Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) consists of a suite of rating systems for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings, homes and neighborhoods.

Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and spearheaded by LEED founding chairman Robert K. Watson
Robert K. Watson
Robert Watson, born in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States, is an international leader in the green building movement. He founded the LEED Green Building Rating System of the United States Green Building Council in 1993 and was its Founding Chairman until 2006.After helping to pioneer the...

, LEED is intended to provide building owners and operators a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.

Since its inception in 1998, the U.S. Green Building Council has grown to encompass more than 7,000 projects in the United States and 30 countries covering over 1.501 billion square feet (140 km²) of development area. The hallmark of LEED is that it is an open and transparent process where the technical criteria proposed by USGBC members are publicly reviewed for approval by the almost 20,000 member organizations that currently constitute the USGBC.

The Green Building Certification Institute
Green Building Certification Institute
The Green Building Certification Institute was established in January 2008 with the support of the U.S. Green Building Council to manage the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Building Certification and the Professional Accreditation Processes.While the U.S...

 (GBCI) was established by USGBC to provide a series of exams to allow individuals to become accredited for their knowledge of the LEED rating system. This is recognized through either the LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP) or LEED Green Associate (LEED Green Assoc.) designation. GBCI also provides third-party certification for projects pursuing LEED.

Rating system

LEED has evolved since its original inception in 1998 to more accurately represent and incorporate emerging green building technologies. LEED NCv1.0 was a pilot version. These projects helped inform the USGBC of the requirements for such a rating system, and this knowledge was incorporated into LEED NCv2.0. LEED NCv2.2 was released in 2005, and v3 in 2009. Today, LEED consists of a suite of nine rating systems for the design, construction and operation of buildings, homes and neighborhoods. Five overarching categories correspond to the specialties available under the LEED Accredited Professional program. That suite currently consists of:

Green Building Design & Construction
  • LEED for New Construction
  • LEED for Core & Shell
  • LEED for Schools
  • LEED for Retail: New Construction and Major Renovations
  • LEED for Healthcare

Green Interior Design & Construction
  • LEED for Commercial Interiors
  • LEED for Retail: Commercial Interiors

Green Building Operations & Maintenance
  • LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance

Green Neighborhood Development
  • LEED for Neighborhood Development

Green Home Design and Construction
  • LEED for Homes

LEED also forms the basis for other sustainability rating systems such as the Environmental Protection Agency
United States Environmental Protection Agency
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is an agency of the federal government of the United States charged with protecting human health and the environment, by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress...

's Labs21.

After four years of development, aligning credits across all LEED rating systems and weighting credits based on environmental priority, USGBC launched LEED v3, which consists of a new continuous development process, a new version of LEED Online, a revised third-party certification program and a new suite of rating systems known as LEED 2009. In response to concerns that LEED's requirements are cumbersome and difficult to learn, in 2009 USGBC supported the development by BuildingGreen, LLC of LEEDuser, a third-party resource that contains tips and guidance, written by professionals in the field, on applying LEED credits and the LEED certification process.

LEED 2009

In LEED 2009 there are 100 possible base points plus an additional 6 points for Innovation in Design and 4 points for Regional Priority. Buildings can qualify for four levels of certification:
  • Certified - 40 - 49 points
  • Silver - 50 - 59 points
  • Gold - 60 - 79 points
  • Platinum - 80 points and above

  • Note that the LEED for Homes rating system is different from LEED v3, with different point categories and thresholds that reward efficient residential design.

Prerequisites and credits

Points are distributed across major credit categories such as Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality. Prerequisites in each category receive no points and are mandatory for all projects.

LEED Canada

In 2003, the Canada Green Building Council
Canada Green Building Council
The Canada Green Building Council was created in 2003 to further the expansion of green building in Canada. Prior to the formation of the Council, Canada had participated in the United States Green Building Council through British Columbia's membership in the USGBC's Cascadia Chapter.The CaGBC...

 received permission to create LEED Canada-NC v1.0, which was based upon LEED-NC 2.0. This version was updated and released on June 21, 2010 to LEED Canada NC 2009.


