What is LEED?
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building types, LEED provides a framework for healthy, efficient, and cost-saving green buildings. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership.
The LEED framework informs all building types including new construction, interiors, operations and maintenance, and core and shell. Unsure of which rating system to use? Learn more about how to select the appropriate LEED rating system.
Millions of people are living, working and learning in LEED-certified buildings around the world. Learn more about the value of LEED certification.
What is LEED certification?
Owners and project teams choose LEED certification to inform, benchmark, and celebrate their sustainability goals and achievements. LEED's framework - built on decades of expertise - empowers people to choose green options that align with their project’s vision and needs.
As project teams identify a vision for the project’s goals, scope, and spatial program, this is an excellent time to select the rating system that fits the project best. For example, if the project’s scope is a new building or substantial renovations, select the LEED Building Design and Construction rating system. Projects that focus on new interiors use LEED for Interior Design and Construction. Existing buildings that focus on operations select LEED Operations and Maintenance. Within these rating systems, there are adaptations for common project types, such as Schools, Hospitals, Data Warehouses, Core and Shell, and more, detailed in the links above. These adaptations highlight sustainable approaches that are unique to specific building types.
Once the rating system is selected, review the Minimum Program Requirements and prerequisites of the selected rating system. Project teams can use the LEED Reference Guide or LEED credit library to identify their rating system’s prerequisites. When the project team has determined that these requirements can be met, the next step is to develop a certification strategy and select the credits that the project will pursue. The strategy is tailored to the project’s identity, region, site, and specific experiential, environmental, and financial goals. The LEED scorecard is a helpful tool at this stage. Project teams often identify an ideal case, where they achieve all of their desired credit thresholds, and also a minimum case, where they achieve at least the 40 points that are required for certification. The free LEED credit library gives project teams detailed insight into the goals, metrics, and documentation strategies for each prerequisite and credit.
- To understand similar projects’ achievements, locally or within the same project type, use the search tools in USGBC’s project directory.
- USGBC’s people directory helps owners and project teams to identify professionals for their project teams.
- For information regarding the certification process, please see the Guide to LEED Certification - Commercial.
- USGBC education courses offer enrichment opportunities for all stages of professional development.
How and why does LEED evolve?
Since its launch, LEED has evolved to address new markets and building types, advances in practice and technology, and greater understanding of the environmental and human health effects of the built environment. Continuous improvement cycles empower USGBC’s community to continue build on lessons learned and evolve to meet new opportunities and challenges.
These ongoing improvements, developed by USGBC member-based volunteer committees, subcommittees, and working groups in conjunction with USGBC staff, are reviewed by the LEED Steering Committee and the USGBC Board of Directors before being submitted to USGBC members for a vote. The process is based on principles of transparency, openness, and inclusiveness.
What is green building?
Green building is a holistic concept that starts with the understanding that the built environment can have profound effects, both positive and negative, on the natural environment, as well as the people who inhabit buildings every day.
Green building is an effort to amplify the positive and mitigate the negative of these effects throughout the entire life cycle of a building. In practice, it builds upon the classical building design goals of economy, utility, durability, and comfort. By enlarging the scope in this way, green building provides project teams a more robust framework to incorporate the three pillars of sustainability (people, planet and prosperity) in their projects.
While there are many different definitions of green building out there, it is generally accepted as the planning, design, construction (and demolition), and operations of buildings with several central, foremost considerations: energy use, water use, indoor environmental quality, material selection, site and location within the surrounding community. These elements make up the basic parameters for the different credit categories within the LEED green building rating system. LEED acts as a framework for decision-making for project teams in all of these areas, rewarding best practices and innovation and recognizing exemplary projects with different levels of LEED certification.