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LEED Certification: Getting Started

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most prominent green building rating and certification system used throughout the world. LEED can be a very beneficial certification to pursue, however understanding the process of getting certified can be confusing. Whether it be a new building or an existing building, the LEED certification process offers a rating system for all different types of construction. Their rating system is based on 110 available points, or credits, with the basic certification only requiring 40. The various levels are as follows:

  • Certified: 40-49 points
  • Silver: 50-59 points
  • Gold: 60-79 points
  • Platinum: 80+

To get started with LEED, one must select the appropriate rating system and register their project. Pricing is dependent on building size and various other factors which can be found here.

This article is meant to focus on the LEED certification checklist for Building Design and Construction (LEED BD+C). This certification system is used for buildings that are newly constructed or have undergone significant renovation in the past year with “at least 60% of the project’s gross floor area must be complete by the time of certification” which also includes the entire building’s gross floor area. Below is a list of LEED BD+C  buildings eligible for this certification.

Which Rating System Fits My Building?

Criteria for LEED BD+C eligibility includes:

The following building types in the list below are eligible for LEED BD+C certification:

  • New construction and major renovation – Mainly high-rise residential buildings; this does include buildings that are schools, retail, warehouses and distribution centers, hospitality, and healthcare facilities.
  • Schools – K-12 schools as well as academic and non-academic buildings used for higher education
  • Retail – Buildings used for retail, direct consumer service areas and preparation and storage areas
  • Data centers – Buildings designed for computing equipment such as server racks
  • Warehouses and distribution centers – Buildings used to store merchandise, materials, goods, etc.
  • Hospitality – Buildings such as hotels, motels or any service industry business the serves short-term lodging
  • Healthcare – Hospitals operating 24/7

LEED Certification Checklist for BD+C

There are several different areas in which you receive points for your LEED BD+C project. They are as follows:

  • Location and Transportation: 15 points
    • Surrounding Density and Diverse Uses: Conserve land and encourage development in areas with existing infrastructure.
    • Access to Quality Transit: Encourage development in locations that have access to various forms of transportation.
    • High-Priority Site: Encourage development in areas with development constraints (i.e. historic district, brownfield site, infill location).
  • Sustainable Sites: 12 points
    • Protect or Restore Habitat: Preserve 40% of the greenfield area on the site being developed.
    • Rainwater Management: Reduce runoff and improve water quality. Rain gardens, vegetated roofs and permeable pavement are all good strategies.
    • Heat Island Reduction: Minimize heat island effects from new construction. Vegetated roof, undercover parking, solar pv on roof and use of reflective roof coatings such as white paint.
  • Water Efficiency: 12 points
    • Indoor Water Use Reduction: Reduce indoor water consumption. Install low flow faucets, toilets, water efficient washing machines and dishwashers.
    • Outdoor Water Use Reduction: Reduce outdoor water consumption. Reduce irrigation in the surrounding landscape and reduce the project’s water requirements by having water resistant plants and effective irrigation.
    • Water metering: Track water consumption to identify additional opportunities to save water.
  • Energy and Atmosphere: 31 points
    • Optimize Energy Performance: Invest in energy efficient appliances and create an energy performance target.
    • Enhanced Commissioning: Commissioning process must take place on building projects through at least 10 months of occupancy.
    • Renewable Energy Production: Invest in onsite renewables or purchase renewable energy credits to offset annual building greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Materials and Resources: 13 points
    • Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction: Optimize the environmental performance of products and materials. Examples such as historic building reuse, renovation of abandoned buildings or building material reuse all meet the requirements.
    • Environmental Product Declarations: Use products that are critically reviewed and have had a life-cycle assessment.
    • Sourcing of Raw Materials: Use products that are sustainably sourced.
  • Indoor Environmental Quality: 16 points
    • Low emitting materials: Use interior building materials that are low emitting such as low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints, adhesives, sealants, flooring, insulation, etc.
    • Enhanced Indoor Air Quality Strategies: Naturally vented spaces, improved filtration, carbon dioxide monitoring, etc.
    • Daylight: Reduce use of electrical lighting by creating spaces that utilize natural light.
  • Innovation: 6 points
    • LEED Accredited Professional: At least one participant of a project team must be a LEED Accredited Professional.
  • Regional Priority: 4 points
    • Address geographically specific environmental issues. This is dependent on the project’s location.

To receive certification for each area you are pursuing you must upload documentation proving that you are meeting the requirements for each credit being pursued. Once documentation is submitted and the application is complete, the Green Building Certification Inc. (GBCI) will review the certification to ensure that the documentation is correct and that it meets the proper requirements.

To view in more detail, you can download the LEED certification checklist online.

Questions To Ask Yourself

  • How can I benefit from a LEED Certification?
  • What are the costs of LEED Certification and how does this impact my budget?
  • Which rating system fits my building type?
  • Which level of LEED BD+C certification should I pursue (Certified, Silver, Gold, Platinum)? For those just beginning to green their buildings, basic certification may be a good first step that is relatively easy to achieve.
  • Which credits will be easiest for me to attain?
  • Who will serve as the LEED Accredited Professional on my project team?
  • Who is responsible for providing my building documentation and data?

Conclusion

As one can see, the LEED certification process can become a bit confusing when figuring out which certification matches your building type. Understanding the various certifications available as well as how credits are distributed is crucial to achieving LEED certification for your specific building.

While attaining a LEED certification requires careful planning and time, this certification provides many different benefits. Reduced energy use, less construction waste, cost savings, improved air quality, improved image and a positive environmental impact are just some of the many benefits that a LEED certification provides. Not to mention, LEED BD+C is often easier than some of the other rating systems such as LEED O+M (Operations and Maintenance).

Developing a construction or renovation plan with the LEED certification checklist in mind can help you cater your project to meet the requirements of this certification. This will help you save money in the long-term as you will be mindful of siting issues, material use and building location as well as not needing to make as many drastic changes during the construction process.

About The Author

Peter Louthan

GBB Green Ambassador

Peter Louthan is a content writer for Green Business Bureau who is interested in how the private sector can generate value from sustainable business practice. Currently he is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Energy and is eager to learn how emerging technologies in this field can help transition the world towards cleaner energy and lower the dependency on fossil fuels. Outside of academia, Peter enjoys hiking and the outdoors as well as watching soccer with his friends.

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