At the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Annapolis headquarters, special sensors turn off the lights closest to the natural light but lights remain on in the rest of the building. (Michael S. Williamson/THE WASHINGTON POST)

The District leads the Washington region in “green” buildings, according to an assessment that examines environmentally friendly building practices.

The report, compiled by the group’s planners and presented Wednesday to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, offers the first comprehensive look at how the push to build greener buildings is playing out in communities.

Between 2003 and 2009, the Washington region added about 23 million square feet of LEED-certified green building space through new construction and conversion of existing space. The District led the way, with 72 projects that earned LEED certification, followed by Northern Virginia with 59 projects and Maryland with 40. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification rates buildings based on how well they meet certain green standards for construction and operation.

“We have focused on making the region a national leader in green building,” said Andrea Harrison, chairwoman of the COG board. Several members of the board said they hoped that future reports on green building trends in the region would include recommendations on how to promote projects.

Washington area communities were among the first in the United States to embrace green building principles. Frederick County and Gaithersburg have green building codes on the books, the report says. In 2006, the District passed the Green Building Act, which phased in rules that require buildings to pollute less. That year, Montgomery County officials passed a similar measure requiring certain buildings to include environmentally friendly, energy-saving features such as low-flow toilets.

Although it is a decade old, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Annapolis headquarters still may be the area’s greenest office, using 56 percent less energy than an average office building of its size. (Michael S. Williamson/THE WASHINGTON POST)

The District is also considered a national model for green construction, said Roger Platt, senior vice president for global policy and law at the U.S. Green Building Council, which administers the LEED certification program.

According to a council report released last month, the District ranked first in the country in green buildings per capita, with about 25 square feet of LEED-certified space per person in 2010. Nevada — in part because of the density of so many of its building projects — was second, with 10.92 square feet.

Platt said the District ranks high in part because its leaders have embraced green building and because the city and its developers have benefited from a relatively healthy economy and stable workforce in need of office space. In addition, the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations made commitments to making buildings more environmentally friendly.

“D.C. is a poster child for how, in the last couple of years, high-performance green buildings have continued to be built,” Platt said. It’s “a more sophisticated market, where tenants and investors find [green buildings] appealing.”

Among the notable projects cited in the Green Building Council’s report were two International Monetary Fund buildings in Washington that received Gold certification.

LEED certification is a voluntary system administered by the Green Building Council that rates new and existing buildings based on their effects on the environment. Buildings can earn rankings from Silver to Platinum by incorporating elements such as recycled materials, landscaping that uses water efficiently and transit-friendly amenities.