What is LEED? – Introduction

LEED certification

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.

There is an option to have the prerequisites and credits reviewed after the design is complete and before construction documentation has begun.  The team submits documentation on all design prerequisites and credits, then they are reviewed by the team of professionals assigned to review that project.  Preliminary approval can be given to prerequisites and credits and more information can be requested by the review team at that time.

Upon completion of construction, the entire project is submitted for review.  This can take place several months to a year after completion.  Approval is given to some of the prerequisites and credits, some may be denied, and more information can be requested by the review team.  The project team then has a chance to put together further documentation to satisfy the requirements of the prerequisites and credits that were attempted.  Denied credits can be appealed at this stage by providing more documentation.

The project then goes in for final review, and the number of achieved credits after this review determines the level of certification of the project.  Any denied prerequisites or credits can be further appealed and more information provided, for a fee.  The project receives a certificate showing the level of certification, and a plaque can be purchased for display.

All LEED certified projects are asked to submit energy and water use information on an ongoing basis to help gather information on the performance of green buildings.

The next post in this series will provide an overview of the prerequisites and credits available under the Sustainable Sites category.

Sources: US Green Building Council

Photo courtesy of Oregon Department of Transportation through a Creative Commons License