The U.S. and China came to a monumental agreement to work together to mitigate catastrophic levels of global warming and Pope Francis issued a historic declaration on our shared moral responsibility to limit Climate Change with his groundbreaking encyclical Laudato Si’.

This year’s Top 10 Countries for LEED also comes at a time when the world is bracing for what many believe will be the most significant climate negotiations to date. In the run-up to the UN COP21 climate negotiations this December each nation has been asked to produce an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), a legally binding statement of intent to limit greenhouse gas emissions. With most of the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters on USGBC’s Top 10 Countries list, this year’s announcement provides us with a unique opportunity to demonstrate how the green building movement can help catalyze the sort of green economic revolution that our broader society and our shared planet so desperately need.

This recurring weekly series will provide an overview of the green building industry within each country that made our list in an effort to showcase how LEED is providing much needed jobs, helping to safeguard human health and reduce our collective environmental impact. Green buildings are stories about what people can do when they come together with a shared purpose and an inspiring mission, and USGBC is delighted to share these stories at a crucial time when the world is looking for good solutions to serious problems. 

Home to nearly 50 million people, the Republic of Korea is a digitally sophisticated, highly industrialized and trendy country sporting cutting-edge technology, internationally famous entertainers and some of the world’s fastest Wi-Fi speeds. The country is now also fifth for LEED-certified and registered projects. With hopes to achieve zero emission buildings in the future, the Republic of Korea is currently targeting city development and urban planning to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 37 percent from business-as-usual by 2030.

At the forefront of their green building movement is NAVER, Korea’s leading online gaming media and search based internet portal. NAVER’s headquarters, the Green Factory, achieved LEED Platinum for Building Operation and Maintenance: Existing Buildings in 2014 in association with the IT Company’s recent commitment to power its data centers entirely off of renewable energy. Located in the city of Seongnam, the Green Factory’s biophillic interior transforms office desks, conference rooms, cafes and libraries into eco-spaces, bringing the outdoors in for NAVER employees.

Interestingly enough, the Green Factory is just as much an embodiment of nature as it is of Korea’s contemporary pop culture (i.e. hallyu). Sprinkled throughout the building are innovative reminders of NAVER’s philosophy mimicking the latest wave of hallyu that has been rippling across the globe. Among the Green Factory’s flashy accessories, computerized walls and trademark stuffed animals are also vegetated bookshelves, turf lawns and faux-wood chairs recycled from the building’s leftover construction materials. Even the exterior of the tower is composed of a high performance façade paired with iconic vertical green louvers that rotate with the sun to capture natural light. By providing spaces evoking the natural world, the Green Factory stimulates creativity among its employees.

With 17.47 million GSM of LEED-certified and registered space, 26 USGBC member organizations, and 860 LEED credentialed professionals; the Republic of Korea’s commitment to green building is strong and growing. Korea is yet another prime example that the LEED is applicable to all cultures and regions. Being flexible, LEED enables architects and designers to incorporate their own country’s cultural preferences and adjust credits based on their region’s specific needs; dimensions of LEED that will be crucial for mobilizing the green building movement as part of the fight to mitigate climate change in the near future.