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Saturday, June 14, 2008

LEED Certification Program: What It Is and How to Get It

If you’ve started to look into building green, you have no doubt come across the name LEED. The LEED certification name is referenced by manufacturers, builders, retailers, and consumers alike in promotional, editorial, and casual conversations. But what is LEED certification? Who issues it and what are the criteria used when considering what is a LEED certified building? ...

The LEED certification grew from a coaltion of a coaltion of non-profit environmental organization, builders, architects, engineers, and manufacturers led by former Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) senior scientist Robert K. Watson in 1994. Over the years, the LEED certification has grown from a single certification into a series of six interconnected standards that cover a variety of building construction and maintenance practices. The LEED certification is now developed and maintained by a Washington, D.C., non-profit group called the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The USGBC is made up of hundreds of volunteers and professionals who maintain and innovate the LEED standards and certify thousands of new and existing buildings each year.

There are a few misconceptions about LEED. First, it is written and pronounced LEED (as in “lead or follow”) and not LEEDs or LEADS. Second, a LEED certification is only a certification for buildings (new and existing). LEED does not certify products, companies, groups, or manufacturers. If you find a product or manufacturer touting the benefits of LEED certification of a building material, you are most likely being deceived. LEED certification is, however, a well-thought out and sustainable set of building benchmarks for the design, construction, and operation of green buildings.

The LEED certification is developed by a series of LEED committees in an open-consensus based approach. Each of the committees is made up of volunteers who represent a cross-section of the building construction and maintenance industries. The LEED committees are charged with the main responsibility for the development, implementation and update of LEED.

There are six main categories in which a LEED project is evaluated for a new construction project: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation and design process. From the evaluation of the project in each of the six categories, a score is given. The range of the score allows the project to be qualified for one of the four levels of LEED certification:

· Certified: 26-32 points
· Silver: 33-38 points
· Gold: 39-51 points
· Platinum: 52-69 points

The actual certification is achieved once the application is accepted and reviewed by the USGBC and any associated fees are paid.

The benefits of a LEED certification are that the builders, workers, and future occupants of the building will know that their project uses resources more efficiently than other buildings. They will know that their building has a minimal impact on air and water quality, noise, and solid waste. LEED certified buildings have a positive impact on the productivity of the workers who work inside of them and a positive or neutral impact on the health of their occupants. For these reasons, a LEED certification can increase the value of a building.

The negatives of pursuing a LEED certification are the increased cost and time, especially to achieve the higher levels of certification like Gold and Platinum. There can also be potential for misunderstanding when dealing with builders not familiar with LEED practices or the LEED certification.

Here are some key tips to getting your building project LEED certified:

· Set a clear environmental target
· Set a clear and adequate budget
· Stick to your budget and your LEED goal
· Engineer for Life Cycle Value
· Hire LEED-accredited professionals
· Plan for your LEED certification at the earliest phases of the project and benchmark your progress

Links:
USGBC LEED Certification Site
NRDC LEED info
Photos and Profiles of Recent LEED Projects

Posted by casey on 06/14 at 09:37 PM
BuildingCommunitiesEveryday Life

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