Understanding the LEED Certification Basics


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LEED certification is a certification process aimed at rewarding sustainable and environmentally friendly decisions that are part of your construction process. It is a way to demonstrate to you and your customers, that certain environmental goals have been achieved during the design and construction of the structure or facility that is being certified. To be certified, the building project needs to obtain certain points and meet green building standards that will, later on, be validated during the certification process. A LEED certified building can qualify to obtain specific state and local government incentives and can help boost press interest in your project. On November 2015, the latest certification process was based on LEED v4 system that is actualized from time to time, but be sure to verify with the USGBC the latest revision of the system before starting the certification process.

How Many LEED Rating Systems Are Available

The latest LEED rating system consists of 5 different areas addressing multiple projects:

  • Building Design and Construction
  • Interior Design and Construction
  • Building Operations and Maintenance
  • Neighborhood Development
  • Homes

These 5 areas are then broken into smaller components where points are given and depending on a number of points received they can obtain one of the following categories:

  • CERTIFIED 40-49 Points
  • SILVER 50-59 Points
  • GOLD 60-79 Points
  • PLATINUM 80+ Points

It is very important to highlight that the rating system can be implemented in both, new construction and existing buildings. 

LEED Certification Minimum Requirements

The LEED certification process needs to meet at a minimum these requirements:

  • Be in compliance with environmental regulations and standards
  • Must meet the threshold of floor area requirements
  • Meet a minimum of building occupancy in terms of number of users
  • Maintain a reasonable site boundary
  • Be a permanent building 
  • Share energy and water usage data
  • Must have a minimum building to site area ratio

LEED Certification Credit Categories

In order to earn credits to achieve one of the above categories, the project must meet certain criteria and goals within the following categories:

  • Location and transportation - You should take into consideration the location of your project and how it can be combined with the transportation option within the area, in other words how the users of the facility can get in and out of the facility.
  • Materials and Resources- Earn credits by using sustainable and earth-friendly products, while reducing waste promoting better indoor air quality.
  • Water efficiency - The building must be designed in such a way that potable water usage is reduced or resources can be reused, minimizing the needs of water inside the building.
  • Energy and atmosphere - The building must enhance energy performance and promote great indoor air and environmental quality.
  • Sustainable sites - Design the project in such a way that the natural resources and ecosystems nearby can naturally take part of the design minimizing environmental pollution.
  • Indoor environmental quality - Increase daylight usage and promote natural ventilation.
  • Innovation - Any idea that is not covered under the five LEED main areas.
  • Regional priority credits - Addressing any particular concern based on the regional or geographical location.

LEED for Neighborhood Development provides for a couple of additional credit categories such as smart location & linkage, neighborhood pattern & design and green infrastructure & buildings

What Benefits Can You Obtain Through a LEED Certification?

Getting certified or having your building certified under LEED will reduce your building operation and maintenance costs while promoting a great working and indoor environment for all building users. Not to mention, that it will create a healthier and more productive workplace and it can also be an excellent selling point for your project. Additional benefits of being LEED certified is that it will:

  • Increased Building Valuation
  • Reduces liability
  • Promote better employee relationships
  • Reduce energy and water usage
  • Promote better indoor air quality
  • Reduce maintenance and operation costs
  • Triggers innovation and processes to optimize building performance
  • Reduce construction waste during the process
  • Promote and attracts companies with sustainable goals
  • Reduce 'sick building' syndrome in the employees
  • Increase employee performance
  • Promote the usage of recycled material.