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LEED Certification: What You Need to Know

Sep 9, 2009 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

In 1998, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) established the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system to provide nonbiased third-party recognition that a building was constructed using environmentally sound principles that encompass energy and water efficiency, carbon emissions reduction, indoor air quality, and developmental impact.

Who needs LEED?

LEED guidelines are used by a wide range of professionals in government, real estate, construction, engineering, lending, interior design, solar panel installation, and more in their efforts to promote sustainability. 

Governments from the local to the Federal use LEED certification in new construction initiatives. There are also LEED building requirements in individual municipalities throughout the US. At the Federal level, the Departments of Defense, Agriculture and Energy have all implemented building projects with the goal of LEED certification.

Solar Power

LEED Certification assessment awards a larger number of points for initiatives like renewable wind or solar power, and fewer points for smaller steps such as installing bathroom exhaust fans or energy-saving light bulbs.

In addition, many states are adopting LEED certification requirements for new buildings. For example, Nevada’s governor recently signed an order requiring the State Public Works board to adopt energy and water efficiency standards for state-owned buildings in based on LEED and other environmental requirements; the State of Utah now requires all newly constructed state buildings to acquire LEED Silver certification; and in the Commonwealth of Virginia, all new executive-branch buildings larger than 5,000 square feet in size have to conform to LEED Silver standards.

But governments aren’t the only organizations demonstrating their commitment to green construction using LEED training.  Traditional and online schools, businesses, nonprofits, and residential contractors can all demonstrate to their customers and communities that they care about the environment by adopting LEED standards. LEED is both a commercial and residential certification that’s flexible enough to apply to just about any building type. It’s designed for new buildings, and tracks the entire building lifecycle.  There’s even a certification for neighborhood development that assesses entire communities and the way your building affects your neighborhood.

How are LEED Certification candidates assessed?

The process is different for different types of buildings, but certification assessment is based on a point system.  There are several different levels of certification that apply to all types of buildings. Certified buildings meet the minimum LEED standards and require the fewest points; next come Silver, Gold, and Platinum certification.

Requirements are generally weighted, with larger numbers of points for initiatives like depending entirely on renewable wind or solar power, and fewer points for smaller steps such as installing bathroom exhaust fans or energy-saving light bulbs. 

Are there government incentives for LEED certification?

Absolutely—towns and counties all over the country are offering incentives for builders to go green by following LEED certification standards.  In Charlotte County, Florida, for example, new residential and commercial buildings and renovations, as well as new development projects, are eligible for fast-track permitting and will be promoted under Charlotte County’s green marketing initiative, and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity funds up to 1.5% of total development costs for up to three LEEDS-compliant neighborhoods per year. 

Check the USGBC website for a complete listing of LEEDS-related laws and incentives at the local, state and Federal level.

Wind Energy

With LEED Professional Accreditation in hand, individuals can advertise their expertise—and their ability to lead and guide green development projects in any industry.




How can I demonstrate my LEED expertise?

A thorough grounding in LEED requirements can be useful in a wide range of careers and industries. The USGBC offers LEED Professional Accreditation to individuals who wish to prove their ability to guide organizations through the LEED certification process. There are several versions of the exam, including the LEED-NC (New Construction/Major Renovation), LEED-EB (Existing Building), and LEED-CI (Commercial Interior).

Under 2009 changes to the LEED certification process, those wishing to gain professional LEED accreditation can test under two levels: Tier I and Tier II. Tier I-accredited individuals will be LEED Green Associates; Tier II accreditation offers the distinction of LEED-AP with a chosen specialty; individuals with this accreditation are widely recognized as experts in sustainable design. The Tier I exam lasts for 2.5 hours, with an optional additional 1.5 hours for Tier II accreditation.

There are many courses available to prepare you for LEED accreditation, including LEED-NC prep, Leed Green Associate prep, Implementing LEED for Existing Buildings, and update courses on 2009 changes to the LEED certification process.

LEED Certification was developed as a voluntary program to assess and promote sustainable design.  Since its inception it has been incorporated into government law as well as green construction initiatives for private companies and residential contractors.  With LEED Professional Accreditation in hand, you can advertise your expertise—and your ability to lead and guide green development projects in any industry.




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