Despite ever-increasing energy costs, the United States consumes more energy each year. Setting aside the hard-dollar costs of energy, increased energy usage means more greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming and climate change.

It may surprise people, however, that buildings in the U.S. contribute more carbon dioxide emissions than automobiles.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, residential and commercial buildings in the U.S. account for 36 percent of total energy use, 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, 30 percent of raw materials used, are responsible for 30 percent of waste output and 12 percent of the potable water consumption.

With the world stage more focused on global warming, cutting greenhouse gas emission is fast-becoming a primary target of many governments. In the U.S., construction utilizing green construction techniques has proven an effective way to reduce greenhouse emissions.

The effort is led by the USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards for green construction. The organization has created a Green Building Rating System to help public and private sector to recognize and implement practical green building methods.

As of this writing, the average LEED certified buildings annually save 350 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

The certification program attempts to benchmark the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. The program provides building owners, constructors, and proprietors an insight on developing and operating a green building to have a measureable green impact while saving on energy usage.

Municipalities across the country are adopting LEED for public-funded buildings. Many federal agencies have adopted the program along with 41 countries around the globe.

Locally, one of the new green establishments is the highly touted Toyota of Southern Maryland building on Three Notch Road in California.

According to Peter D’Arista, co-owner of the facility, “Some of the new technology – waste water recycling and light tubes in particular, have worked better than expected.” D’Arista went on to say that the facility is more than 3 times as large as his previous building on Great Mills Road. “Because of the “Green” technology we used, we are probably saving $2000 to $3000 a month in energy costs.”

When the new building was first proposed D’Arista and partner John Peed did not know what to expect. Now that they have been in operation for a few months they expect a fairly quick payback on the initial construction costs. “If the energy costs stay at the current level, we anticipate having the payback take two to three years,” said D’Arista.

All indicators are that building green does pay off. More importantly, the environment receives even more benefit than the financial reward received by builders and owners of green facilities.