A Step-By-Step Guide to Achieving LEED Certification

Looking to go certified, silver, gold, or platinum? Check out our easy guide!


Looking to go green with your construction projects? LEED certification could be just the thing to help you be environmentally responsible—and prove that you are! LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It comes from the U.S. Green Building Council (USBGC) and uses a point-scoring system for certification of a building or construction to one of four different levels:  

  • Certified (40-49 points)
  • Silver (50-59 points)
  • Gold (60-79 points)
  • Platinum (80+ points.)

Your construction project can gain points according to how well it complies with the requirements of the LEED standard. In particular, evaluation is made in the following five green design categories:

  • Sustainable sites
  • Water efficiency
  • Energy and atmosphere
  • Materials and resources
  • Indoor environmental quality.

Getting Ready for Certification

‘Proper planning prevents poor performance,’ as the saying goes. This is also true of the LEED certification process:

1. Start budgeting for certification. Have your checkbook ready: LEED certification is not free. There is a minimum charge of $2,900 and a sliding scale thereafter. Fees for large projects it can be $1 million or more. There may also be additional project costs in preparation for certification (an extra 2% on average). On the other hand, you may qualify for government incentives, be able to justify a higher price to your customer, and gain some positive PR into the bargain.

2. Identify your target certification level. Because LEED certification is an investment, it’s important to know upfront what you’re aiming for. Your LEED objective is ideally part of your initial design phase and information to enter into construction management software you use. This lets you estimate the amounts of resources required to get the result you want and the return on your investment. It will also help you evaluate choices down the line for the most positive impact on your LEED certification strategy.

3. Seek out LEED-competent people. Planners, architects, and engineers who know about the LEED certification can guide you in your construction decisions. They may also be able to suggest ways of earning extra LEED points at no additional cost to the project.

Registering and Making Your Application

The LEED application, review and certification process is handled online.

4. Register your project at LEED Online. On the LEED Online website, select the rating system applicable to your project. There is a choice of five:

  • Building Design and Construction (BD+C)
  • Interior Design and Construction (ID+C)
  • Building Operations and Maintenance
  • Neighborhood  Development
  • Homes.

The website will also give you access to different resources to help you make your application.

5. Collect and upload information and documents according to specific LEED points or credits that you want to acquire. USGBC recommends that you double-check each credit to make sure your information is entered accurately and consistently. This may be stating the obvious for companies used to rigorously checking their estimates, bids, regulatory compliance, and so on. However, with the time, effort and money involved in LEED certification, a reminder while you prepare your application does no harm.

6. Submit your application. This can be in one step, using a LEED standard review. It can also be in as many as four separate steps if you are applying for a BD+C and ID+C project (see step 4 above). In these cases, the application can be split into a design review and a construction review, each of which can be further split into a preliminary and a final review. So that makes a total of 4 possible review steps—but only for BD+C and ID+C projects.

LEED Certification

The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is the LEED certification itself.

7. Certification done by a LEED accredited third party. According to the points scored for your construction project, you’ll get your certified, silver, gold, or platinum rating.