In today’s green-focused climate, facilities with LEED certification move ahead of the pack. The benefits are substantial: LEED-certified structures maximize occupant health and productivity, use fewer resources, decrease lifecycle costs and reduce waste and negative environmental impacts.
LEED certification has more than just a positive environmental impact. Going “green” also influences another type of “green”: corporate finances. According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED-certified buildings have faster lease-up rates and higher resale value as well as using less energy, water, and other resources. With those outcomes, it’s not surprising that LEED is the global leader when it comes to green building ratings, used in 165 countries and territories worldwide.
LEED Certification Categories
From new construction to renovation, residential to commercial, there is a LEED certification that applies.
- BD+C (Building Design + Construction) is for new construction and major renovation, core and shell development, and specific facility types: schools, retail, data centers, warehouses and distribution centers, hospitality and healthcare facilities.
- O+M (Building Operations + Maintenance) is for existing buildings in a range of project types and market sectors.
- ID+C (Interior Design + Construction) is used to evaluate the designs of tenant fit-outs for projects in which the design team does not have control of the whole building. For example, when a company rents out a floor of an office building and is responsible for its own fit out.
- ND (Neighborhood Development) is for those creating more sustainable, well-connected neighborhoods, which includes two certification options: plan certification (for any phase of planning and design) and built project certification (for neighborhood-scale projects near completion or completed within the last three years).
- Homes is for building design and construction projects for single-family homes and multi-family projects up to eight stories, focusing on incorporating safe building materials, improving indoor air quality and reducing energy and water usage.
- Cities and Communities, two separate certification programs, focus on developing responsible, sustainable and specific plans for social, economic and environmental conditions.
Multiple buildings certification options include volume certification (for an entire portfolio of building projects) and campus and multiple-building certification (for several buildings on a single site), as well as for government projects focusing on meeting the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings requirements.
Another category—LEED Zero certification—is for projects registered to pursue O+M certification or those certified under the BD+C or O+M rating systems that have net zero goals in carbon and/or resources.
There have also been changes to LEED, with USGBC rolling out its latest platform update: LEED version 4.1. Released in January 2019, LEED v4.1 improvements include updated reference standards, new methodologies and a simple data-driven path for ongoing performance measurement—all focused on the overarching goal of developing solutions that address unique markets. Each category has been provided with updates on specific changes of the LEED v4.1 recertification.
The LEED Certification Process
Pursuing LEED certification begins with selecting the appropriate rating system for the project and reviewing the minimum program requirements to verify eligibility for LEED certification. Next, use the LEED Certification Guides to move through the LEED process from registration to certification.
While facility managers and owners can choose which credits to pursue, all projects must meet specific prerequisites—minimum requirements that don’t count toward points but are mandatory for LEED certification. LEED ratings are awarded based on a point scale: Certified (40-49 points), Silver (50-59 points), Gold (60-79 points) and Platinum (80+ points), with points earned across a range of categories.
Certification applications are then reviewed by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), a third-party organization, to determine the appropriate certification level.
To help with the process, the USGBC website has Certification Guides, Credit Library, Reference Guides, and a comprehensive online toolkit. An optional LEED precertification is also available to help facility managers determine the credits and prerequisites the project is most likely to achieve and to illustrate the commitment to LEED certification.
Facilities can also utilize Arc, an online platform developed by Arc Skoru Inc., to evaluate performance metrics and identify areas of improvement. According to USGBC, the Arc platform provides an alternative path for complying with two LEED prerequisites and sixteen LEED credits in the LEED O+M: Existing Buildings v4 (LEED v4 O + M) rating system.
Facilities can use Arc to measure building data across five categories, with a goal of achieving a Performance Score of at least 40. Projects must also commit to a minimum of three-year participation, submit the initial certification and an update of that certification within that three-year period and meet other requirements.
The LEED registration and certification fees are based on the fee schedule published at the time of registration and determined by the project’s rating system and size. Projects submitted via LEED Online have automatic access to Arc at no additional cost.
Maintaining Your LEED Certification
LEED certification isn’t a once-and-done achievement. Facilities that have previously earned LEED certification must recertify on an ongoing basis to benchmark performance and ensure performance at the intended level. LEED v4.1 enables LEED-certified facilities to be recertified, regardless of their initial rating system or version, according to USGBC. The Recertification Guidance for LEED Buildings (available for download) details the requirements and process.
Once completed, the facility must contact USGBC to activate the recertification, with the successful completion earning the project the LEED O+M certification under the current rating system version: LEED v4.1.
LEED certification is more than just a way to boost a company’s brand. It also provides a comprehensive way of evaluating a facility’s performance, both in terms of meeting environmental goals and enhancing the location from a human perspective, and a path forward for ongoing improvements.