Earlier today, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced that the 12,000th commercial project has earned LEED certification. Since its launch in 2000, the LEED green building program has transformed our nation's built environments, standing as the most significant and publicly recognized signpost of the green building movement.

On January 1, 2012, any healthcare buildings (defined as such by the Rating System Selection Guidance) that intend to pursue LEED certification must now do so under the new LEED for Healthcare certification, a custom-tailored system meant to apply to healthcare facilities. With healthcare facilities being such unique buildings, the establishment of a new system that takes into account the many differences between, say, a cancer center and an accounting firm, was a godsend, allowing the buildings that arguably should be the very healthiest out there a fair shot at certification.

But as another big round number passes on the standard LEED odometer, I have to wonder about the future of LEED for Healthcare, both in the short term and the long term. Will the long gestation period the program underwent prove to be a boon or a burden? Under the new financial realities of the U.S. healthcare system, will the green and sustainable measures laid out in the LEED for Healthcare guidelines be able to overcome the upfront costs of instituting them? Or will we see facilities building to LEED specifications without actually enrolling in the program for fear of failure and therefore a wasted investment of time and materials?

Just as it took the standard LEED program a decade plus to hit the 12,000 project mark, I imagine we won't know for some time yet how successful LEED for Healthcare ultimately turns out to be, and what schedule its implementation will adhere to. I can only hope that in the meantime, our country’s facility owners don’t forgo going green for the sake of saving green.