What is LEED?
LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design“. It was established in 1998 by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and is in line with the methodology of the World Green Building Council.
While this environmental assessment method is used globally, it is most widely used in the United States. This is mainly because LEED is often chosen there for government projects.
More than 79,000 projects are participating in LEED across 160 countries and territories, comprising over 15 billion square feet.
Why Use LEED certifications?
As we mentioned in our previous article about BREEAM certification, all environmental assessment methods have the aim to reduce the impact of buildings on the environment through the early design and development stages, construction stage and the building’s life span.
This helps to achieve several of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations as part of the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, that was adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015.
As we’re currently undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in human history, and buildings have been found responsible for nearly 40 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions [source], it is important that the build industry works together on increasing the rate of existing building energy efficiency renovations, the generation and procurement of renewable energy and design and construction of green new build projects to meet emissions reduction targets set by the Paris Agreement by 2030.
LEED certification provides independent verification of a building or neighbourhood’s green features, allowing for the design, construction, operations and maintenance of resource-efficient, high-performing, healthy, cost-effective buildings.
What are LEED Benefits?
According to the USGBC, LEED Buildings…
- SET YOU APART FROM THE COMPETITION
61% of corporate leaders believe that sustainability leads to market differentiation and improved financial performance.
- ATTRACT CLIENTS & TENANTS
The new Class A office space is green; lease-up rates for green buildings typically range from average to 20% above average.
- INCREASE RENTAL RATES
A study of the San Diego market showed that the overall vacancy rate for green buildings was 4% lower than for non-green properties, and LEED-certified buildings continued to command the highest rents.
- SAVE ENERGY AND RESOURCES (AND MONEY!)
LEED-certified buildings generate millions in energy savings, water savings, maintenance savings, and waste savings.
- PROVIDE YOU WITH OPPORTUNITIES
Many federal, state, and local governments and school districts have adopted various types of LEED initiatives and incentives. This can include tax credits, tax breaks, density zoning bonuses, reduced fees, priority or expedited permitting, free or reduced-cost technical assistance, grants and low-interest loans.
- OPTIMISE HEALTH
By bringing the good in — like clean air and access to daylight — and keeping the bad out—including harmful chemicals found in paints, finishings and more — LEED creates healthy spaces.
- MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY
LEED-certified buildings are demonstrating increased recruitment and retention rates and increased productivity benefits for employers.
Some Interesting Facts
- Research from the Environmental Protection Agency tells us that Americans spend an average of 87% of their lives inside buildings. [source]
- In the U.S. alone, buildings account for 38% Of all CO2 emissions. [source]
- Buildings account for 12 percent of total water consumed in the U.S. [source]
- Buildings account for 68 percent of total electricity consumption in the U.S. [source]
- LEED accredited projects are responsible for diverting over 80 million tons of waste from landfills – and by 2030 that number is expected to grow to 540 million tons. [source]
- LEED architecture has reported almost 20 percent lower maintenance costs than typical commercial buildings. [source]
- A report on the Los Angeles market indicated that while traditional (non-LEED certified) buildings receive an average of $2.16/ft2, tenants were willing to pay $2.91/ft2 for LEED certified space. [source]
- USGBC’s own research reinforces that employees in LEED green buildings feel happier, healthier and more productive. [source]
- The number of LEED-certified buildings has continued to grow since 2005 — more than ten percentage points in Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, and San Jose. [source]
What are the different LEED Ratings?
LEED is a scoring system that uses a checklist to assigns scores to a building across nine basic areas that address key aspects of green buildings: Location and Transportation, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Integrative Process, Indoor Environmental Quality, Sustainable Sites Regional Priority and Innovation.
Adding all points together will lead to a rating of the building. The levels of LEED certification are:
- Certified (40-49 points earned)
- Silver (50-59 points earned)
- Gold (60-79 points earned)
- Platinum (80+ points earned)
This certification is in the hands of the special LEED rankings committee.
LEED works for all buildings at all phases of development, from new construction to existing buildings, as well as all building sectors, from homes to hospitals to corporate headquarters.
You can find the LEED certification checklist on the website of the USGBC >>
Recycled Material & the LEED System
The LEED system evaluates projects as a whole. This means that building components do not, in and of themselves, add credit points to a project. That said, they can help qualify the project for LEED certification and manufacturers can help qualify projects in which their products are used. This is how:
When it comes to recycled content, LEED guidelines award points for the use of these materials “such that the sum of post-consumer recycled content plus one-half of the post industrial content constitutes at least 5% of the total value of the material for the project.” Higher percentages help add more points.
The recycled content value of a material is determined by weight. You divide the weight of the recycled content in the item by the total weight of all materials in the item, then multiply the resulting percentage by the total value of the item. Perhaps a good time to have a closer look at our WasteBasedBricks®?
You can find a complete overview of all LEED rating systems on their website.
Discover which LEED v4 rating system applies to your project through this tool.
The LEED plaque on a building is a mark of quality and achievement in green building. — US GREEN BUILDING COUNCIL
LEED vs BREEAM
While both globally accepted, LEED has been specifically developed and adapted to suit the North American market, and BREEAM is more oriented towards European legislation due to its British origin.
Other differences are:
- LEED has the building’s design team collect data to be processed by the USGBC where BREEAM uses licensed assessors to give accreditation
- LEED’s thresholds are based on percentages where BREEAM uses quantitative, more structured and academic standards
- LEED is administered by a nonprofit organisation whereas BREEAM is not.
Some critics worry that the LEED standards don’t go far enough when it comes to the scoring system. For example, points can be earned for less critical design elements like the installation of bike rack while some LEED categories that impact the energy usage or overall carbon footprint are left unaddressed.
Because LEED is a design tool and not a performance measurement tool, designers may be encouraged to make design choices to gain a LEED point, even though this choice is not optimal for the specific project and may not address the most important issues such as water or energy conservation.
Both methods have benefits and disadvantages and when choosing LEED vs BREEAM, you will have to consider the type of project you’re working on, the location of the project, as well as local government legislations and involved LEED / BREEAM costs.
To find out more about BREEAM, please read our articles titled “What is BREEAM” and “BREEAM Benefits” for more in-depth information.
Certification LEED – What is the Process?
Are you ready to bring your project through the LEED certification process? This is how you get started:
- REGISTER – Register your project by submitting key information.
- SUBMIT – Submit your completed application through LEED Online and pay a certification review fee.
- REVIEW – Your LEED application is reviewed by GBCI, a third-party organisation.
- CERTIFY – Certify your project and measure its performance (and don’t forget to celebrate!).
View the full LEED Certification guide >>
Whatever the construction project, sustainability plays a major role these days. In most countries, it has even become a standard requirement. More often than not, government regulations and legislation force architects, designers, contractors and clients to build sustainably.
We are confident that green construction is here to stay – so don’t miss out on the chance to get your project ready for the (green) future and perhaps even certified. Get in touch with us if you need help or have further questions!