Oklahoma is greener than it seems.
Owners and developers of big and prominent buildings get attention for seeking or attaining LEED certification — for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design. Green is cool, and LEED, a program of the U.S. Green Building Council, has become the green badge of honor since it debuted in 1998.
A big example is Devon Energy's new 50-story, 1.8-million-square-foot headquarters in downtown Oklahoma City. Devon expects to be able to claim LEED status this fall.
Prominent examples are the Forensic Science Institute at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, which earned its LEED designation two years ago; and Boldt Construction Co.'s Southern Division headquarters at 101 W Hefner Road at Broadway Extension, the first commercial building in Oklahoma City to wear the LEED label, five years ago.
But what about Sanford Children's Clinic in Duncan? The Hitachi computer products plant in Norman? The Bishops Building, medical offices in Tulsa? The Redbud Energy administration building in Luther?
All wear the LEED label. The Redbud building at Luther, in fact, at the power plant owned by Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co., was the first LEED-certified building in the state, in 2003, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.
Greener than ever
More than 200 commercial and government buildings in Oklahoma are seeking, or have attained, some level of LEED certification, the council said.
Some 45 buildings have already earned the right to wear the LEED label. The best-known LEED certification signifies that a building was engineered and constructed — and operates — according to long lists of specifications for building performance aimed at conserving energy and the environment.
A dozen have the basic LEED certification for new construction; 21 have attained Silver certification; and 13 have Gold certification.
“I think people don't realize how green we are. Projects from every corner of Oklahoma are going green. This isn't just an Oklahoma City and Tulsa movement,” said Andrea Palmer, national program coordinator at Oklahoma City's Guaranteed Watt Saver.
Guaranteed Watt Saver, better known as GWS, is one of four third-party “Green Raters” approved by the green council to inspect LEED projects in Oklahoma. With two of the other raters based in Texas and one in Colorado, GWS stays busy.
“Woodward, Miami, Lawton, Enid and McAlester all have more than one LEED project certified or in process,” Palmer said. “It is great to see all different types of buildings in Oklahoma seeking LEED certification. We have everything from libraries, Kum & Go gas stations to single-family homes in the mix.”
Not all building owners want it known that they are seeking LEED certification. Oklahoma has 40 projects with owners requesting anonymity, said Janice Edwards, spokeswoman for the U.S. Green Building Council. She said owners “often update their confidentiality status once certification is complete.”
Palmer said some owners don't want it known that they are seeking LEED certification lest they not make the grade and be seen as failing.
Conspicuously absent from a list of Oklahoma LEED projects provided by the green council is the Devon Energy headquarters. Devon has no chance of failing to attain Gold LEED certification, considering Devon's resources and Executive Chairman Larry Nichols' personal dedication to making the state's tallest skyscraper as green as can be.
The reason for Devon's absence from the LEED list is simple, spokesman Chip Minty said. Devon wanted to talk about its LEED aspirations and progress as it saw fit, but isn't seeking recognition for it otherwise. Devon is going so green, Minty said, “because it was the right thing to do.”