Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, known colloquially as LEED, is a rating system created by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). The system is designed to evaluate the environmental performance of a specific building, and concomitant benefits encourage the market’s transformation into sustainable designs and Green energy production. The system is credit-based, and projects earn points for specific environmentally friendly actions taken during both the construction and the use of a building. LEED Certification Levels, as well as their corresponding points values, follow below.
LEED points are awarded for several categories—Sustainable Sites, which examine site and land use, Energy and Atmosphere, which considers a building’s energy performance, Materials and Resources, which takes into account the amount of sustainable and recycled materials used to create the space, and Innovation and Design Process, which can include features built into the design, such as natural lighting.
According to the USGBC, LEED was launched to develop a “consensus-based, market-driven rating system to accelerate the development and implementation of green building practices.” The program’s fluidity allows builders and designers to meet the requirements to best suit their project; rather than striving toward an ideal, project managers can aim for specific goals and point amounts throughout the process. This flexibility allows the maximum number of buildings possible to meet LEED certification requirements.
So, what does LEED have to do with your Green investment? Cities and states provide tax credits or grants for green buildings, and LEED-certification is an excellent way to ensure your eligibility for certain programs. To that end, LEED certification emboldens designers to build sustainably, which allows them to cut energy-related costs over time. Implementing green building practices can result in energy and cost savings over the life of the structure. In fact, a 2011 study of the U.S. General Services Administration’s LEED-certified buildings found these buildings to have 25% lower energy use compared to the national average. LEED certification does not only allow eligibility for certain programs—it cuts costs without government assistance.