Ten Steps to LEED Certification for a Construction Project

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, created and administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, has become the de facto standard for recognizing and certifying sustainable and “green” building projects in the United States.

The LEED program features four levels of recognition, based on the number of points a project is awarded for the achievement of certain goals. There are 110 possible points available in the newest version of the LEED program, which became effective in the spring of 2009.

  • LEED Certified requires 40-49 points
  • LEED Silver requires 50-59 points
  • LEED Gold requires 60-69 points, and
  • LEED Platinum requires 80 or more points

If you are interested in pursuing LEED certification, here are the 10 basic steps you’ll need to follow:

1. Decide — Decide if you want LEED your project to be LEED Certified. Get all your stakeholders in the project involved to discuss timelines, costs and benefits. Involving owners, engineers, architects, contractors, tenants or occupants and even your banks at the beginning of the process will greatly enhance your chance of success.

2. Register — Register your project with the U. S. Green Building Council, the organization that created and administers the LEED program. The newest version of LEED enables you to perform just about all of the LEED-related project administration online. Select the level and category of certification you will seek.

3. Prepare and Submit Your Application — Each LEED certification combination has its own paperwork and documentation requirements. Making sure they are fully and accurately completed will help ensure the smooth progress of the certification process.

The next seven criteria all relate to the actual project and how LEED awards points. Each of these sections has baseline prerequisites that must be met to qualify for LEED but will not warrant any points unless you go above and beyond that requirement. Consult the USGBC for a complete listing of criteria and points available.

4. Sustainable Sites (up to 26 points) – Points are awarded for site selection and management methods such as groundwater control and the restoration of the grounds after construction is completed.

5. Water-Efficiency (up to 10 points) – Points are awarded for reduced water consumption in landscaping and for designs that will reduce the need for potable water by building occupants during normal building operations, as compared to established standards.

6. Energy and Atmosphere (up to 35 points) – Points are awarded for both reduced energy use as compared to standards and for the use of alternative-energy sources such as solar panels or wind.

7. Materials and Resources (up to 14 points) – The reuse of existing materials and the use of recycled building materials are both ways to earn points in this section.

8. Indoor Air Quality (up to 15 points) – Points are awarded for the use of low-emitting materials such as sealants, adhesives and floor- or wall-coverings. Additional points can be earned for enhanced levels of thermal comfort.

9. Design Innovation (up to 6 points) – Innovative and unusual designs that achieve the desired goals in a unique or more aesthetically pleasing manner may earn points toward certification.

10. Regional Priorities (up to 4 points) – In this new category, additional points can be earned toward certification for projects that address regional needs such as water conservation or the redevelopment of brownfield sites.

The Green Building Council will assess a project’s performance against the goals set forth in the application process and award certification when those goals have been met.

LEED certification is a complex and ongoing process that begins at the inception of a project and continues well after its completion. While it can require the significant investment of time, money and resources, it can also return significant benefits in the form of reduced operating costs, happier, more productive building occupants and positive impacts on the environment.


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