What Is LEED Certification?

What Is LEED?

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system — more commonly known as LEED — is a globally recognized green building certification program. Created in 1993, LEED was born from the combined efforts of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the United States Green Building Council, or USGBC. The collaboration itself promotes the creation of new and sustainable architectural design guidelines and sustainable building construction and operation.

The LEED rating system has since become a global standard for healthy, green, and sustainable property construction and operation — with the certification itself becoming a symbol for achieving sustainability and prioritizing green initiatives. Since its widespread adoption, LEED certification now exists for the vast majority of both residential and commercial property types.

LEED Goals

The LEED rating system focuses on the need for sustainable architecture. Through the ongoing evolution of the rating system, LEED certifications today identify healthy, efficient, and cost-saving green buildings. According to the USGBC, the ideal LEED-certified building should:

  • Limit contributions to climate change
  • Enhance health and quality of life for a community and individuals
  • Protect or restore water resources
  • Protect or enhance biodiversity
  • Protect and enhance ecosystem services
  • Rely on sustainable and regenerative material cycles

LEED Certification

The LEED certification process involves third-party verification of a project's compliance with LEED standards. The Green Building Certification Institute, or GBCI, awards the final certification. In order to earn a LEED certification, a project should adhere to prerequisites and credits that address points of concern such as carbon, energy, water, waste, transportation, materials, and indoor environmental quality. A project earns points for each area, based on the evaluation.

Based on the amount of points a project accumulates, it falls into a LEED certification tier — though scores lower than 40 points render a project ineligible for certification. The amount of points required for each tier is as follows:

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

Projects Eligible for LEED Certification

Today, nearly any project can qualify for LEED certification. While the primary focus of LEED at inception was to improve how new projects were developed, global adoption of standards all but demanded more nuanced variations of LEED evaluations to include a wider variety of certification types. LEED certification evaluations now exist for:

  • Building Design and Construction (BD+C)
  • Interior Design and Construction (ID+C)
  • Building Operations and Maintenance (O+M)
  • Neighborhood Development (ND)
  • Single Family Homes
  • Cities and Communities

Additionally, LEED Zero evaluation exists for projects that have net zero carbon/resource goals. Recertification is also available for all occupied or in-use projects that have already received certification — regardless of their previous rating.Typically, investors seek recertification as a way of maintaining their green investment after executing renovation or rehabilitation work.