It seems like we hear a lot lately about LEED and its importance. Sure, we get the idea that LEED has to do with the green initiative and moving buildings into a more sustainable, environmentally friendly existence, but how? Not all buildings are created equal, so does the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) expect all buildings to be held to the same standard? How do you earn LEED credits and how do those credits help you achieve LEED certification? We’re going to take a look at the nine different LEED Rating Systems, what types of areas they are for, and what is required in the process to better understand which rating system is right for you.
Buildings earn LEED certification by applying through the proper rating system and then being assessed on seven different categories which are:
- Sustainable Sites (SS)
- Water Efficiency (WE)
- Energy and Atmosphere (EA)
- Materials and Resources (MR)
- Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)
- Innovation in Design (ID)
- Regional Priority (RP)
There are four levels of recognized LEED certification: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Scores of points are allotted for each category or credit with a minimum number of points being required to earn certification.
There are different rating systems depending on the type of project applying for certification. Let’s take a brief look at the different rating systems to find the appropriate one for you and your building or project.
LEED for New Construction and Major Renovations
This rating system is designed for new constructions or those with major renovations. Building types include commercial or institutional buildings and public & private high-rise residential buildings of all sizes.
For more detailed information, check out the USGBC’s LEED for New Constructions and Major Renovations Manual.
LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance
This rating system is designed for existing commercial and institutional buildings seeking LEED certification for the sustainability of ongoing operations and maintenance. Building types include offices, retail and service establishments, hotels, residential buildings of 4 or more stories and institutional buildings such as libraries, schools, museums and churches.
For more detailed information, check out the USGBC’s LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance Manual.
LEED for Commercial Interiors
This rating system is designed for tenant spaces in office, retail and institutional buildings whether the tenants lease the entire space or only a portion of the building. LEED CI was designed to work hand-in-hand with LEED for Core & Shell.
For more detailed information, check out the USGBC’s LEED for Commercial Interiors Manual.
LEED for Core & Shell
This rating system is designed specifically for the unique nature of core & shell development.
“LEED for Core & Shell was developed to serve the speculative development market, in which project teams do not control all scopes of a whole building’s design and construction. Depending on how the project is structured, this scope can vary significantly from project to project. The LEED for Core & Shell Rating System addresses a variety of project types and a broad project range.”
For more detailed information, check out the USGBC’s LEED for Core & Shell Manual.
LEED for Schools
This rating system is designed for new school buildings and major renovations of existing school buildings. Though it was originally designed for K-12 facilities, LEED for Schools can also be used for postsecondary and prekindergarten academic buildings.
For more detailed information, check out the USGBC’s LEED for Schools Manual.
LEED for Retail
There are actually two separate rating systems for retail – LEED for Retail: New Construction and Major Renovations and LEED for Retail: Commercial Interiors.
LEED for Retail: New Construction is designed for all new and majorly renovated retail buildings as defined by standard building codes. Examples include grocery stores, restaurants, apparel stores, specialty stores and banks. However:
“If a project is designed and constructed to be partially occupied by the owner or developer, then the owner or developer has direct influence over that portion of the interior build-out work. For these projects, LEED for New Construction may be more appropriate.”
LEED for Retail: Commercial Interiors is designed for tenant spaces in retail buildings and works hand-in-hand with the LEED for Core & Shell system.
LEED for Healthcare
This rating system is designed for inpatient and outpatient care facilities as well as licensed long term care facilities. LEED for Healthcare may also be applied for medical offices, assisted living facilities and medical education & research centers. New buildings and major renovations of existing buildings qualify.
For more detailed information, check out the USGBC’s LEED for Healthcare Manual.
LEED for Homes
This rating system is designed particularly for new homes and the homebuilding industry, though some existing homes with major renovations may qualify.
For more detailed information, check out the USGBC’s LEED for Homes Manual.
LEED for Neighborhood Development
This rating system is designed “to certify exemplary development projects that perform well in terms of smart growth, urbanism, and green building.” Whole neighborhoods, portions of neighborhoods and even multiple neighborhoods may apply. While there is no minimum or maximum size requirement for a LEED-ND project, the following criteria are recommended:
- at least two inhabitable buildings
- maximum area of 320 acres (half a square mile)
Projects that are larger than 320 acres should consider breaking things down into smaller projects, each applying for LEED-ND certification in their own right.
“Although projects may contain only a single use, typically a mix of uses will provide the most amenities to residents and workers and enable people to drive less and safely walk or bike more. Small infill projects that are single use but complement existing neighboring uses, such as a new affordable-housing infill development in a neighborhood that is already well served by retail and commercial uses, are also good candidates for certification.”
LEED-ND is primarily for new green neighborhoods, though existing neighborhood projects may qualify.
For more detailed information, check out the USGBC’s LEED for Neighborhood Development Manual.
Now that you’ve got a better understanding of the various LEED rating systems, you can find the right system for your project and begin your journey to certification. Be sure to check out materials and appliances that can help you earn LEED credits, such as the EcoDri Automatic Hand Dryer from Workplace Essentials. Who doesn’t want to use 80% less energy compared to conventional hand dryers while also cutting out tons of paper towel waste?
Good luck on your LEED project!