LEED certification is obtained after submitting an application documenting compliance with the requirements of the rating system as well as paying registration and certification fees. Certification is granted solely by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), which is responsible for the third party verification of project compliance with LEED requirements.

The application review and certification process is handled in LEED Online, USGBC's web-based tool that employs a series of active PDF forms to automate filing documentation and communication between project teams and GBCI's reviewers.


A 2003 analysis of the savings from green building found from a review of 60 LEED buildings that the buildings were on average 25-30% more energy efficient, but it also attributed substantial benefits to the increased productivity from the better ventilation, temperature control, lighting control, and reduced indoor air pollution.

As of 2008, LEED (and similar Energy Star
Energy Star
Energy Star is an international standard for energy efficient consumer products originated in the United States of America. It was first created as a United States government program during the early 1990s, but Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan and the European Union have also adopted...

) buildings had mostly been evaluated by case studies. From a purely financial perspective, in 2008 several studies found that LEED for-rent office spaces generally charged higher rent and had higher occupancy rates. CoStar collects data on properties. The extra cost for the minimum benefit has been estimated at 3%, with an additional 2.5% for silver. More recent studies have confirmed these earlier findings in that certified buildings achieve significantly higher rents, sale prices and occupancy rates as well as lower capitalization rates potentially reflecting lower investment risk.

LEED focuses on the design of the building and not on its actual energy consumption, and therefore it has suggested that LEED buildings should be tracked to discover whether the potential energy savings from the design are being used in practice.

Directory of LEED-certified projects

The U.S. Green Building Council provides an online directory of U.S. LEED-certified projects.

The Canada Green Building Council provides an online directory of LEED Canada-certified projects.

Professional accreditation

The Green Building Certification Institute describes Professional Accreditation as follows: "LEED Professional Credentials demonstrate current knowledge of green building technologies, best practices, and the rapidly evolving LEED Rating Systems. They show differentiation in a growing and competitive industry, and they allow for varied levels of specialization. A LEED Professional Credential provides employers, policymakers, and other stakeholders with assurances of an individual’s level of competence and is the mark of the most qualified, educated, and influential green building professionals in the marketplace."

Benefits and disadvantages

LEED certified buildings are intended to use resources more efficiently when compared to conventional buildings simply built to code. LEED certified buildings often provide healthier work and living environments, which contributes to higher productivity and improved employee health and comfort. The USGBC has compiled a long list of benefits of implementing a LEED strategy, which ranges from improving air and water quality to reducing solid waste, benefiting owners, occupiers, and society as a whole.

Often, when a LEED rating is pursued, the cost of initial design and construction rises. One reason for the higher cost is that sustainable construction principles may not be well understood by the design professionals undertaking the project. This could require time to be spent on research. Some of the finer points of LEED (especially those that demand a higher-than-industry-standard level of service from the construction team) could possibly lead to misunderstandings between the design team, construction team, and client, which could result in delays. Also, there may be a lack of abundant availability of manufactured building components that meet LEED specifications. Pursuing LEED certification for a project is an added cost in itself as well. This added cost comes in the form of USGBC correspondence, LEED design-aide consultants, and the hiring of the required Commissioning Authority
Building Commissioning
Building commissioning is the process of verifying, in new construction, that all the subsystems for HVAC, plumbing, electrical, fire/life safety, building envelopes, interior systems , cogeneration, utility plants, sustainable systems, lighting, wastewater, controls, and building security achieve...

 (CxA)—all of which would not necessarily be included in an environmentally responsible project, unless it also sought a LEED rating.

