, NJ25.21%4,147,80125.38%4,147,8010%011.10%511.90%50%0
22San Diego, CA22.85%19,220,04719.54%15,175,99527%4,044,0529.90%1308.30%10524%25
23Pittsburgh, PA22.36%12,248,35420.57%10,394,02618%1,854,3287.40%395.80%2839%11
24Long Beach, CA21.76%2,432,02017.87%1,819,04034%612,9809.30%126.10%771%5
25Austin, TX20.55%15,733,18515.65%9,339,26068%6,393,9257.20%904.80%5176%39
26Chandler, AZ19.53%1,977,16617.08%1,199,67665%777,4904.50%133.50%944%4
27Milwaukee, WI19.31%5,391,58114.48%3,584,56450%1,807,0178.20%237.00%1828%5
28Durham, NC19.16%3,847,54513.59%2,312,16466%1,535,38110.70%378.20%2642%11
29Irving, TX18.95%7,193,60216.00%5,230,82938%1,962,7739.00%306.60%2050%10
30Columbus, OH18.49%9,520,64717.55%8,062,68018%1,457,9674.10%242.80%1560%9
31San Jose, CA18.34%10,725,42715.34%8,222,13730%2,503,2908.40%657.10%5323%12
32Baltimore, MD18.08%6,059,33415.77%4,910,75923%1,148,5759.60%308.50%2520%5
33New Orleans, LA18.00%2,839,25117.72%2,749,7963%89,4554.70%53.00%367%2
34San Antonio, TX17.94%10,358,11415.92%8,051,98929%2,306,1255.20%484.30%3633%12
35Fort Worth, TX16.78%5,342,8359.46%2,537,265111%2,805,5706.10%192.20%6217%13
36Tampa, FL16.61%7,068,83015.39%6,105,58816%963,2423.90%313.20%2524%6
37Nashville, TN15.82%5,717,0339.74%2,959,29593%2,757,7387.00%323.60%14129%18
38Raleigh, NC15.63%4,432,5576.08%1,460,518203%2,972,0396.30%323.00%14129%18
39Orlando, FL15.50%5,214,59413.55%4,244,41723%970,1774.40%263.60%2030%6
40Jacksonville, FL14.57%5,549,13313.73%4,988,87211%560,2615.00%354.50%3017%5
41Phoenix, AZ14.28%9,415,06914.11%8,749,8658%665,2043.90%403.70%3611%4
42Buffalo, NY14.19%2,631,75712.05%1,883,06540%748,6925.50%124.00%850%4
43Cleveland, OH14.08%4,573,03113.19%4,009,80914%563,2224.80%143.60%1040%4
44Winston-Salem, NC13.08%1,599,4058.85%984,60562%614,8005.50%102.40%4150%6
45Cincinnati, OH12.73%5,037,3359.36%3,344,26551%1,693,0705.90%292.90%13123%16
46St. Louis, MO12.12%5,969,93512.24%5,772,4353%197,5005.30%275.40%264%1
47Scottsdale, AZ11.72%2,920,25110.11%2,354,05424%566,1973.90%263.50%2218%4
48Kansas City, MO11.31%3,819,24910.26%3,037,24926%782,0006.80%205.90%1625%4
49Madison, WI11.28%2,311,8768.16%1,514,62353%797,2536.60%214.10%1275%9
50Santa Ana, CA10.44%1,225,38910.47%1,225,3890%03.30%63.30%60%0
51Las Vegas, NV10.39%3,521,6309.89%3,157,77812%363,8522.60%292.40%2612%3
52Colorado Springs, CO10.07%1,658,2169.79%1,587,2164%71,0004.30%104.00%911%1
53Aurora, CO9.90%946,9259.12%834,92513%112,0005.70%95.20%813%1
54St. Paul, MN9.75%2,197,13810.12%2,155,1382%42,0005.10%114.90%1010%1
