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What is LEED Certification?

What is LEED Certification?


LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an internationally recognized green building certification program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Getting certified can result in energy and cost savings, and may allow you to take advantage of state and local tax incentives. Certification is available for commercial structures at any point in a building’s lifecycle, from new construction and renovations to operation and maintenance. Separate certifications are also available for neighborhood development and residential homes. The flexible points based system means not every project needs to meet the same requirements as long as a minimum point-threshold is met.

LEED Certification Levels and Rating Systems

Selecting the appropriate rating system for your project is the first step to earning a LEED certification for your project.

  • Building Design and Construction (BD+C): New buildings under construction or major renovation where 60% of the project’s gross floor area is complete by the time of certification (except for the LEED BD+C Core and Shell).
  • Interior Design and Construction (ID+C): Complete interior fit-out spaces where at least 60% of the project’s gross floor area is complete by the time of certification.
  • Building Operations and Maintenance (O+M): Fully operational buildings occupied for at least one year. Must include the building’s enter gross floor area. May include but does not require construction changes.
  • Neighborhood Development (ND): New land development projects and redevelopment projects at any stage of the development process.
  • Homes: Single family homes, low-rise and mid-rise multi-family homes from one to six stories.

For additional information on the rating systems or for help selecting the appropriate rating system, visit usgbc.org for rating system selection guidance.

Points are awarded within each rating system for meeting certain requirements. The number of points awarded per requirement varies, so it’s important to identify the LEED credits to pursue during the application process in order to meet the desired threshold.

  • Certified 40-49 Points
  • Silver 50-59 Points
  • Gold 60-79 Points
  • Platinum 80+ Points

Benefits of LEED Certification

Though potentially expensive upfront, there are methods to offset the fees and material costs. According to usgbc.org, LEED certified buildings on average cost 40% less to operate and retain higher property values over the lifespan of the building. In addition to state and local tax incentives, some jurisdictions expedite permits, offer grants, loans, fee reductions/waivers, technical and design assistance, or additional incentives for LEED certified structures. Green buildings may also be allowed additional height bonuses, or reduce landscaping through bonus density programs. For example, downtown Seattle allows for greater height and floor area when projects achieve a LEED Silver rating or higher and LEED certified buildings in Arlington, Virginia are allowed up to three extra stories depending on the certification level.

How Do Light Bulbs Help Achieve LEED Certification?

LED light bulbs are energy efficient. Installing or retrofitting commercial LED fixtures can help projects reach the required minimum energy performance prerequisite and earn up to 20 points for optimizing energy performance as measured in kW per square meter-year. Utilizing LED lights, engineering consultant Cundall, was able to design a lighting scheme that uses only 4 watts of energy per square meter. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, if all linear high bay and low bay fixtures were replaced or retrofitted with commercial LED fixtures overnight, we would see a 60% reduction in energy consumption.

Lutron Maestro Occupancy/Vacancy Sensor with Dimmer
Lutron Maestro Occupancy/Vacancy Sensor with Dimmer

Vacancy and occupancy sensors for low traffic areas, such as bathrooms and storage rooms ensure electricity isn’t wasted when no one is in the room and dimmer switches can be used to control how much light is used throughout the day. By dimming lights close to windows, you can take advantage of natural light during the day and provide occupants individual control. Utilizing dimmers and task lighting is worth up to two additional points and has a positive impact on employee engagement, productivity, retention, and absenteeism. One additional credit is available for outdoor fixtures that have no more than a B2 U2 G2 backlight-uplight-glare (BUG) rating.

LEED Certification Deadlines

Because USGBC periodically updates the LEED ratings system, old versions are phased out. Commercial registration for the current version (V2009) is open until 10/31/16. If accepted, the certification process must be completed by 6/30/21.

Questions? Comments? Want to be led through the LEED certification program? USGBC can help you get started with your project and we’ll be here when you’re ready to install or renovate your commercial light fixtures and outdoor lighting. As always, you can reach us by leaving us a note in the comment area below or through Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.


The American Institute of Architects
Portland Cement Association
U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)

What Is a BUG Rating?

What Is a BUG Rating?

Using LED Bulbs in Incandescent String Lights

Using LED Bulbs in Incandescent String Lights