However, these higher initial costs can be effectively mitigated by the savings incurred over time due to the lower-than-industry-standard operational costs typical of a LEED certified building. This Life Cycle Costing is a method for assessing the total cost of ownership, taking into account all costs of acquiring, owning and operating, and the eventual disposal of a building. Additional economic payback may come in the form of employee productivity gains incurred as a result of working in a healthier environment. Studies have suggested that an initial up-front investment of 2% extra will yield over ten times the initial investment over the life cycle of the building.

Further, the USGBC has stated support for the Architecture 2030, an effort that has set a goal of using no fossil-fuel, greenhouse gas-emitting energy to operate by 2030.

In the progression of sustainable design from simply meeting local buildings codes to USGBC LEED (Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum) to the Architecture 2030 Challenge, the Living Building Challenge
Living Building Challenge
The Living Building Challenge is a philosophy, advocacy tool and certification program that promotes the most advanced measurement of sustainability in the built environment possible today. It can be applied to development at all scales, from buildings – both new construction and renovation, to...

 is currently the most stringent sustainable design protocol. The LBC sets 20 imperatives which compel building owners, designers, operators and tenants beyond current USGBC LEED rating levels.

LEED is a design tool and not a performance measurement tool. It is also not yet climate-specific, although the newest version hopes to address this weakness partially. Because of this, designers may make materials or design choices that garner a LEED point, even though they may not be the most site or climate-appropriate choice available.

LEED is a measurement tool for green building
Green building
Green building refers to a structure and using process that is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle: from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition...

 in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and it is developed and continuously modified by workers in the green building industry, especially in the ten largest metro areas in the U.S.; however, LEED certified buildings have been slower to penetrate small and mid-major markets. Also, some criticism suggests that the LEED rating system is not sensitive and does not vary enough with regard to local environmental conditions. For instance, a building in Maine
Maine is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, New Hampshire to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. Maine is both the northernmost and easternmost...

 would receive the same credit as a building in Arizona
Arizona ; is a state located in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the western United States and the mountain west. The capital and largest city is Phoenix...

 for water conservation, though the principle is more important in the latter case. Another complaint is that its certification costs require money that could be used to make the building in question even more sustainable. Many critics have noted that compliance and certification costs have grown faster than staff support from the USGBC.

For existing buildings LEED has developed LEED-EB. Research has demonstrated that buildings that can achieve LEED-EB equivalencies can generate a tremendous ROI. In a 2008 white paper by the Leonardo Academy comparing LEED-EB buildings vs. data from BOMA’s Experience Exchange Report 2007 demonstrated LEED-EB certified buildings achieved superior operating cost savings in 63% of the buildings surveyed ranging from $4.94 to $15.59 per square foot of floor space, with an average valuation of $6.68 and a median valuation of $6.07.

In addition the overall cost of LEED-EB implementation and certification ranged from $0.00 to $6.46 per square
foot of floor space, with an average of $2.43 per square foot demonstrating that implementation is not expensive, especially in comparison to cost savings. These costs should be significantly reduced if automation and technology are integrated into the implementation.

Incentive programs

Many federal, state, and local governments and school districts have adopted various types of LEED initiatives and incentives. A full listing of government and school LEED initiatives can be found online and is updated regularly.

Some areas have implemented or are considering incentives for LEED-certified buildings.

The city of Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio. Cincinnati is the county seat of Hamilton County. Settled in 1788, the city is located to north of the Ohio River at the Ohio-Kentucky border, near Indiana. The population within city limits is 296,943 according to the 2010 census, making it Ohio's...

 adopted a measure providing an automatic 100% real property tax exemption of the assessed property value for newly constructed or rehabilitated commercial or residential properties that earn a minimum of LEED Certified.

In the state of Nevada construction materials for a qualifying LEED building are exempt from local taxes. Pieces of construction that are deemed "inseparable" parts, such as concrete
Concrete is a composite construction material, composed of cement and other cementitious materials such as fly ash and slag cement, aggregate , water and chemical admixtures.The word concrete comes from the Latin word...

 or Sheetrock, qualify.

