The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program is putting a new spin on marketing in the building design and construction industries. Through its associated Green Building Rating System, claims of environmental responsibility made by designers, builders, and owners can now be substantiated. And with a certified track record of success, construction professionals can market their environmental expertise to grow market share.
The LEED program was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), an organization made up of corporate and organizational members (rather than individuals) involved in environmentally responsible construction. Members include manufacturers, designers, contractors, and others interested in advancing the industry. The program came about in response to a growing awareness of the need for responsible building construction, and for an independent evaluation and verification thereof.
The objective when using the LEED process is threefold: to have a building whose construction is economically viable, ecologically benign, and whose operation is sustainable for the long term. Certification is available to give independent verification that a building has met accepted guidelines in these areas, as outlined in the LEED Green Building Rating System. A total of 69 points are attainable in six areas:
- Sustainable Site (14 points, 20%)
- Water Efficiency (5 points, 7%)
- Energy and Atmosphere (17 points, 25%)
- Materials and Resources (13 points, 19%)
- Environmental Quality (15 points, 22%)
- Innovation and Design Process (5 points, 7%)
In addition to the areas where points can be earned, each of the first four categories also has required elements. For example, Storage and Collection of Recyclables is a prerequisite element under the Materials and Resources section.
LEED certification of individual projects provides recognition of quality buildings and environmental stewardship. Recognition is provided to buildings that have attained various levels of credits.
LEED certified 26-32 points
Silver Level 33-38 points
Gold Level 39-51 points
Platinum Level 52-69 points
No pain, no gain
The process of becoming LEED certified is somewhat like a cross between taking an essay test and preparing an income tax return. As on an essay test, the project's key players must build a case through explanation and documentation showing how the project meets the intent of each of the LEED credits being claimed. And as in tax preparation, advance planning and knowledge of the documentation that will ultimately be useful in preparing the submittal are critical to success in achieving certification.