LEED Green Building Certification - dummies

By Eric Corey Freed

To help the construction industry define green building, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) devised a scoring method to rate how green buildings are. That rating system, called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), is now the industry standard for defining voluntary guidelines for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) logo.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) logo.

LEED is still in the early phase of its development and is being refined continually. Because LEED offers no practical applications, builders have to use their own knowledge of green building practices and then apply for certification. With no benchmarks to meet, the LEED system has to be and is flexible enough to be open-ended and consensus-based. Draft versions are left open for comment and debate.

Categorizing LEED points

A building earns points for meeting green building standards in six categories:

  • Sustainable site

  • Water conservation

  • Energy and atmosphere

  • Materials and resources

  • Indoor environmental quality

  • Green design innovations

The number of points a building earns determines its rating — Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum.

Applying for LEED status

If you decide to go for LEED certification, find a LEED Accredited Professional at the USGBC Web site to help you prepare the paperwork needed for certification. The costs can run anywhere from a few thousand dollars to more than $10,000 — the complicated paperwork takes time, which boosts the price.

LEED is a great tool to use as a reference to build a green home, even if you don’t get the full certification.

Currently, the USGBC offers the following versions of LEED certification:

  • LEED-NC: New commercial construction and major renovation projects

  • LEED-CI: Commercial interiors projects

  • LEED-CS: Core and shell projects

  • LEED-EB: Existing buildings

  • LEED-H: Homes

  • LEED-ND: Neighborhood development

Benefiting from a LEED-rated home

Aside from reducing your carbon footprint, having a LEED-certified home gives you certain benefits:

  • LEED certification increases the value of the home.

  • LEED certification attracts potential buyers.

  • LEED certification may qualify you for tax breaks, speed up your permit process, and offer other perks. (Your local building department can give you information on the programs available in your area.)