What Is LEED Certification and How Can I Become LEED Certified?
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a rating system created to evaluate how “green,” or sustainable and environmentally friendly a building is. Used throughout the world, and available for pretty much any type of residential or commercial building, LEED was designed to improve the efficiency of our buildings and construction projects.
But to the unfamiliar, LEED certification may seem complicated, or hard to approach. So if you’re interested in making your next construction project more environmentally friendly, how can you become LEED certified, and what does that really mean for your organization’s future?
The Benefits of LEED Certification
Becoming LEED certified is highly beneficial for any business or individual looking to make the most of their construction projects. These are the main benefits that leaders want from their LEED certification:
- Environmental friendliness.First, you’ll ensure that your construction project is as environmentally friendly as possible, contributing fewer pollutants to the environment, relying on sustainable resources, and expending less energy. Every contribution makes our planet a little cleaner and a little more sustainable.
- Cost savings.Many businesses who proceed with LEED certification find their construction criteria ends up saving money in the long run; you’ll be able to build more efficiently, and create a building that costs less to operate and maintain.
- Economic impact.According to a 2015 study on LEED construction, green construction projects are estimated to contribute 1.1 million jobs by 2018. Being a part of the sustainability movement means making a bigger economic impact in your area.
- Brand reputation benefits. Adding a LEED certification to your building will be appealing to your consumers and partners in the area. Think of it as a way of boosting the reputation of your brand by advertising your corporate social responsibility (CSR).
If you’re interested in becoming LEED certified, you must work with the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), which is responsible for handling the third-party verification of project compliance. Through this system, you’ll follow four main steps:
- Select the right rating system, and learn the requirements.The LEED system has grown in complexity over the years, and now exists as version 4; there are also many different rating systems in place for different types of projects. For example, there are separate rating systems for things like major renovations, schools, retail buildings, data centers, warehouses, hospitality, healthcare, and multifamily low-rise buildings. There are major categories of rating systems available for design and construction, interior design and construction, building operations and maintenance, and neighborhood development. The general rule is that if a specific rating system covers 40 percent of your floor space or less, it shouldn’t be used. If it covers 60 percent of the space or more, it should be used. If it falls between 40 and 60, it’s a special project and requires a unique rating system.
- Become familiar with LEED certification guidelines.Once you have the right rating system chosen, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the actual certification guidelines that exist for your chosen system. Usually, this process is pretty straightforward; you’ll register your project before the specified deadline, you’ll comply with all required criteria, you’ll apply for LEED certification, and your application will be reviewed by the GBCI. At that time, your building should be approved for full certification. At the time of application, you’ll be required to pay a fee, which varies significantly based on the type and scope of the project, as well as your membership status.
- Decide which credits to pursue.LEED certification isn’t black-and-white. Instead, it functions as a kind of point-based system. There are dozens of different LEED credits you can earn throughout your project, with a specific point value ascribed to each. To become certified, you must get at least 40 points of credits. Silver certification requires 50-59 points, gold requires 60-79 points, and platinum requires 80 or more points. The credits you choose, and the type of certification you seek should depend on your budget, your goals, and your individual project.
- Choose the right tools to make your project a success.Once you know what you’re doing, you’ll need to equip yourself with the right tools to make your project a success. Fortunately, LEED and other organizations attempt to make this easier by providing those tools upfront, including online toolkits with resources to help you get the credits you need.
Specific Prerequisites to Meet
In becoming LEED certified, you’ll have a great deal of flexibility; you can choose any level of certification you want, and pick and choose whichever credits best suit your organization. However, every project that gets LEED certified must meet three important prerequisites:
- The building must be in a permanent location on land that already exists.LEED certification prohibits building on artificial land masses, or any location that would significantly disrupt an existing ecosystem. It must also be a permanent location.
- The building must use reasonable boundaries for LEED certification.LEED requires that companies use reasonable boundaries for their projects, preventing gerrymandering-like boundary definitions that would allow them to exploit the system.
- The building must be a specific size.Different types of certification have specific prerequisites for building sizes. For example, for LEED BD+C and LEED O+M rating systems, your project must have a minimum of 1,000 square feet.
How to Get Started
If you’re interested in making your next building project LEED certified, or if you want to explore your options for making your construction more environmentally friendly, start by reviewing the different rating systems your building project could be eligible for.
In the meantime, there are many steps you can take to improve the environmental friendliness and sustainability of your own business. Even simple changes can make a difference such as installing high-efficiency filters for your furnace and air conditioner.