What is LEED? – Introduction

August 21, 2014

This is the first post in a series about the LEED rating system for green buildings.  

LEED certification

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.  It is a green building certification program that requires a third-party to review, judge, and certify a project as meeting certain mandatory requirements and reaching a certain level of “greenness.”

There are several LEED rating systems available for different types of projects.  They include: Building Design & Construction (BD+C), Interior Design & Construction (ID+C), Building Operations & Maintenance (O+M), Neighborhood Development (ND), and Homes.  In addition, several sub-systems are available for specific project types, such as schools, hospitals, and hospitality.

As technology and building practices have evolved and changed, so have the requirements and thresholds necessary for LEED certification.  The requirements are developed through a consensus process by several committees made up of industry experts.  Many versions of the program have been released since the program’s inception in 2000.

LEED Scoring Structure

There are certain measures that must be included in any LEED project.  These are called prerequisites.  If they are not achieved, the project will not be certified.  The rest of the measures are optional, and are called credits.  There are 110-136 credits available, depending on the type of project being certified.  The number of credits earned determines the certification level [Certified (40-49 credits), Silver (50-59 credits), Gold (60-79 credits), Platinum (80+ credits)].

The prerequisites and credits are broken up into eight categories:

  1. Sustainable Sites
  2. Location and Transportation
  3. Water Efficiency
  4. Energy and Atmosphere
  5. Materials and Resources
  6. Indoor Environmental Quality
  7. Innovation
  8. Regional Priority

LEED Certification Process

The certification process begins with a member of the project team registering the project on the GBCI (Green Building Certification Institute) web site called LEED Online.  Projects can be registered at any time, but the earlier the better.  As soon as a project is registered, members of the design and construction team can begin submitting documentation and completing the prerequisites and credits.