LEED-Certified Construction: What It Is & Why It’s Beneficial
LEED-certified buildings have showcased sustainability in the construction industry since 2000. According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), more than 2.2 million square feet is LEED-certified each day, with over 92,000 projects using LEED.
What Is LEED?
Short for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” LEED is the world’s most widespread green building rating system. To be considered for certification, projects must be 1,000 or more square feet with at least one full-time equivalent in the building.
But LEED certification is not something one can buy or influence. It involves a rating system with points allotted for integrating sustainable tasks and processes:
- Certified (40-49 points)
- Silver (50-59 points)
- Gold (60-79 points)
- Platinum (80 or more points)
What Does the LEED Certification Process Entail?
There is a high level of detail—and a great deal of documentation—involved in getting LEED status. The process includes the following steps:
- The project must first be registered with the USGBC. It will then be handled through a database called LEED Online.
- All teams must be registered in the database, with the project owners and certification goals identified.
- A LEED-accredited professional will subsequently guide the project, work with the design team, and complete the required documentation. Everything from the number of trips to the dump during construction, to the type of paint coatings used on the building must be recorded.
- The project leaders must send their documentation—about 500 pages on average—to the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) for further review. The GBCI will then ask questions, discuss the project, and award points accordingly.
What Are the Benefits of LEED?
LEED is about more than building sustainability—it allows those involved in the process to set measurable construction goals and work toward continuous improvement. The benefits of the system include the following:
There’s a reason LEED is touted as the most popular form of green building. The U.S. Department of Energy claims LEED-certified buildings feature 34% lower CO2 emissions, and that they consume 25% less energy than the average structure in the United States. Additional benefits include a reduction in water consumption and waste.
- Social Impact
LEED exposes building occupants, maintenance workers, and other parties to fewer harmful chemicals and a healthier, more pleasant environment. Social equity plays a role here as well: Affordable LEED-certified buildings incorporate sustainable materials that help to lower utility costs, allowing families to allocate more of their earnings to necessities like food.
- Cost Effectiveness
LEED-certified buildings typically offer a sound return on the owner’s investment. A USBGC report indicates that from 2015 through 2018, LEED-certified buildings in the U.S. would save $1.2 billion on energy, $715.2 million on maintenance, $149.5 million on water, and $54.2 million on waste. The sustainability aspect of LEED deeply affects each project from a financial standpoint.
In closing, while LEED features substantial benefits, the system is constantly evolving. The guidelines for LEED will continue to be raised over time, with the aim of meeting the most current environmental standards.