Pay attention and you’ll probably notice LEED Certified signs on many of the public buildings you frequent. From gas stations to office buildings, more companies are choosing to follow “green” practices. Short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, LEED is a credit based system that allows building projects to earn points based on environmentally friendly actions taken during construction and use of the building to satisfy prerequisites for achieving different levels of certification. The current system in place is LEED 2009, which has 100 possible points in six categories, including Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Innovation in Design. Points are earned for things like access to quality transit, environmental tobacco smoke control, and light pollution reduction, to name a few. Check out a complete list of credits here.
The LEED system was developed by U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to help building owners and operators become more environmentally responsible and use their resources efficiently. It is a voluntary program, although many cities provide tax credits and grants for green buildings, while others may require certification for public buildings. As of October 31, 2016, any new projects registered will use LEEDv4. Under this new system there is a stronger focus on materials beyond how much is used in order to get a better understanding of what our buildings are made of and the effect those components have on human health and environment. LEEDv4 is also more performance based for indoor environmental quality, and rewards projects for participating in demand response programs.
Although, LEED standards are not mandatory for all builders, more are choosing to achieve certification due to the positive environmental image to the community. Other benefits include energy and cost savings over the life of the building structure, despite higher building costs. These buildings also command higher rental rates and are shown to have greater occupancy than non-green buildings.