What are LEED Standards?

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  • Written By: Andrew Kirmayer
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 25 March 2020
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Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards make up a rating system based on standards created by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). These LEED standards have been created to evaluate how a building performs in terms of its impact on the environment. Criteria used to evaluate a building include sustainable construction, water efficiency, energy use and emissions, indoor environmental quality, and location. Structures that meet these criteria are referred to as green buildings. Various measures can be taken, for both new construction and the renovation of existing structures, to improve their LEED ratings.

The USGBC has written guides for various building types in which LEED standards, such as those governing sustainability and energy efficiency measures, are outlined and given point values, or credits. The total point value of a building determines its specific rating. For example, homes must have at least 45 credits to be LEED certified, but they can earn up to 136 points, with silver, gold, and platinum levels attainable. Specific actions, such as using drought-resistant turf in landscaping, add two points to a home’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating. If it meets indoor environmental quality standards, this adds 13 points toward the home being qualified for LEED certification.


LEED standards also cover commercial interiors, schools, retail, and healthcare facilities. Each building type is designated as a separate category with its own rating system. For a retail building, access to public transportation adds six points that go toward making it a green building. Stormwater management and use of reflective roof materials further enhance the LEED ratings of buildings used for retail, while standards for schools address classroom acoustics, mold prevention, and environmental health issues affecting children.

First released in 1998, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program has been revised several times, most recently in 2009 with the launch of LEED Version 3. Ongoing development has enabled LEED standards to adapt to new technologies. This is especially useful because technologies such as solar power have become more common in mainstream markets. The newer system serves to consolidate commercial and institutional rating systems, and streamlines crediting according to environmental and human health impacts.

Proximity to public transportation is factored in for all buildings, because it affects land use, air pollution, fossil fuel depletion, and human health. The 2009 update to the LEED standards also addresses water usage outside and inside buildings and its effects on water resources, as well as the use of renewable energy and reduced dependency on fuels that raise the building’s carbon footprint. The USGBC program is a way of encouraging energy efficiency measures by certifying buildings that meet various LEED standards.



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