Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, is a completely voluntary program that certifies the construction, and operation of environmentally friendly, or “green” buildings in business districts and residential areas. It was developed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and founded by Robert K. Watson, the previous Chairman of LEED Steering Committee.
To become LEED certified, applicants have several different categories in which they must meet several criteria. LEED has various categories in which applicants can earn “credits.” These credits add up to create a LEED certification score. An applicant can achieve a higher certification level by acquiring more credits in each category. LEED’s main credit categories include:
- Reduction of the amount of waste sent to the landfills
- Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
- Conservation of energy and water using various environmentally friendly methods
- Sustainable sites
- Water efficiency
- Energy and atmosphere
- Materials and resources
- Indoor environment quality
To become LEED certified, commercial buildings (or neighborhoods) must score at least 40 points out of the available 110 points on the rating scale. Homes must score at least 45 points on a 136 point rating scale.
By gaining certification, operating costs for new and current building projects remains low, and the value of the building increases. It also attracts more tenants because of the benefits green buildings offer such as low energy costs.
However, certification isn’t cheap. The average cost of certification is $2,000, although the long term benefits greatly outweigh the initial cost. For example, improved indoor air quality of a LEED certified buildings can greatly lower the risk of health related lawsuits in the future.
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