What is LEED Certification?

LEED certification is the global standard for green design and sustainable buildings. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the most widely used third-party authentication system for green buildings. LEED provides facility owners and building operators with a holistic framework for designing, constructing and maintaining green buildings.

An Overview of LEED

The LEED program was developed and is maintained by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The LEED program is so flexible that it works well with public, residential and commercial building projects. LEED is designed to function throughout the building’s lifecycle of design, construction, operation and renovation. The level of certification, Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum, indicate the level of sustainability achieved.

The LEED framework uses a point system to score the building’s design and construction. There are five green categories: water efficiency, sustainable sites, materials and resources, energy and atmosphere and indoor environmental quality. There are additional programs, such as the new LEED v4 and the all encompassing LEED for Neighborhood Development. Regardless of the program, LEED is one of the most highly regarded and recognized certification programs around the globe.

The Certification Process

The LEED certification process involves four phases. First, registration is started by completing the required forms. Building projects that want the basic certification must demonstrate how they will comply with environmental laws, use appropriate site boundaries and commit to sharing the building’s energy and water. Second, the completed certification application is submitted through the LEED website with certification payment.

In order to be accepted, applications should contain credit information, clearly labeled attachments and limited narratives. Third, the review phase is when the GBCI reads the application and responds within three to four weeks. During this phase, GBCI may respond with concerns and allow the organization to adjust or withdraw their application. Fourth, the certification phase is when the GBCI offers a final report and certification level designation.

What are the Pros and Cons?

The LEED program is a well-recognized green standard around the global. LEED’s research based standards establish green design authority and focus on the continual evaluation of the building’s the life cycle in order to maximize long term environmental benefits. Thus, the LEED program is an excellent investment because there are cost-savings that are gradually recovered through better business reputation, consumer support and enhanced marketing effectiveness.

Because the LEED program is managed by the innovative U.S. Green Building Council, they are more flexible and receptive to change. There are certain drawbacks, such as the objective point system that may just encourage building owners to focus on points instead of actual environmental benefits. The LEED program does not take into account performance and is quite difficult and expensive for homeowners and small building owners to achieve.

When it comes to the future of LEED certification, some states are actually moving away from the Green Building Council’s standards for new public buildings. This is because the LEED program only endorses one sustainable timber certification program. This severely limits the available wood products for use in certain states.