The state of Michigan is considering tax-based incentives for LEED buildings.

Many local governments have adopted LEED incentive programs. Program incentives include tax credits, tax breaks, density bonuses, reduced fees, priority or expedited permitting, free or reduced-cost technical assistance, grants and low-interest loans.

LEED buildings

The Philip Merrill Environmental Center
Philip Merrill Environmental Center
The Philip Merrill Environmental Center is a Green building owned and operated by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Built in 2001, the Merrill Center is located in Annapolis, Maryland on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay...

 is recognized as one of the "greenest" buildings ever constructed in the USA. Sustainability issues ranging from energy use to material selection were given serious consideration throughout design and construction of this facility. It was the first building to receive a Platinum rating through the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Rating System, version 1.0. The IGS Energy
IGS Energy
IGS Energy, also known as Interstate Gas Supply, Inc., is America's largest independent retail natural gas and electric supplier, serving more than 800,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in the states of Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Virginia, Maryland...

 headquarters is the first commercial building in central Ohio to receive LEED platinum certification. In October 2011, Apogee Stadium on the campus of the University of North Texas
University of North Texas
The University of North Texas is a public institution of higher education and research in Denton. Founded in 1890, UNT is part of the University of North Texas System. As of the fall of 2010, the University of North Texas, Denton campus, had a certified enrollment of 36,067...

 became the first newly-built stadium in the country to achieve Platinum-level certification.

See also

    BRE Environmental Assessment Method is a voluntary measurement rating for green buildings that was established in the UK by the Building Research Establishment . Since its inception it has since grown in scope and geographically, being exported in various guises across the globe...

  • Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing
    Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing
    The Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing is a not-for-profit organization headquartered in Washington DC, which focuses on the intersection between roofing and energy and environmental performance...

  • Code for Sustainable Homes
    Code for Sustainable Homes
    The Code for Sustainable Homes is an environmental impact rating system for housing in England and Wales, setting new standards for energy efficiency and sustainability which are not mandatory under current building regulations but represent important developments towards limiting the...

  • Design Impact Measures
    Design Impact Measures
    Design impact measures are used to qualify projects for various rating systems and to guide both design and regulatory decisions from beginning to end. Some like the greenhouse gas inventory may also be required globally for all business decisions...

  • Ecological footprint
    Ecological footprint
    The ecological footprint is a measure of human demand on the Earth's ecosystems. It is a standardized measure of demand for natural capital that may be contrasted with the planet's ecological capacity to regenerate. It represents the amount of biologically productive land and sea area necessary to...

  • Energy conservation
    Energy conservation
    Energy conservation refers to efforts made to reduce energy consumption. Energy conservation can be achieved through increased efficient energy use, in conjunction with decreased energy consumption and/or reduced consumption from conventional energy sources...

  • Environmental design
    Environmental design
    Environmental design is the process of addressing surrounding environmental parameters when devising plans, programs, policies, buildings, or products...

  • Green Globes
    Green Globes
    Green Globes is an environmental assessment, education and rating system that is promoted in the United States by the Green Building Initiative, a Portland, Oregon-based non-profit....

  • High-Performance Green Buildings
  • Passive house
    Passive house
    The term passive house refers to the rigorous, voluntary, Passivhaus standard for energy efficiency in a building, reducing its ecological footprint. It results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for space heating or cooling. A similar standard, MINERGIE-P, is used in...

  • Renewable energy
    Renewable energy
    Renewable energy is energy which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable . About 16% of global final energy consumption comes from renewables, with 10% coming from traditional biomass, which is mainly used for heating, and 3.4% from...

  • Sustainable architecture
    Sustainable architecture
    Sustainable architecture is a general term that describes environmentally conscious design techniques in the field of architecture. Sustainable architecture is framed by the larger discussion of sustainability and the pressing economic and political issues of our world...

  • U.S. Green Building Council
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