Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), provides a suite of standards for environmentally sustainable construction. Since its inception in 1998, LEED has grown to encompass more than 14,000 projects in 50 US States and 30 countries covering 1.062 billion square feet (99 km²) of development area. The hallmark of LEED is that it is an open and transparent process where the technical criteria proposed by the LEED committees are publicly reviewed for approval by the more than 10,000 membership organizations that currently constitute the USGBC.
What is LEED®?
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through the creation and implementation of universally understood and accepted tools and performance criteria.
LEED is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. LEED gives building owners and operators the tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on their buildings’ performance. LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
Who uses LEED?
Architects, real estate professionals, facility managers, engineers, interior designers, landscape architects, construction managers, lenders and government officials all use LEED to help transform the built environment to sustainability. State and local governments across the country are adopting LEED for public-owned and public-funded buildings; there are LEED initiatives in federal agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Agriculture, Energy, and State; and LEED projects are in progress in 41 different countries, including Canada, Brazil, Mexico and India.
How is LEED Developed?
LEED Rating Systems are developed through an open, consensus-based process led by LEED committees. Each volunteer committee is composed of a diverse group of practitioners and experts representing a cross-section of the building and construction industry. The key elements of USGBC's consensus process include a balanced and transparent committee structure, technical advisory groups that ensure scientific consistency and rigor, opportunities for stakeholder comment and review, member ballot of new rating systems, and a fair and open appeals process.
What are the Benefits?
The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) has developed a set of guidelines, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), in an effort to provide a national standard for green building design. The pilot version of these guidelines was introduced in 2000 and has continually been expanded and revised. The current version for LEED New Construction and Major Renovation is Version 2.1. Standards also exist that specifically target Commercial Interiors, Core and Shell, Existing Buildings, and Residential Buildings.
The LEED rating system is based on achieving a certain number of points, which are allocated for design choices defined within the standard. There are 6 sections to LEED that target specific design criteria:
1. Site Selection
2. Efficient use of Water
3. Energy and Atmosphere
4. Materials and Resources
5. Indoor Environmental Quality
6. Innovative Design
Depending on the number of points achieved, the building can attain Platinum (52 – 69 points), Gold (39 – 51 points), Silver (33 – 38 points) or LEED certified (26 – 32 points) status. The intent of the LEED standard is to provide a design guideline and third-party certification tool for green buildings. Therefore, products cannot be LEED certified – only buildings can be. An architect or designer can make product choices that will help a building qualify for LEED points.
A few Contractors have concerns that their already narrow profit margins will shrink even more as the demand for “green” buildings increases and more and more environmentally responsible systems are added to specifications. However, many mechanical contracting and engineering firms have found that going green can be a selling point. The group quickly gained notice after working on a building expansion that promotes building sustainability for businesses and residents through education, research, and technical assistance. It’s become a recognition tool for companies willing to research the Green Building movement and the LEED program, complete a project that satisfies LEED Certification - companies within the construction community that demonstrates the ability to successfully design, build, and support LEED project will become noticed and likely contacted for the many future GREEN building projects which will qualify for LEEDS Points.
Know the FACTS!
Simply put, a few short years ago, green wasn’t on the radar screen of most contractors. Any efforts in this area were incumbent on the building owner. Until recently, only niche projects or building owners with unique perspectives pushed for green construction. Even then, they were forced to do most of the research themselves and pull from a small pool of contractors. Times have changed, and contractors need to know the facts:
- Higher building costs are offset by lower operating costs. The myth about green buildings is that they cost substantially more to build than conventional buildings. When green building practices were first conceived, that was true. A rapid learning curve in the design community has reduced the premium for greening a building to about 2 percent of overall construction cost. This premium is quickly recovered through the substantial reduction in operating costs inherent in green buildings.
- The environmental advantages of green buildings are realized immediately. Green buildings use less energy, consume fewer resources in their construction, and minimize the impact on their surrounding environment and infrastructure.
- Occupants of green buildings benefit from better health. Green buildings have better indoor air quality, reducing absenteeism (among workers) and illness among occupants.
- Workers in green buildings demonstrate increased productivity. According to the Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability, studies have shown that people working in green buildings are 5–16 percent more productive than those in conventional buildings.
The LEED Program in the United States provides many benefits, most importantly preserving our Nation's Environment and Resources for future generations!
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