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LEED Certification Basics

LEED Certification and Rating System


leed certification

Identification of Green Building.

Courtesy of Freddryk
LEED certification, which includes a rigorous third-party commissioning process, offers compelling proof to you, your clients, your peers and the public at large that you've achieved your environmental goals, and your building is performing as designed. Getting certified allows you take advantage of a growing number of state and local government incentives, and can help boost press interest in your project.

The LEED certification rating system offers four levels for new construction:

  1. Certified
  2. Silver
  3. Gold
  4. Platinum
This system corresponds to the number of credits accrued in five green design categories:

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

LEED Certification Benefits

LEED certification standards cover new commercial construction and major renovation projects, interiors projects and existing building operations. Standards are under development to cover commercial "core & shell" construction, new home construction and neighborhood developments. Getting certified for your building will reduce cost streams associated with building operations, reduce environmental impacts, creates healthier and more productive employee workspace, and provides public recognition for leadership in sustainability. It will also:

  • Increased Building Valuation
  • Liability Reduction
  • Better Employee Relationships
  • Reduction in Energy & Water Use
  • Better Indoor Air Quality
  • Reduced Maintenance & Operating Costs

It also promotes using materials made from recycled content, ensuring that spent materials are recycled and preserving the sustainability of the facility’s site. LEED certified buildings might improve occupant health and productivity, reduce turnover, and assist in attracting and retaining employees. In addition, buildings actively tracking operational performance may find opportunities to reduce operating expenses, as well as putting owners in a position to avoid risk associated with the sick building syndrome.

Through September 2009, according to the USGBC, about 3,800 projects have received certification, with 8,900 more registered to become certified. Interest in LEED certification has grown exponentially since 2004. At the same time, more customers have become green savvy, and they expect businesses to show proof of environmental concern.

LEED Certification Requirements

In order to become certified, you must provide documentation showing that it meets certain requirements. The USGBC awards points accordingly. The number of points determines the LEED rating:

  • Certified 40-49
  • Silver 50-59
  • Gold 60-79
  • Platinum 80& above

LEED Certification: Other Types of Ratings

There are specific LEED certification and rating systems for different types of projects:


Piloted in 1998 and launched in 2002, LEED for New Construction and Major Renovations is designed for rating new and existing commercial and institutional buildings.


In 2004, the USGBC introduced LEED certification for Existing Buildings, now LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance. The LEED for Existing Buildings Rating System helps building owners and operators measure operations, improvements and maintenance on a consistent scale, with the goal of maximizing operational efficiency while minimizing environmental impacts. LEED for Existing Buildings addresses whole-building cleaning and maintenance issues (including chemical use), recycling programs, exterior maintenance programs, and systems upgrades. Beginning June 27, 2009, all projects registering for LEED for Existing Buildings must do so under the new LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance version.

Other LEED Programs

As LEED-NC and LEED-EB O&M became benchmarks for green buildings nationwide, the USGBC created other LEED certification systems for specific segments of the building industry. They include:

LEED-CI (Commercial Interiors):

For the tenant improvement market, provides guidelines for sustainable choices among tenants and designers.

LEED-CS (Core & Shell):

For designers, builders, developers and new building owners who wish to implement sustainable design for new core and shell construction.

LEED for Schools:

Recognizes the unique nature of the design and construction of K-12 schools. Based on the LEED for New Construction rating system, it addresses issues such as classroom acoustics, master planning, mold prevention and environmental site assessment.

LEED for Retail:

Recognizes the unique nature of the retail environment and addresses the different types of spaces that retailers need for their distinctive product lines.

LEED for Health-care:

Developed to meet the unique needs of the health care market, including inpatient care facilities, licensed outpatient care facilities, and licensed long-term care facilities.

LEED for Homes:

Promotes the design and construction of high-performance green homes.

LEED for Neighborhood Development:

Integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism and green building into the first national system for neighborhood design.

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