What is the LEED certification?

LEED stands for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is a green building certification used not just in the United States, but worldwide. Developed by the USGBC (the United States Green Building Council), a non-profit, it is a set of rating systems for buildings. The rating systems pertain to four aspects of green buildings. They are:

  • Design
  • Construction
  • Operation
  • Maintenance

The use of the LEED system is widespread. In the US alone, there are 69,066 buildings with LEED certifications. There are thousands more throughout the rest of the world.

There are also certifications that individuals can get in LEED. A LEED Green Associate is offered that “confirms a professional’s thorough comprehension of green buildings and practices.” A specialty certification for individuals is also offered for those with advanced knowledge and an expertise in a LEED rating system. In fact, there is a whole host of different certifications an individual can get regarding the LEED program. You don’t have to be a construction contractor to get one of these certifications, they are open to anyone interested.

How does the rating system work?

For different types of buildings, the rating system is quite different. If you’d like to learn about the LEED rating system for non-commercial buildings, visit their website. You can see the various different standards for different LEED classifications of buildings.

For commercial buildings specifically, the lead rating has to do with five main areas:

  • Sustainable materials use during construction.
  • Water use reduction and reduction is use of other resources.
  • Indoor air quality.
  • Building sustainability concerning the immediate environment/location.
  • Energy use, including efficiency of artificial lighting, use of natural lighting, and HVAC.

What are the benefits of a LEED certification?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of what a commercial building needs to do to get certified from LEED, let’s take a look at why you might be interested in it. You can read the full breakdown of benefits that LEED provides here.

Environmental benefits

Obviously, producing less carbon dioxide and pollution is good for the area around the building. Less pollution is healthier for nearby people and other living things. Additionally, the building owners will save money by having less waste to remove and deal with. Besides the long-term environmental benefits of using less resources and producing less waste, there are a few very useful bonuses for commercial buildings.

Specifics regarding reduced energy usage and emissions (compared to non LEED buildings) include:

  • 34% Less carbon emissions.
  • 24% Less energy usage.
  • 80 million tons of waste that doesn’t go to landfills.
  • 1.3 Million tons of coal saved each year.
  • 78 Million ton of CO2 emissions avoided.

Saving money

The cost savings for LEED certified buildings are in the billions. The vast majority comes from lower energy costs, as green buildings require less power, gas, water, and other resources.

Market differentiation

Many corporate leaders know that consumers also care about the environment. They are more likely to support a business that is sustainable and environmentally friendly.

This goes not just for commercial clients, but also for tenants and residents in housing facilities. Vacancy rates tend to be lower than for non-green buildings.

Happier, healthier workers and occupants

With more natural light, better indoor air quality, and fewer pollutants in general, people are healthier in LEED buildings. This applies to both workers and people living in them. Happier, healthier people aren’t just a boon basic human decency either. When people are healthier, they are also more productive. The benefits reach out to individuals, families, social structures, and society at large.

How to get a commercial building LEED certified

There are plenty of things you can do to make your building more environmentally friendly. If you are starting from scratch though, it’s tough to know where to begin. Fortunately, we have compiled a list of major improvements that will raise your LEED score.


Quality insulation, especially around the windows makes a huge difference. It reduces both cooling and heating costs over the year. ENERGY-STAR rated windows are a great way to improve your insulation.

Energy-efficient lighting

Use of LED lights, natural lighting, and other energy efficient illumination is key. Lighting is one of the main electricity costs of residential and office buildings.

Reduce water use

Low-flow water fixtures and high-quality plumbing and piping help reduce water consumption. Clean water is fast becoming a resource we can no longer take for granted.

Heating and efficient HVAC

HVAC is heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Not only should ventilation and ducts be efficient, but they can use local environmental resources. For example, solar power can be used for heating- especially water heating- and power. Local geothermal can provide energy and heat as well.


In the end, your building will be scored out of 110 points.

You must have a score of 40 or higher for LEED certification. Scoring is as follows:

  • Silver: 50 or more points.
  • Gold: 60 or more points.
  • Platinum: 80 or more points.

The specifics of how your building is scored will vary on its use.