By Danielle Stewart
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification is informally referred to as LEED. A program sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED certification is designed around the concept of sustainability. Buildings can achieve LEED certification in five primary areas:
- Energy use, including energy efficient lighting and HVAC systems
- Location of the building and sustainability of the immediate environment
- Indoor air quality and use of daylight to reduce lighting costs
- Water conservation and reduced-use mechanisms
- Use of sustainable materials during construction
Extra points toward certification may be awarded for innovative building designs or attention to and compliance with regional environmental priorities.
Benefits of certification
LEED certification can provide a number of benefits for building owners. Along with the obvious environmental advantages, LEED-certified buildings cost less to operate and are more desirable for commercial and residential occupants. They also may qualify for significant financial benefits through tax rebates and incentives, making these green-friendly buildings an even better investment. Buildings that incorporate energy efficient lighting systems and low-flow bathroom fixtures can provide lower utility bills for tenants while ensuring a healthier environment for residents and occupants.
Certification for commercial buildings
In order to achieve LEED certification, commercial buildings must meet stringent standards as determined by the Green Building Certification Institute. This independent organization conducts third-party inspections of commercial buildings in accordance with ISO international certification standards. Building owners can achieve a number of different levels of LEED certification depending on the degree to which the building complies with environmental standards.
- Certified buildings must achieve 40 or more points out of a possible 110.
- Silver certification is available to buildings that achieve 50 or more points.
- Gold-certified buildings have achieved 60 or more points.
- The highest level is Platinum certification, which requires 80 or more points.
Points are awarded in all five major evaluation categories and are weighted toward those categories of greatest environmental significance. For instance, energy efficient lighting and HVAC systems can have a major impact on overall energy consumption by the building; lighting systems and heating and cooling devices are usually weighted more heavily than other criteria and are worth more points toward certification.
The best way to achieve LEED certification is to incorporate environmentally friendly construction methods, sustainable materials and energy-efficient systems into the overall building plans.
- Energy efficient lighting systems can be an important element in achieving LEED certification, as these systems use much less energy than traditional lighting methods.
- Insulation and ENERGY STAR-rated windows can add points to the overall certification totals.
- Low-flow water fixtures reduce utility bills and protect the environment.
- Modern heat pumps and energy efficient HVAC systems can pave the way for LEED certification.
Making environmentally sound choices is the first step toward LEED certification and can provide significant financial benefits for building owners as well.
Here are some helpful links that further illustrate some of the points discussed in this article:
Danielle Stewart is a lighting design consultant and blogger for P-2, a commercial lighting manufacturer based in Yorba Linda, CA. Her articles focus on increasing awareness of the benefits of energy efficient lighting and lighting retrofits in commercial and industrial spaces.