55Anaheim, CA9.64%744,94510.09%744,9450%02.90%52.90%50%0
56Memphis, TN9.54%2,671,9206.71%1,753,33752%918,5833.80%153.30%1315%2
57Honolulu, HI9.49%1,374,1528.44%1,208,15214%166,0004.70%74.10%617%1
58Louisville, KY9.37%2,510,2666.88%1,682,94049%827,3263.30%111.70%5120%6
59Detroit, MI9.33%2,847,7648.46%2,483,76415%364,0004.60%83.20%560%3
60Anchorage, AK9.13%1,034,9098.80%925,28412%109,6253.40%73.10%617%1
61Omaha, NE8.95%2,547,3806.64%1,673,68352%873,6972.40%91.50%580%4
62Oklahoma City, OK8.08%2,445,8370.59%145,6351579%2,300,2020.90%40.20%1300%3
63Spokane, WA7.20%738,8376.99%669,09210%69,7454.80%94.50%813%1
64Newark, NJ7.13%1,119,1705.51%781,62743%337,5433.30%21.80%1100%1
65Lincoln, NE7.03%633,4196.12%478,54332%154,8763.40%63.20%520%1
66Birmingham, AL6.56%1,624,1936.41%1,517,5057%106,6882.70%72.00%540%2
67Riverside, CA6.27%379,3496.51%379,3490%02.10%42.20%40%0
68Toledo, OH6.17%544,7596.42%544,7590%02.60%42.70%40%0
69Mesa, AZ5.73%396,7965.53%354,28812%42,5081.40%51.20%425%1
70Indianapolis, IN4.70%2,040,0973.86%1,583,22629%456,8712.30%151.80%1136%4
71Virginia Beach, VA4.59%420,2151.91%161,315160%258,9001.80%40.90%2100%2
72St. Petersburg, FL4.34%447,5880.00%00%447,5882.20%30.00%0NA3
73Fresno, CA4.13%491,3063.98%448,51810%42,7881.00%50.80%425%1
74Glendale, AZ3.58%122,2933.29%106,41815%15,8751.30%20.70%1100%1
75Fremont, CA3.52%341,7233.69%341,7230%01.40%31.50%30%0
76Albuquerque, NM2.85%484,4801.90%310,76056%173,7202.20%71.30%475%3
77Tucson, AZ2.85%455,2630.97%140,371224%314,8920.80%50.30%2150%3
78Norfolk, VA2.80%235,8831.72%138,14771%97,7361.80%20.90%1100%1
79El Paso, TX2.69%210,0000.00%00%210,0001.20%20.00%0NA2
80Gilbert, AZ2.61%125,0000.00%00%125,0000.30%10.00%0NA1
81Henderson, NV2.49%134,0002.70%134,0000%00.60%10.60%10%0
82San Bernardino, CA2.35%110,1572.46%110,1570%02.00%22.10%20%0
83Fort Wayne, IN2.17%195,2101.30%110,52877%84,6821.40%41.10%333%1
84Lexington, KY2.14%279,4570.88%106,881161%172,5761.80%40.90%2100%2
85Lubbock, TX2.12%75,1312.29%75,1310%01.40%11.50%10%0
86Bakersfield, CA1.65%118,9340.00%00%118,9341.00%20.00%       -  NA2
87Wichita, KS1.32%152,9831.46%152,9830%01.90%42.00%40%0
88Rochester, NY1.28%278,0000.84%174,00060%104,0000.90%30.60%250%1
89Chesapeake, VA1.06%49,7201.18%49,7200%01.00%11.10%10%0
90Reno, NV0.99%76,1841.01%76,1840%00.40%10.40%10%0
91Greensboro, NC0.39%53,9750.41%53,9750%00.40%10.40%10%0
92Baton Rouge, LA0.32%38,7000.00%00%38,7000.50%10.00%0NA1
93Tulsa, OK0.27%79,1300.28%79,1300%00.30%10.30%10%0