Hillsborough County became the first county government in Florida to achieve the Platinum LEED for Cities and Communities certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
The certification recognizes work by the county to safeguard the environment and enhance the quality of life for residents, businesses and visitors.
The Platinum designation is the highest rating that can be obtained in the LEED Cities and Communities program, and Hillsborough is only the third county in the U.S. to reach it.
LEED is the world’s most widely-used green building rating system. The Cities and Communities certification looks at a wide range of areas.
The certification process judges how well applicants integrate sustainability into all aspects of the community, including environmental stewardship, fiscal responsibility and overall community prosperity. The review considered areas such as energy and water conservation, land use, solid waste management, community heritage preservation, cultural and recreational opportunities, social services, partnerships, equitability and innovative projects.
Hillsborough County’s application included five years of data and information provided with the support of county departments and community groups.
The county has worked to implement an array of sustainability initiatives, which helped it achieve this certification. Those include:
— Reducing energy use and costs by operating a chiller plant that makes ice to help cool buildings, adding solar to county facilities and using LED lighting in buildings, parking lots, sports fields and all traffic signals. Neighborhood and corridor street lighting are transitioning to LED.
— The Resource Recovery Facility converts burnable waste into electricity, which generates power for several county facilities and about 35,000 homes. Reclaimed water is also used at the facility, and metals are salvaged.
— Hillsborough County’s wastewater treatment achieves a higher water quality than over 90% of the wastewater plants across the U.S.
— Continued fleet transition to electric and alternative-fuel. Seven electric vehicle charging stations are available to the public at county facilities.
— A county-sponsored Solar Energy Loan Fund, which offers low-cost loan and project assistance to residents for energy efficiency upgrades and other sustainable home improvements. So far, the program has provided $1.6 million in loans.
The LEED certification process was also a catalyst for the county to begin developing a Community Sustainability Action Plan.