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Everything You Need to Know About LEED

USGBC and GBCI Administer LEED


LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and is a voluntary, consensus based rating system for evaluating the environmental performance of building and community design, construction, operations and maintenance.

LEED is a Voluntary Rating System

Created by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) in 1999, LEED has quickly grown to become the national standard for green building performance in both the United States, Canada (Canada Green Building Council) and multiple other countries around the world (World Green Building Council).

LEED provides a menu of options for project teams to select that meet the specific project site, project goals, project scope and project budget. Minimum program requirements and prerequisites must be demonstrated prior to achievement of a LEED rating at any level.

LEED Categories

Credits within LEED categories are selected by the team in areas of:

  • Sites
  • Location and Linkages
  • Water
  • Energy
  • Materials
  • Indoor Environmental Quality
  • Innovation

Credit and Prerequisite Structure

Each LEED credit and prerequisite outlines the following items to meet each credit:

  • Intent
  • Requirements
  • Submittals
  • Technologies & Strategies

Reference Standards

LEED uses industry wide best management practices and standards as the requirements to prerequisite and credit achievement. Therefore, a number of references are made to other industry group publications such as The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA), US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and others are utilized throughout the rating system.

LEED Points

Each LEED credit is assigned a number of points out of a 100 point scale. The weightings of the points for each of the credits is based on environmental and regional priority depending on their ability to impact different environmental and human health concerns in 13 different categories.

Certification Levels

LEED ratings are achieved at four different levels - Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. These ratings are awarded by the Green Building Certification Institute LEED Online. This is a one stop shop project management tool for team to share data to be reviewed by the GBCI for certification.

Bonus Points

Above and beyond the 100 points, teams may pursue credits in the Innovation in Design section. This section allows project teams to achieve points for:

  • exemplary performance in existing LEED categories
  • achieving credits that are regionally appropriate and
  • for creating new and innovative measurable and quantifiable benefits.

Last but not least, credit is also awarded to LEED Accredited Professionals (LEED APs) - professionals whom have:

  • studied for and passed the LEED AP examination
  • participated in the project from the beginning and
  • have maintained their continuing education hours to stay in status.

LEED Plaque

Therefore, in total, there are 110 points available to project teams. Teams are awarded a plaque upon certification to act as a 'seal of approval' demonstrating that their building was designed to operate following LEED standards.

LEED is Customized to Building Types

There are almost as many LEED rating systems as there are types of buildings, so the first step is to match the building type with the appropriate rating system.  LEED rating systems include:

  • LEED for New Construction & Major Renovations (NC)
  • LEED for Schools New Construction & Major Renovations
  • LEED for Core & Shell (CS) 
  • LEED for Commercial Interiors (CI)
  • LEED for Healthcare (HC)
  • LEED for Retail: New Construction (Retail-NC) or Commercial Interiors (Retail-CI)
  • LEED for Neighborhood Development 
  • LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance 
  • LEED for Homes

LEED AP is a Professional Credential

Do you know how to design, build, operate, and maintain green buildings?  Become a LEED Accredited Professional and demonstrate to potential employers and clients that you have knowledge about LEED.

  1. LEED Green Associate: Demonstrates knowledge and skill in practicing green design, construction, and operations. Candidates demonstrate a basic understanding of green building and have worked in a sustainable field or engaged in an education program with green building principles. These candidates generally include students, manufactures, business professionals, facility managers, educators, marketers, etc.
  2. LEED AP: Demonstrates extraordinary knowledge and skill in practicing green design, construction, and operations. This includes specialization in a particular field. Candidates demonstrate advanced understanding of green building and have experience working on LEED projects. These candidates generally include architects, interior designers, engineers, contractors, facility managers, planners, developers, etc.
  3. LEED Fellow: An elite group of leading professionals, distinguished by their years of experience and major contributions to the green building field.

LEED is a Process and a Tool

LEED creates a tool around which a multidisciplinary team comes together around an integrative design process. Usually kicked off with an eco-charrette, the hallmark of a LEED process is bringing team members together to make shared decisions, following a project through its life, from early conception, through ongoing operation and assessment.

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