What The Heck is LEED?


It is known that construction contributes a lot to environmental damage, especially when it comes to climate change, deforestation, and the overall reduction in environmental resources. Say that you wanted to have new wood floors installed in your home and instead of purchasing a local wood, you buy it from another state or country. Take into consideration the amount of time and resources it took for the tree to be manufactured in the factory, shipped, delivered, and installed. Electricity, water, gas, metal, fuel, and many other resources were required from start to finish to ensure you got your new floors.


If the choice had been made to minimize the distance of the haul, use a LEED qualifying hardwood, and recycle the majority of the waste (your old floors), your project would be that much closer to the LEED major focuses: limit the environmental impact of construction, increase occupant health, and decrease life-cycle costs. In short, LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED is a certification developed by the USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council). The USGBC was established in 1993 with a focus on sustainability in the building industry. Over 60 firms had representatives gather at the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in Washington D.C. to discuss generating the criteria for a green building rating system, which later became the LEED certification.



King St, Station, Seattle, WA. LEED Platinum-certified

Photo Credit: Flickr user John Westrock 


Having a LEED-certified building comes with many advantages. A LEED building has "a substantial impact on the health and wellbeing of people and the planet. Buildings use resources, generate waste and are costly to maintain and operate. Green building is the practice of designing, constructing and operating buildings to maximize occupant health and productivity, use fewer resources, reduce waste and negative environmental impacts, and decrease life cycle costs." (news.usgbc.org). Basically, LEED buildings have been shown to lease faster, provide a healthier indoor space for occupants, and waste fewer resources.

For a building to be LEED certified, the construction and planning of the building must follow a point system and have an architect that is LEED certified (Like our CEO and Architect Dan Schmeling). The number of points earned will determine the buildings LEED rating levels:

  • 40-49 points: Certified

  • 50-59 points: Silver

  • 60-79 points: Gold

  • 80+ points: Platinum 


Ceder Rapids Public Library, Cedar Rapids, IA. LEED Platinum

Photo Credit: Flickr user Gale Cengage


To top it off: LEED is flexible to meet all building types. You can add LEED to homes, neighborhood development, schools, retail, and even warehouses & distribution centers. To determine what rating system is accurate for your project, you must first identify your project type. USGBC provides an online program that walks you through this first step.  Building types are classified as follows:


  • BD + C: Building design and Construction:

    • New construction/major renovations; schools, retail, healthcare, data centers.

  • ID+C: Interior Design and Construction:

    • "Enables project teams, who may not have control over whole building operations, the opportunity to develop indoor spaces that are better for the planet and for people."

    • Hospitality (hotels, motels), Retail, Commercial Interiors.

  • O+M: Building operations and Maintenance:

    • For existing buildings that are undergoing improvement work or little to no construction; includes existing buildings.

    • Schools, Warehouses &Distribution centers.

  • ND: Neighborhood Development:

    • For new land development projects or redevelopment projects containing uses, nonresidential uses, or a mix.

  • Homes:

    • Single-family homes, low-rise multi-family or mid-rise multi-family; includes Homes and Multi-family low-rise and multi-family midrise.


It should be noted that each category has subcategories. For example, ID+C has three subcategories:

  • ID+C: Commercial Interiors

    • Develop sustainable design choices to improve the indoor environment.

  • ID+C: Hospitality

    • Interior space designed for motels, hotels, and other short-term lodging service.

  • ID+C: Retail

    • This includes direct customer service spaces and storehouse/preparation areas that assist customer service.


Wedgewood Academic Center, Nashville, TN. LEED Platinum

Photo Credit: Belmont University


After confirming your building type, you are then able to review the LEED v4 minimum program requirements and identify the correct rating system for your project. It should be noted that the rating system includes topics such as: Location and Transportation (LT), Sustainable Sites (SS), Water Efficiency (WE), Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources (MR), Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ), Innovation (IN), and Regional Priority (RP). Each section includes requirements that must be met to get the most amount of points. Want to see more details for the LEED v4 ID+C Rating system? Click here!


Now that you know a little bit more about LEED Certification, would you include it to one of your projects? Leave us a comment below, we would love to hear your thoughts!


This information was sourced from the U.S. Green Building Council website


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