Hey there! Are you interested in making your building more sustainable but not sure where to start? You’re in luck – this article will walk you through everything you need to know about LEED certification, and how your building can earn those coveted green points.
What is LEED Certification?
LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a rating system developed by the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council to evaluate a building’s environmental performance and sustainability.
The LEED rating system aims to push the real estate industry towards more sustainable practices by providing a framework and third-party verification for green buildings.
LEED recognizes best-in-class building strategies across metrics like:
- Energy savings
- Water efficiency
- Reduced carbon emissions
- Waste management
- Indoor environmental quality
- Sustainable materials sourcing
- Access to public transportation
Since LEED was launched in 2000, over 119,000 commercial projects across 177 countries have earned LEED certification. It’s become the most widely used green building rating system in the world!
Why Should You Care About Earning LEED?
So why should you care about making your building LEED-certified? Well, let’s just say green looks good on a property.
Earning LEED certification provides tons of benefits for both property owners and occupants:
- Save money: On average, LEED certified buildings reduce energy use by 25% and water use by 30%. That saves on operating costs in the long run.
- Enhance health: LEED buildings have better ventilation, air quality, and access to daylight. This leads to healthier and happier occupants.
- Increase productivity: Employees working in LEED certified offices have higher productivity levels, engagement, and job satisfaction.
- Gain a competitive edge: LEED certified buildings attract higher quality tenants and fetch increased property values.
- Do good for the planet: Green buildings help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change.
So in short, LEED buildings bring in more green while being greener – win win!
How the LEED Rating System Works
The LEED rating system measures sustainability across several categories, with buildings earning points for achieving specific credits.
The more points your building earns, the higher the level of LEED certification it will achieve:
- Certified: 40-49 points
- Silver: 50-59 points
- Gold: 60-79 points
- Platinum: 80+ points
The whole system is administered by the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), which conducts project reviews and formally awards certification.
Now let’s walk through the step-by-step process your building needs to go through to earn those glorious LEED points and level up its green game!
The Process of Earning LEED Certification
First, you’ll need to register your project on the LEED Online portal and provide details like location, size, and your sustainability goals. This kicks off the certification process.
Next comes the fun part – making your building more sustainable! Your team will need to collect data, run calculations, and prepare documentation that shows you have achieved certain LEED credits.
For example, you’ll submit energy models, water usage reports, construction waste logs, and more. This evidence demonstrates how your project is meeting various green building strategies.
Once your documentation is in order, you can submit your completed LEED application and pay the certification fee on LEED Online.
This is your chance to showcase all your hard work and get those credits recognized!
Your application then goes through a rigorous review by the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI).
There is a preliminary review, and you may need to go through a final review as well if they request revisions or additional information.
It’s the GBCI’s job to verify you have indeed earned all the credits claimed. They take this seriously to uphold LEED’s integrity.
You’re in the home stretch once your review is complete!
You’ll get your final LEED certification report, which will state your rating level – whether your building achieved LEED Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum status.
If you wish, you can also appeal certain credit decisions. But assuming all goes smoothly, it’s time to celebrate your new green building!
How Buildings Earn Points in Key LEED Categories
Now that you know the process, let’s explore the different categories where buildings can earn points towards LEED certification:
Given buildings account for 39% of carbon emissions globally, it’s no surprise that energy performance is a major component of LEED.
Your building can earn points by:
- Optimizing energy performance through energy modeling during design
- Installing efficient HVAC, lighting, and appliances
- Enabling real-time energy monitoring and management
By using responsibly sourced materials, you can reduce your building’s embodied carbon and environmental impact.
Points are awarded for:
- Building products that contain recycled content
- Materials extracted and harvested sustainably
- Local sourcing of materials to reduce transport emissions
Buildings in the US alone account for 15% of water use. So LEED pushes ambitious water conservation strategies.
Score points through steps like:
- Installing low-flow plumbing fixtures
- Employing smart landscaping and irrigation
- Capturing rainwater and graywater onsite for reuse
Construction and demolition debris makes up over 35% of total waste. LEED rewards diverting that waste from landfills.
Earn credits by:
- Implementing construction waste management plans and tracking
- Providing easy access to recycling systems for occupants
- Using reusable systems like composting over disposables
Indoor Environmental Quality
Given we spend 90% of our time indoors, LEED prioritizes occupant health through air quality, lighting and acoustics.
Boost indoor environments through:
- Using low VOC materials that don’t degrade air quality
- Incorporating occupant-controllable lighting and thermal comfort
- Ensuring views and access to nature
So in summary, those are the major areas where buildings can rack up points to climb the LEED certification ladder.
Green buildings play a crucial role in moving the needle on carbon reduction while providing healthier, more comfortable spaces.
A Building Earns A Leed Rating By implementing strategies across energy, water, materials, waste and indoor quality. Through documenting and verifying sustainability measures, projects earn points to achieve LEED certification.
Hopefully you now have a solid understanding of how LEED works and the many benefits it provides. I encourage you to consider pursuing LEED – your building occupants and the planet will thank you!