One of the most honored designations in green commercial building is LEED certification.  The Leadership in Energy and Design (LEED) certification program is a product of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and provides separate certification criteria for commercial and residential buildings.

LEED Certification was first available in 2000; buildings receive scores in each of six categories.  The following categories are used for new construction projects and a maximum of 69 total points are available.

Sustainable Sites

There are 14 points available in the Sustainable Sites section.  Eight different credits make up the sustainable sites score:  site selection, development density and community connectivity, brownfield redevelopment, alternative transportation, site development, stormwater design, heat island effect and light pollution reduction.

Water Efficiency

The Water Efficiency category allows buildings to earn up to five points in three different credit categories:  water efficient landscaping, innovative wastewater technologies and water use reduction.

Energy & Atmosphere

The Energy & Atmosphere category is where buildings can gather the most points with 17 total points available.  The following credit categories are used:  optimize energy performance, on-site renewable energy, enhanced commissioning, enhanced refrigerant management, measurement & verification and green power.

Materials & Resources

Buildings are eligible for a maximum of 13 points in the Materials & Resources section.  Building reuse, construction waste management, materials reuse, recycled content, regional materials, rapidly renewable materials and certified wood are looked at when determining a building’s score in this category.

Indoor Environmental Quality

The Indoor Environmental Quality section has the second highest points potential with a max of 15 points.  The following credits are evaluated:  outdoor air delivery monitoring, increased ventilation, construction IAQ management plan, low-emitting materials, indoor chemical & pollutant source control, controllability of systems, thermal comfort and daylight and views.

Innovation in Design

The final category assessed during the LEED certification process is Innovation in Design.  Credits are available in Innovation in Design and LEED Accredited Professional categories.

There are four different certification levels awarded by the USGBC.  Buildings that receive between 26 and 32 points are eligible for LEED certification.  The LEED Silver level certification is awarded to buildings that score between 33 and 38 points while the LEED Gold certification applies to facilities that score between 39 and 51 points.

The granddaddy of LEED certifications levels is LEED Platinum and is reserved for the best-of-the-best; only buildings scoring a minimum of 52 points can receive this prestigious award.

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LEED certification basics
A LEED new construction certification primer.