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Building a Sustainable Future: How to Become LEED Certified

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Benefits of LEED Certification What Is LEED Certification? Certification Types Certification Levels and Points Certification Process

Key Benefits of LEED Certification

As a recognized symbol of sustainability, obtaining LEED certification for your building is a signal of social and economic responsibility. Mike Payne Jr, a LEED Platinum Certified home builder, states that “Payne & Payne prides itself as an industry leader, and these projects further develop our knowledge and diverse abilities.”

"We've found that engaging in projects such as the LEED Platinum home makes us a better builder, while helping our client achieve their sustainability goals. The LEED process requires an examination of the materials and systems used to construct the home to meet the high standards of the program."
Mike Payne Jr. | Payne & Payne Builders

The triple bottom line of people, planet and profit is an important one to consider when creating your business plan for the new year. Participating in LEED can lower operational costs and presents a unique opportunity for community recognition.  The United States Green Business Council estimates that the energy and water bill savings can hit 40% when compared to un-certified projects. There are also plenty of tax rebates available to certified buildings to save a little bit extra. 

LEED Certification and Program Details

What does LEED stand for?

LEED is the acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It’s an overarching program that awards points and level certifications to communities and buildings that follow strict environmental and quality standards. 

What is LEED Certification?

In the fields of green building and construction, LEED certification is a nationally-recognized stamp of approval for buildings that were constructed and will operate sustainably. 

What types of LEED Certifications are offered?

The United States Green Building Council developed LEED as a comprehensive program covering building construction, design, operations and maintenance. There are currently five defined offerings: 

  • Building Design and Construction (BD+C)
  • Interior Design and Construction (ID+C)
  • Building Operations and Maintenance (O+M)
  • Neighborhood Development (ND)
  • Homes

LEED Certification Levels and Point Systems

The USGBC offers four levels of certification based on awarded points. Points are earned for projects across nine categories: 

Category: Points Awarded For:
Location & Transportation
  • Green Vehicles
  • Reduced Parking Footprint
  • Bicycle Facilities
  • Access to Quality Transit
  • Surrounding Density and Diverse Uses
  • High Priority Site
  • Sensitive Land Protection
  • Neighborhood Development Location
Sustainable Sites
  • Site Assessment
  • Site Development
  • Open Space
  • Rainwater Management
  • Heat Island Reduction
  • Light Pollution Reduction
  • Construction Activity Pollution Prevention
Water Efficiency
  • Outdoor Water Use Reduction
  • Indoor Water Use Reduction
  • Building-Level Water Metering
  • Cooling Tower Water Use
  • Water Metering
Energy and Atmosphere
  • Fundamental Commissioning and Verification
  • Minimum Energy Performance
  • Building-Level Energy Metering
  • Fundamental Refrigerant Management
  • Enhanced Commissioning
  • Optimize Energy Performance
  • Advanced Energy Metering
  • Demand Response
  • Renewable Energy Production
  • Enhanced Refrigerant Management
  • Green Power and Carbon Offsets
Material and Resources
  • Storage and Collection of Recyclables
  • Construction and Demolition Waste Management Planning
  • Building LIfe-Cycle Impact Reduction
  • Building Product Disclosure and Optimization for Environmental Product Declarations, Sourcing of Raw Materials and Material Ingredients
  • Construction and Demolition Waste Management
Indoor Environmental Air Quality
  • Minimum Indoor Air Quality Performance
  • Environmental Tobacco Smoke Control
  • Enhanced Indoor Air Quality Strategies
  • Low-Emitting Materials
  • Construction Indoor Air Quality Management Plan
  • Indoor Air Quality Assessment
  • Thermal Comfort
  • Interior Lighting
  • Daylight
  • Quality Views
  • Acoustic Performance
  • Innovation
  • LEED Accredited Professional
Regional Priority
  • Regional Priority

Projects are awarded LEED credits for each aspect of the nine criteria they meet, and certification is based on the number of points earned. 

  1. Certified: 40 - 49 points
  2. Silver: 50 - 59 points
  3. Gold: 60 - 79 points
  4. Platinum: 80+ points

LEED Certification Process

If you believe your project is a fit based on the point criteria, it’s time to start the application process. 

Step 1. Register Your Project With the United States Green Business Council

This is the first step to getting certified for your businesses’ project and building. Please be aware that LEED v4 has extra criteria, including waste management plans and criteria on integrative processes and development location. 

Once you’re clear on the certification types, choose the online portal relevant to your building, community or project. The two options are Arc and LEED Online. 

  • Arc should be used for: cities, communities, operations and maintenance
  • LEED Online should be used for: all other projects

Step 2. Apply for LEED Certification

The most important step in the process is your application. Identify which LEED credits you will pursue throughout the course of your project, and save any and all documentation to verify compliance. This work can be tedious, but the effort will pay off.

Step 3. Review Your Application and Project

Once your application has been submitted, Green Business Certification Inc. will conduct a preliminary review. This can take up to 20-25 business days. 

You can accept the results of your preliminary review if you believe it’s correct, or you can submit additional information to obtain more LEED credits at a final review. 

Step 4. Accept and Maintain Certification Level

Once your project has been awarded LEED Certification, set reminders for maintenance. In order to keep your designated level, you will need to report on energy and water use to show that you meet the minimum program requirements. 

If you applied for and received a certification for an operations and management project, the certification will expire in five years and you’ll need to reapply. Other certifications do not expire. 

Why LEED Certification Matters to Your Business

For municipalities, expanding businesses and construction projects, earning LEED certification is a trust signal to consumers that you are committed to the overall health of the community. 

Are you pursuing LEED Certification this year? If so, we’d love to hear about your project!

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